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Ferdinand de Saussure

 

Explanations > Critical Theory > Saussure

 

Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) was a Swiss professor of linguistics who changed the way language is understood. He was a peer of Freud, Durkheim, Darwin and Marx.

He argued that meaning is created inside language in the relations of difference between its parts.

Particular concepts of interest here include:

He saw society as a system of institution and social norms that form a collective system that provides conditions for meaning-making and hence decisions and actions for individuals.

He criticized the philology-based current system that studied origins of words and hence started the field of semiotics and defined language as a system of representation (thus talking about a house when it is not there).

See also

Speech Act Theory, Subject

Linguistics

Saussure, F. de (1960). Course in General Linguistics, ed. C. Bally and A. Sechehaye in collaboration with A. Reidlinger, trans. W. Baskin, London, Peter Owen (rev. edn. 1974). First published in 1916.

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