The signifier and the signified

Beata Stawarska

in Saussure's Philosophy of Language as Phenomenology

Published in print February 2015 | ISBN: 9780190213022
Published online January 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780190213046 | DOI:
The signifier and the signified

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This chapter takes on the classic signifier/signified distinction, which supports the structuralist view of language as a closed and autonomous system of signs. It considers the presentation of linguistic arbitrariness in relation to an individual sign in the Course in light of materials from the Nachlass, to suggest a possible editorial confusion between Saussure’s critique of the received view of language with its focus on individual names and his own conception of language as a relational system. It then explains that the view of language as a sign system is made more concrete when Saussure defines it as a set of historically sedimented conventions shared by a speaking community. Contrary to the structuralist view, language is shaped by reality: the reality of social conventions as they are transmitted, sedimented, and revised over time. Linguistic arbitrariness is a counterpart of this sociohistorical understanding.

Keywords: the signifier; the signified; linguistic arbitrariness; sign system; social conventions; time; Saussure’s Nachlass

Chapter.  20136 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Psycholinguistics

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