Ferdinand de Saussure's Study of Language

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Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist who laid the foundation on the ideas of structure in the study of language. His Book Course in General Linguistics that was published in 1916 has detailed all that he claimed to be his views. In his book Saussure shows us a clear reaction against many of the ideas raised and he emphasizes the importance of seeing language as a living phenomenon as against the historical view, of studying speech, of analysing the underlying system of a language in order to demonstrate an integral structure, and of placing language firmly in the social milieu. Saussure’s theoretical ideas are a must read and his influence has been unparalleled in European Linguistics since and, it had a major formative role to play in the shaping of linguistic thoughts in Europe. Saussure’s Object of Study theorised his structuralist view of language and shows how his essay forms the basis of structuralist theory. Saussure equipped his essay with a theory and a method of linguistic analysis from the structuralist point of view.

Saussure envisaged langage to be composed of two aspects- the language system and the act of speaking. Langage is that faculty of human speech that is present in all human being due to heredity, and it requires the correct environmental stimuli for proper development. It is our facility to talk to each other which Saussure has infused in his work. Saussure also argues strongly that the characteristics of the system of language are really present in the brain, and are not simply abstractions. It is something which the individual speaker can make use of but cannot affect by itself. It is a corporate and social phenomenon. Saussure in the very beginning of the essay claims that the linguistic study cannot be judged from the study of other sciences. Linguistic study is completely a different process. In linguistic a particular object of study may have several series of different things- the sound, the idea, the derivation- to light up after study. Hence Saussure says that the object of study cannot be at the first to the view point. It is the viewpoint that creates the object of study.The linguistic phenomena can be always found in bi-complimentary facets which are dependent on one another. That is, the perception of the ear of the articulated syllables as the auditory impressions cannot be the sounds in questions that come to be existed with the vocal organs. Speech sound is no equal to language and they do not exist independently and are mere instruments of thoughts whereas, language is completely an individual aspect. Saussure emphasis on these two distinctions comes at this point of his analysis. The language system as Saussure admits should be studied independently. He cites the example of Dead language that even though it is no longer to be spoken, however, we can acquaint to its linguistic structures. The language is incongruous and its systems are of similar nature. The language is a structured system and it differs from speech. Saussure has cited a example of a man who has lost his power of speech can also grasp the language system through vocal signs by which he can understand.

Saussure in his essay discusses the linguistic structures as only to be a part of language even though it is an integral part of it. The structure of a language is both the social product and the body of necessary conventions adopted by society to enable members of society to use their language faculty. It comprises in various domains and it is purely physical, psychological and physiological. It is for the individual and for the society. The language faculty of the both rest upon the structure of the language and there cannot be a proper classification for that as such language has no proper distinctions. The linguistic structures are that faculty in the study of language by which the articulating words, natural or not, are put in use only by means of linguistic instruments that are created and provided...
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