Modern linguists began from the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. He is often described as “father of modern linguistics” (现代语言学之父)and “a master of a discipline which he made modern”(使语言学科走向现代的大师). From 1907 to 1911, Saussure lectured on general linguistics in the University of Geneva [dʒiˈni:və]. After he died in 1913, his colleagues and students thought that his ideas concerning linguistic questions were original and insightful and should be preserved. Two of his students collected lecture notes and put them together to produce the greater work, Course in General Linguistics(普通语言学教程), in 1916. This book became the most important source of Saussure’s ideas and of his influence upon succeeding generations of linguists. Saussure’s ideas were developed along three lines: linguistics, sociology, and psychology. In linguistics, he was greatly influenced by the American linguist Whitney, who raised the question of the sign. By insisting on the concept of arbitrariness of the sign to emphasize that language is an institution, Whitney ['witni] brought linguistics onto the right track. Following the French sociologist Durkheim, Saussure held that language is one of the “social facts”, which are ideas in the “collective mind” of a society and radically distinct from individual psychological acts. What matters is not the way in which a certain thinker individually conceives an institution, but the group’s conception of it. In psychology, Saussure was influenced by the Austrian psychiatrist [saiˈkaiətrist] Freud [frɔid], who hypothesized the continuity of a collective psyche, called the unconscious. Saussure distinguished the linguistic competence of the speaker and the actual phenomena or data of linguistics (utterances) as langue and parole. What does langue mean? It’s the system of a language, the ideal form of a language, the system of communication in speech and writing that is used by people of a particular country. Langue...
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