Saussure vs. Pierce

Topics: Ferdinand de Saussure, Sign, Linguistics Pages: 2 (494 words) Published: May 21, 2012
Ferdinand de Saussure and Charles Sanders Piece were contemporaries but came from different academic traditions. While both theorists were in opposition to historical linguistics, they came to different conclusions in the theories of signs. Saussure defined signs as being made up of two elements, signifier and signified. The signifier is the part of the dyad that is the thing being referred to. The signified is the idea or concept created by the signifier in the recipient’s mind. Further, whoever creates the signifier is expressing an idea. The relationship between the signifier and signified is also a relationship of concepts and ideas. This exchange, according to Saussure is arbitrary. This arbitrariness was a fundamental part of his perception of signs. He postulated that there was no real reason behind the connection between the signifier and the signified. Saussure did come up with a reason the relationship worked despite its random nature. He said that communally agreed rules dictate how the relationship works. The community that makes these rules is also necessary to make language work. Language is incomplete with just one person. It works only within a “collectivity.”(Cobley, Jansz 14) Pierce’s theories, while not necessary more complex, are certainly more complicated. They include more elements with different relationships. Unlike Saussure’s dyad, which was self-contained, Pierce’s construct was a triad that could invariably continue on and on. There are three elements, obviously, to Pierce’s triadic theory: the object, the representamen, and the interpretant. The object is what is being represented. The representamen is similar to the signifier in Saussure’s dyad. It has a relation to the object in that it represents the object. The interpretant is similar to Saussure’s signifier. It is the result of interpretation of the representamen. The interpretant as a result can become a new sign/representamen. As such, it can take on a relationship with a new...
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