Linguistics and Saussure’s theories
Linguistics is the science that is responsible for studying the human language by applying different perspectives. This is mainly due to the historicist approach that began to take place in this discipline at the end of the 18th century. The scholars of the moment, begin to analyze Linguistics taking into account the modifications and mutations that the language suffered through time. Thus, and thanks to these revolutionary approaches, the Comparative Grammar would be born in which the Neogrammarians would be included. These would be in charge of analyzing the evolution of the language over time in order to develop different theories and general laws that could be applied to all of them. Saussure Tongue and Speech Summary
After this revolution and within the Neogrammarians, the figure of Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) will appear, whose research was based on the study of signs with the aim of obtaining concrete definitions of different concepts, in addition to providing analogies and examples based on games. so that they were understood. On the other hand, he adopted a technical language for Linguistics making it become a Science.
During his long professional and research career, he created three courses on grammar, which were compiled after his death in his book General Linguistics Course in which there appears a premise that had not been given so far and is that the language is the object of study of Linguistics. To reach this conclusion, the author develops a theoretical framework that shows how language is composed and what it consists of, using a methodology based on different dichotomies. One of the most famous is that of language and speech.
Dichotomy of language and speech
It is its most important dichotomy within the General Linguistics Course work. Here the author establishes that language can be divided into two clearly differentiated parts and that it goes on to define it exhaustively. Thus, according to his theories, we can find that language is composed of:
What is language (according to Saussure)
At this point is when the first dichotomy is established in which what language is is explained . For Saussure this serves to express feelings and thoughts through signs and is a universal human capacity . That is, all human beings have the ability of language to express their thoughts and feelings. At this point he raises his dichotomy in which he shows that language is nothing more than the conjunction of language and speech, the first of them with a social component and the second individual. Saussure Tongue and Speech Summary
The union of this abstract part made up of language and the concrete part made up of speech are what make language emerge, therefore, although both can be studied separately, they must occur at the same time so that there is language. In other words, if there is no speech and language, no language can exist.
Language is an abstract and cultural system . This, regardless of the will of the speakers, is composed of signs. That is, despite the fact that the speakers do not want to, every language is a culturally created and abstract system with its own signs. Thus, the language serves to express ideas to its speakers using their mental structures. Therefore, attending to their theories, we can extract a series of characteristics of the language:
- It is social as this is a shared and common representation by a speaking community. In other words, language is knowledge that is shared and known by an entire speaking community.
- Because it is a knowledge that is found within the speakers, in their mental structures, and it is a concrete and not abstract knowledge, the language is called psychic .
- This makes the language passive since the information that the speaker already has is transformed through involuntary mental processes.
- Finally, language is a system of signs in which it will only be necessary to unite a concept with its acoustic image so that it could be said that language is homogeneous .
What is speech (according to Saussure)
Speech is nothing more than the tool that allows you to communicate with others , it is the realization of the language. It always has an intention and is individual in nature. We say this because for Saussure speech only makes individual events of each speaker participate in it.
Its characteristics include that speech is psychophysical , this is because there must be a coding within the brain to transform ideas into word articulation in which the organs of speech intervene . That is, in addition to the psychic coding processes, the physical processes that allow us to articulate the different sounds participate. Saussure Tongue and Speech Summary
Speech is active , since the speaker is the one who decides when he wants to express or transmit an idea. He is the one who decides when he wants to take that knowledge he has and produce it. Due to this, its psychophysical character and that it is variable, Saussure indicates that it is heterogeneous.