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Wetenschapsfilosofie Engels W4 Cheat Sheet by

Wetenschapsfilosofie Engels

Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-­1913)

• founder of modern general lingui­stics
• studied Indo-E­uropean languages (Latin, Greek, Sanskrit)
• thesis on the primitive vowel system in the Indo-E­uropean languages
• from 1906-1913, de Saussure taught the Course in General Lingui­stics, which made him famous

Laryngeal theory

• First proposal of what it now known as the laryngeal theory.
• In analyzing the vowel system of Proto Indo European, de Saussure proposed the existence of a previously uniden­tified element, now known as a laryngeal, that would account for changes in vowels and length­ening within the paradigm of a root.
Saussure hypoth­esized 3 “laryn­geal” sounds (h1, h2, and h3) in Proto-­Ind­o-E­uropean words.
• This proposal was in spite of the absence of this element in any of the daughter languages known in de Saussure’s time.

Saussure's Succesors

Prague School: developed techniques for the analysis of sound systems in langua­ges­!in­aug­urated phonology
Linguistic Circle of Copenh­agen: he develo­pment of precise termin­ology to describe different parts of linguistic systems and their interr­ela­ted­ness; called glosse­matics
American struct­ura­lism: study of native American languages – termin­ology and concepts used in Western lingui­stics inadeq­uate; the only way to describe these sentences is to start from scratch – collecting the data without theory (Bloom­field)

Struct­uralism as a paradigm

• first ‘paradigm’ in lingui­stics
• the beginning of lingui­stics as an autonomous discipline ➝ “language must, to put it correctly, be studied in itself; hereto­forth, language has always been studied in connection with something else, from other viewpo­ints”
• moreover, the approach to lingui­stics had been purely descri­ptive, not theore­tical.

Cours de lingui­stique generale

• Published in 1916 - written by former students on the basis of notes taken from de Saussure’s lectures in Geneva.
➝ Innovative approach to the discussion of linguistic phenomena

• it presented new views on language that result in an indepe­ndent, isolated object of research;
• it specified the requir­ements that observ­ations have to meet in order to be scient­ifi­cally relevant;
• it provided criteria for what could count as adequate explan­ations for these observ­ations;
• in other words: it sough to achieve descri­ptive and explan­atory adequacy.

Object of lingui­stics

• speech varies from time to time, place to place and person to person; it forms a “heter­oge­neous mass of speech elements”;
• “whereas speech is hetero­gen­eous, language as defined, is homoge­neous. It is a system of signs in which the only essential thing is the union of meaning and sound-­images, and in which both parts of the sign are psycho­log­ical” = object of lingui­stics;
• the object does not exist indepe­ndently from the theory about it; the theory is not so much derived from some indepe­ndent observable object; instead, the object is formed on the basis of the perspe­ctive.

Linguistic relativity

"­Lan­guage is not nomenc­lat­ure."
➝ speakers of different languages have different mental repres­ent­ations of “reality”
➝ "­Without language, thought is a vague, uncharted nebula. There are no pre-ex­isting ideas, and nothing is distinct before the appearance of langua­ge."­

Syntag­matic and associ­ative relations

Syntag­matic relations: relations between elements that are combined within one larger system; these relations define the possible combin­ations of elements (their distri­bution) at various levels (word, sentence); “The syntag­matic relation is in praese­ntia.
Associ­ative relations: relations between elements that have a common associ­ation (to teach, teacher, pupil etc.); terms in an associ­ative family; “the associ­ative relation unites term in absentia”.



Signifier and signified

Langue: a huge network consisting of elements related to each other (directly or indire­ctly) by means of syntag­matic and associ­ative relations;
• the sign is a two-sided psycho­logical entity, uniting two elements; the signifier and the signified;
Signifier: the sound-­image; “not the material sound, a purely physical thing, but the psycho­logical imprint of that sound”; e.g., CAT;
Signified: the concept or object that appears in our minds when we hear or read the signifier – the meaning of the word; e.g., ‘a small domest­icated feline’
➝ the object (referent) is not part of the system

Langue versus Parole

Parole: the concrete manife­sta­tions of language (the “material” or “execu­tive”
side); a messy collection of individual utterances
Langue: all concrete manife­sta­tions of a particular language, e.g. Dutch or English, exist outside the indivi­dual;
a socio-­psy­cho­logical phenomenon – a kind of collective knowledge about language;
➝ in the collective mind of a speech community; only partially present in the mind of the individual speaker

Principle of arbitr­ariness

there is no direct connection between the sound-­image and the concept;
• a sign is the result of convention: speakers of the same language group have agreed (and learned) that certain (combi­nations of) letters or sounds evoke a certain image;
• except­ions: onomat­opoeic expres­sions and interj­ections

Signif­ication versus value

Signif­ica­tion: concerns the (vertical) relation between a signifier and its signified;
Value: concerns the (horiz­ontal) relation between:
1. signifieds (conce­ptual viewpoint) and
2. signifiers (material viewpoint)

the content of a sign in lingui­stics is ultimately determined and delimited not by its internal content, but by what surrounds it: the synonyms to dread, to fear and to be afraid have their particular values because they exist in opposition to one another

the value of each element is determined by its relations with other elements in the network; outside the network, it has no value.


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