on April 4, 2015
To study semiotics, this is a must-buy book. However, I just don't get why the translator didn't follow the commonly accepted way to translate the keywords, such as signifier and signified, but created different translations, which confuse the readers. Thanks God, I have the French original to consult with, and figured out the problematic key words.
If you have never heard of those key terms, then, don't read this translation, because it will build a barrier for your professional/scholarly communication with others who know the common key terms; ---- you use different terms, how can you discuss the same topic?
on October 8, 2009
I am told by a modern linguist that this book is a classic and that much of its content is still valid. But, nowhere in its promotion by Amazon did I see that it was written around 1900! For a book listed as a textbook, that would generally be considered vital information. I can't swear that the date wasn't tucked away somewhere in the ad but, in this case,it should have been very prominent.
on April 13, 2003
Saussure is important as a linguist (although many of his theories have since been put out to pasture) ... but he is most important for his contributions to the theory of Structuralism (and, later, Poststructuralism). His idea that you could not study language as individual units, but rather had to examine it as a structure and study how the units interacted within the structure, was enormously influential in modern and postmodern philosophy.
This book is not particularly difficult; it's a bit dry, but what can you expect from a linguistics class? If you read it carefully, you'll have no problem grasping what he is saying... and, when you are done, you will be well on your way to understanding what people like Lacan, Derrida and Foucault are trying to say. (You'll also be well along your way to understanding Claude Levi-Strauss, who attempted to do for anthropology what Saussure did for linguistics). If you want to understand modern philosophy, Saussure is as indispensible as Marx or Freud. Combine this with *Saussure for Beginners* and you'll pick up Saussure's train of thought in no time.
on June 30, 2002
This book is the manifesto of structural linguistics. But it has been widely read outside linguistics for it served as corner stone of structuralism. It was not intended to be published. In fact Saussure never wrote any book. It was principally a lecture. So lines of the book are easy to follow and clear-cut. But the power of the statement could be felt even now. It set off the mighty paradigm.
As Foucault said in his work, ¡®The Order of Things¡¯, the history of thoughts is the history of models. For example, the biology, in particular Darwin¡¯s evolutionism, served as model to thoughts of the 19th century: beliefs in progression of Marxism and liberalism drew on the analogy between society and evolution of organism. Functionalism in social sciences also utilized that analogy. The 19th century is the age of biology. The linguistics of that time also took the organic model as the fountain of inspiration: the language is a organic entity which evolves though time. Phoneme and word change, in other word evolve over time. In Saussure¡¯s term, it¡¯s the diachronic aspect of phoneme and word. The linguistics of the 19th century was the history of them. But Saussure contended that phoneme and word have no memory: at any point of ¡®parole (the language in practice)¡¯, each word has only one meaning. In everyday life, etymology doesn¡¯t make sense at all. The reality of language lies not in diachrony but in synchrony. This is the point where Saussure redefined the linguistics: the object of linguistics is not diachronic (or historical) fact but synchronic system (langue, in Saussure¡¯s term).
Phoneme and word make sense not in their own, but against systemic background like grammar. The object of the linguistics is not phoneme or word in practice (parole) but the system that gives meaning them (langue). Phoneme and word have meaning only in the way how they are different from each other. The langue is the system of that difference. Here comes in the very concept of structure that give rise to French structuralism. Structuralism is the thoughts based on the model of language which Saussure redefined, that is the system of difference