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1. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 1
Ekaterina Velmezova, Emanuele Fadda Introduction: Reflecting on Ferdinand de Saussure’s intellectual legacy in the modern context of the development of semiotics and history and epistemology of ideas
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2. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 1
John E. Joseph Saussure’s dichotomies and the shapes of structuralist semiotics
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The Cours de linguistique generale (1916), which became the master text for structuralist linguistics and semiotics, is characterized by a series of dichotomies. Some of them, e.g. langue and parole, signified and signifier, arbitrary and motivated, are very well known, others less so. This paper looks at Saussure’s semiotics in terms of these dichotomies, and considers how later critiques, such as Voloshinov’s (1929), and reformulations, particularly Hjelmslev’s (1935, 1942) and the concept of enunciation which emerged conjointly in the work of Jakobson, Lacan, Dubois, Benveniste and others, were shaped as responses to the Saussurean dichotomies. Also examined in terms of its contrast with Saussure is Bally’s stylistics. The aim is a fuller understanding of the shapes taken by structuralist semiotics, in view of the heritage on which they were based and the broader intellectual climate, including phenomenology and Marxism, in which they developed.
3. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 1
Alain Perusset Posterity of Saussure’s sign in the study of cultural meanings: A dialogue between Barthes and Hjelmslev
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Saussure’s proposals on the sign, formulated more than a century ago in 1916, continue to exert an undisputed authority on linguistics and social sciences. In semiotics, the dyadic model of the sign is continuously used, even in the context of reflections on non-linguistic objects. The tendency in semiotics has been to adopt the Saussurean theory of the sign and enhance it with Hjelmslev’s findings, which has led to Hjelmslev becoming as significant as Saussure in the field of semiotics. In particular, it is to Hjelmslev that we owe the notions of denotation and connotation, which the present article aims at clarifying. Indeed, a misunderstanding still exists regarding the sense of these two concepts, that is to say, some forms of denotation are often – and wrongly – considered as connotations. Hence, this paper deals with Saussure’s legacy; his legacy in Hjelmslev, as well as Barthes, since I shall refer to the propositions formulated by the latter in his Mythologies (1957) to clarify the distinction between denotation and connotation.
4. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 1
E. Israel Chávez Barreto Opposition, comparison, and associativity: On Luis J. Prieto as a reader of the Cours de linguistique generale
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This paper aims to show the role played by the relations of comparison and associativity, as they are introduced in Saussure’s Cours de linguistique generale, in the theories of Luis J. Prieto. This is done, first, on the basis of a historiographical approach, and second, on the basis of an exegetical approach to Prieto’s works. Thus, the paper first presents and analyses three programmes, corresponding to three courses Prieto gave at the Universidad Nacional de Cordoba during the early 1950s. The analysis of these programmes will show the centrality of Saussure’s Cours in Prieto’s linguistic theorizing. After this, an attempt will be made to show the continuity between the theoretical tenets presupposed by the courses’ programmes and the main proposal advanced in Prieto’s article “Classe et concept. Sur la pertinence et sur les rapports saussuriens ‘de comparaison’ et ‘d’echange’”. By constructing this continuity we attempt to show: (1) the constant influence the Cours exerted upon Prieto’s thinking throughout his whole career, and (2) that such influence is manifested in the fact that Prieto did not generalize linguistic principles as such, but rather posited that linguistic principles were instances of more general semiotic ones.
5. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 1
Emanuele Fadda Can linguistics and semiotics conceive man without language?
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Saussure’s refusal to adopt a biological perspective in linguistics and to consider the problem of the origin of language does not imply a struggle against the natural and biological aspects of language. Rather, it derives from the awareness that it is impossible to look at language “from the outside” if one wants (as Saussure considers obligatory for the linguist) to drop into the perspective of the speaking subjects. This tendency to consider the nature of language “from within” has a strong philosophical importance.
6. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 1
Anne-Gaëlle Toutain Sign, function and life: Thinking epistemologically about biosemiotics
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This article focuses on an epistemological analysis, Bachelardian and Saussurean, of the problematics of biosemiotics. This discipline is first characterized in its general features, and in contrast with biolinguistics – a characterization that allows us to see its foundation on the traditional definition of the sign. Then, the Saussurean break with this traditional definition is explained, and with it the theorization which is constitutive of the Saussurean concept of language (la langue), explaining the given: the idioms. Biosemiotics appears in this “recurrent light” as a scientific ideology in the sense of Georges Canguilhem. It is a counterpart of structuralism, another scientific ideology, which emphasized the notion of structure, whereas this time it is the sound/sense relationship that is at the heart of the elaboration. Its commonality of problematics with and its singularity in relation to biolinguistics appear at the same time: if biolinguistics and biosemiotics both ignore the heterogeneity and the discontinuity constitutive of language, the reductionism of biosemiotics takes the form of a dissolution instead of the organicism underlying biolinguistics.
7. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 1
Daria Zalesskaya Language as an “independent unit”: Ferdinand de Saussure vs. Paul Boyer
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Didactics and semiotics are two fields that have been interconnected for a long time. Russian language teaching in France in the 20th century, especially in its first half, had several interesting didactic features closely related to the understanding of Ferdinand de Saussure’s theoretical conceptions. Through the works of influential Slavist professor Paul Boyer (1864–1949), some of Ferdinand de Saussure’s ideas became reflected in French didactics in a particular way, providing the basis for a new method of teaching Russian as a foreign language. The article offers an analysis of the textbook Manuel pour l’etude de la langue russe by Boyer and Nicolas Speransky, as well as of the teaching method “language-in-itself ”, with the objective to identify the references to the Course in General Linguistics and to consider their reflection in didactics.
8. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 1
Patrick Sériot Is language a system of signs? Lenin, Saussure and the theory of hieroglyphics
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This paper strives to pursue two goals at the same time: how can one get to know in depth the intellectual life of the USSR in the 1930s–1950s; and, what can the virulent anti-Saussurean criticism in Russia at that time tell us about the specificity of the Marxist-Leninist theory of signs? We propose the following angle of attack: the recurring theme of this criticism, namely that Saussure’s Cours presents a “theory of hieroglyphics”, therefore a type of “bourgeois idealist” theory that Lenin assailed in his 1909 book Materialism and Empiriocriticism about Ernst Mach. Yet thinking about hieroglyphics is based on much older controversies, dating back to the 17th century and concerning the deciphering of Egyptian writing. The issue which arises here is semiotic in nature: it is the scalar opposition between transparency and opacity of the sign that is at stake. Does the sign hide or reveal? The Soviet discourse on language and signs in the 1930s–1950s seems to be based on an interrogation of the sign/referent, language/thought, form/content relationship. A part of the history of semiotics can thus be discovered from the critique of the “hieroglyphic theory”, a little-known episode in a debate on the interpretation of Saussurism.
9. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 1
Ekaterina Velmezova Ferdinand de Saussure. USSR. 1950…
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During the linguistic discussion organized in the Soviet newspaper Pravda in 1950, Ferdinand de Saussure was mentioned only a few times, but the corresponding references are important from the point of view of both the opinions about Saussure that were prevalent in Soviet linguistics before the discussion, and in light of its evolution afterwards. In 1950, both a supporter and an opponent of Marrist linguistics, Ivan Meschaninov and Arnold Chikobava respectively, unconditionally agreed on at least one thing: namely, that the theories of Saussure were, from their point(s) of view, unacceptable for “progressive” Soviet linguistics. This criticism of Saussure shows the significant shift made by Soviet humanities in the middle of the last century over the course of just a few years: in the late 1950s, it was the “revision” of the main theses of the criticism of Saussure that made possible the (relative) triumph of structuralism, which finally took place in the Soviet Union in the 1960s.
10. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 50 > Issue: 1
Kalevi Kull The term ‘Biosemiotik’ in the 19th century
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Tracing the emergence of biosemiotics, attention can be drawn to the very early usage of the term ‘biosemiotics’ (Biosemiotik) in the writings of Austrian chemist Vincenz Kletzinsky (1826–1882) that dates back to the 1850s. In the same decade, Kletzinsky also proved to be among the first to use the terms ‘biochemistry’ and ‘biophysics’.