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Ernesto Laclau “Discourse”

February 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Laclau, Ernesto 2007. Discourse. – Goodin, R.E.; Pettit, P.; Pogge, T. (eds). A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, Volume Two. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 541-547.

Saussure’i järgi on strukturaalne lingvistika korrastatud kahe põhiprintsiibi ümber. Esiteks see, et keeles puuduvad positiivsed terminid, on ainult erinevused. […] See keeleliste identiteetide puhtalt suhtel põhinev ja eristuv [differential] iseloom tähendab seda, et keel moodustab süsteemi, kus ühtki elementi ei saa määratleda teistest sõltumatult.  Teiseks printsiibiks on see, et keel on vorm ja mitte substants—see tähendab, et iga süsteemi element on ainuüksi määratletud ühendus- ja asendusreeglitega teiste elementide suhtes. […] Selles täielikult erinevusel põhinevas universumis, mida domineerivad puhtformaalsed reeglid, eksisteerib range isomorfism: igale sõna moodustavale häälikutevoole vastab üks ja ainult üks mõiste.  Tähistaja kord ja tähistatava kord on rangelt kattuvad. (542)

Saussure’ilikust vaatepunktist on diskursus igasugune lausest ulatuslikum keeleline jada.  See aga tähendab, et saussure’ilikus perspektiivis on diskursuse lingvistika võimatu, sest lausete järgnevus, mida valitseb üksnes kõneleja kapriis, ei kujuta endast mitte mingit üldise teooriaga haaratavat struktuurset regulaarsust. (542)

Kui elementidevahelist ühendust ja asendust valitsevate formaalsete reeglite abstraktne süsteem pole enam paratamatult seotud mitte ühegi konkreetse substantsiga, siis saab igasugust tähistamissüsteemi ühiskonnas—toitumiskorda, mööblit, moodi jne—kirjeldada selle süsteemi terminites. (543)

Kui formalism rakendub rangelt, siis tähendab see, et substantsiaalsed erinevused keelelisuse ja mitte-keelelisuse vahel tuleb samuti kõrvale heita.  Teisisõnu, tegutsemise ja struktuuri vaheline eristus muutub teisejärguliseks eristuseks tähenduslike totaalsuste üldisema kategooria raames. (543)

Lõpuks, range formalism võimaldas samuti ületada ühe teisegi takistuse lingvistilise diskursuseteooria formuleerimisel: niivõrd kui kõiki eristusi tuli pidada lihtsalt erinevusel põhinevaiks—s.o struktuurisisesteks—, polnud subjekti enam võimalik vaadelda tähenduse allikana, vaid hoopis ühe järjekordse konkreetse asukohana tähenduslikus totaalsuses. (543)

Klassikaline fenomenoloogia oli keskendunud väidete (statement) tähendusele, sulustades nende osutuse mis tahes välisele reaalsusele.  Foucault’ siirdub teise tasandi sulustamisele, näidates et tähendus ise eeldab ette [pre-supposes] loomistingimusi, mis ise ei ole tähendusele taandatavad.  Selline “kvaasi-transtsendentaalne” käik viib välja nähtustekihi/ladestu eraldamiseni, mida Foucault nimetab diskursuseks. (544)

Niisiis järeldas ta, et diskursiivse formatsiooni ühtsusprintsiipi pole võimalik leida ei samale objektile viitamise, ei lausungite produtseerimise ühtse stiili, ei mõistete püsivuse ega ka ühisele teemale viitamise alusel, vaid selles, mida ta kutsus “regulaarsuseks hajutatuses” [regularity in dispersion]—püsivus välistes suhetes elementide vahel, mis ei allu mitte mingile põhjapanevale või olemuslikule strukturatsiooniprintsiibile. (545)

Kuna aga teostunud on just üks, mitte aga teised võimalikud konfiguratsioonid, siis tuleneb siit: (1) et tegelikult eksisteeriv konfiguratsioon on olemuslikult sattumuslik; (2) et seda ei saa seletada mitte struktuuri enese kaudu, vaid jõu kaudu, mis peab olema osaliselt struktuuriväline.  See on hegemoonse jõu roll.  “Hegemoonia” on teooria otsuste kohta, mis langetatakse otsustamatuse tandril/väljal.  Järeldus on, nagu näitab dekonstruktsioon, et kuna otsustamatus toimib ühiskondlikkuse pinnal enesel, muutuvad objektiivsus ja võim eristamatuks.  Just seda silmas pidades on väidetud, et võim on sattumuslikkuse jälg struktuuris (Laclau, 1990). (545-546)

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Anthony Giddens “Central Problems in Social Theory”

February 5, 2013 Leave a comment

Giddens, Anthony 1994 [1979]. Central Problems in Social Theory: Action, Structure nad Contradiction in Social Analysis. Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press.

 

Sturcturalism and the Theory of the Subject

[…] structuralism may be most cogently defined as the application of linguistic models influenced by structural linguistics to the explication of social and cultural phenomena. (9)

The separation of langue from parole, Saussure held, differentiates both ’what is social from what is individual’, and ’what is essential from what is accessory and more or less accidental’. (10)

[…] terms only acquire identity or continuity in so far as they are differentiated from one another as oppositions or differences within the totality that is langue. (12)

Time is thus not, as is sometimes suggested, absent from Saussurian linguistics. […] Saussure did not so much eliminate time from his theory, as distinguish radically between two forms of temporality: that which is involved in the syntagmatic order of language, and thus is the very condition of synchrony, and that which is involved in the evolution of features of langue. […] Diachrony operates on the level of the event, of the modifications in language brought about through speaking. (13)

The basic inadequacy can be simply stated: Saussure did not show what mediates between the systematic, non-contingent, social character of langue on the one hand, and the specific, contingent and individual character of parole on the other. What is missing is a theory of the competent speaker or language-user. (17)

The recursive character of language – and, by generalisation, of social systems also – cannot be understood unless we also understand that the means whereby such systems are reproduced, and thus exist as systems, contain within them the seeds of change. ’Rule-governed creativity’ is not merely […] the employment of fixed, given rules whereby new sentences are generated; it is at the same time the medium whereby those rules are reproduced and hence in principle modified. (18)

The activity of human subjects is ’individual’ and ’contingent’, as compared to the supra-individual character of the collective, represented by myth. […] Structuralist thought has no mode of coping with what I shall call practical consciousness – non-discursive, but not unconscious, knowledge of social institutions – as involved in social reproduction. (24)

In Lévi-Strauss […] The subject is recovered in the analysis only as a set of structural transformations, not as an historically located actor. (29)

Derrida’s work can thus be seen as giving a new impetus to Saussure’s formalism at the same time as it disavows the connection of that formalism with langue and synchrony: substance, or the ’concrete’, is repudiated both on the plane of the sign (rejection of the ’transcendental signified’), and on that of the referent (an objectively given world that can be ’captured’ by the concept). For each of these, which may be said to approximate respectively to idealism and positivism, Derrida substitutes the productivity of chains of signification. (30-31)

’Don’t look for the meaning, look for the use’ does not imply that meaning and use are synonymous, but that the sense of linguistic items can only be sought in the practices which they express and in which they are expressed. (38)

Genetic sociological fallacy: […] to assume that, because the subject, and self-consciousness, are constituted through a process of development – and thus that the reflexive actor is not a ’given’ either to philosophy or to social science – they are merely epiphenomena of hidden structures. (40)

Social practices from this standpoint do not ’express’ the intentions of social actors; nor on the other hand do they ’determine’ them. Intentions are only constituted within the reflexive monitoring of action, which however in turn only operates in conjunction with unacknowledge conditions and outcomes of action. (41-42)

The production of a text, like the production of a social practice, is not the outcome of an ’intention’, or an ’aggregate of intentions’. Rather, the intentional character of the activities concerned has to be treated as a chronic feature of the reflexive monitoring of action. A text is therefore not to be regarded as a ’fixed form’, which is then somehow related en bloc to particular intentions; it should be studied as the concrete medium and outcome of a process of production, reflexively monitored by its author or reader. (43)

An author is neither a bundle of intentions, nor on the other hand a series of ’traces’ somehow deposited within the text. Foucault says that writing ’is primarily concerned with creating an opening where the writing subject endlessly disappears’. But to study the production of the text is at the same time in a definite sense to study the production of its author. The author is not simply ’subject’ and the text ’object’; the ’author’ helps constitute him- or herself through the text, via the very process of production of that text. (43-44)

The pressing task facing social theory today is not to further the conceptual elimination of the subject, but on the contrary to promote a recovery of the subject without lapsing into subjectivism. Such a recovery, I wish to argue, involves a grasp of ’what cannot be said’ (or thought) as practice. (44)

[…] structuralist theory offers the possibility […] of formulating a more satisfactory understanding of the social totality than that offered by its leading rival, functionalism. According to the latter, society may be portrayed as a pattern of relations between ’parts’ (individuals, groups, institutions). Saussure’s structural linguistics, by contrast, suggests the notion that society, like language, should be regarded as a ’virtual system’ with recursive proterties. (47)

 

Agency, Structure

[…] while both systems of thought are concerned to overcome the subject-object dualism – Parsons via the action frame of reference and Althusser through his ’theoretical anti-humanism’ – each reaches a position in which subject is controlled by object. (52)

Marx writes in the Grundrisse that every social item ’that has a fixed form’ appears as merely ’a vanishing moment’ in the movement of society. ’The conditions and objectifications of the process’, he continues, ’are themselves equally moments of it, and its only subjects are individuals, but individuals in mutual relationships, which they equally reproduce and produce anew …’ These comments express exactly the standpoint I wish to elaborate in this paper. (53)

[…] in social theory, the notions of action and structure presuppose each other […] (53)

Social acitivty is always constituted in three intersecting moments of difference: temporally, paradigmatically (invoking structure which is present only in its instantiation) and spatially. All social practices are situated acitivities in each of these senses. (54)

’Action’ or agency, as I use it, thus does not refer to a series of discrete acts combined together, but to a continuous flow of conduct. (55)

[…] ’intentionality’ as process. Such intentionality is a routine feature of human conduct, and does not imply that actors have definite goals consciously held in mind during the course of their acitvities. (56)

The rationalisation of action, as a chronic feature of daily conduct, is a normal characteristic of the behaviour of competent social agents, and is indeed the main basis upon which their ’competence’ is adjudged by others. (57)

The unintended consequences of action are of central importance to social theory in so far as they are systematically incorporated within the process of reproduction of institutions. […] the unintended consequences of conduct relate directly to its unacknowledged conditions as specified by a theory of motivation. For in so far as such unintended consequences are involved in social reproduction, they become conditions of action also. (59)

As I shall employ it, ’structure’ refers to ’structural property’, or more exactly, to ’structuring property’, structuring properties providing the ’binding’ of time and space in social systems. (64)

It is fundamental to understand that, when I speak of structure as rules and resources, I do not imply that we can profitably study either rules or resources as aggregates of isolated precepts or capabilities. […] (a) There is not a singular relation between ’an acitvity’ and ’a rule’ […] Acitivities or practices are brought into being in the context of overlapping and connected sets of rules, given coherence by their involvement in the constitution of social systems in the movement of time. (b) Rules cannot be exhaustively described or analysed in terms of their own content, as prescriptions, prohibitions, etc.: precisely because, aprat from those circumstances where a relevant lexicon exists, rules and practices only exists in conjunction with one another. (65)

Structures are necessarily (logically) properties of systems or collectivies, and are characterised by the ’absence of a subject’. To study the structuration of a social system is to study the ways in which that system, via the application of generative rules and resources, and in the context of unintende outcomes, is produced and reproduced in interaction. (66)

The concept of structuration involves that of the duality of structure, which relates to the fundamentally recursive character of social life, and expresses the mutual dependence of structure and agency. By the duality of structure I mean that the structural properties of social systems are both the medium and the outcome of the practices that constitute those systems. (69)

The duality of structure relates the smallest item of day-to-day behaviour to attributes of far more inclusive social systems: when I utter a grammatical English sentence in a casual conversation, I contribute to the reproduction of the English language as a whole. (77)

Power is expressed in the capabilities of actors to make certain ’accounts count’ and to enact or resist sanctioning processes; but these capabilities draw upon modes of domination structured into social systems. (83)

As in the case of the other modalities of structuration, power can be related to interaction in a dual sense: as involved institutionally in processes of interaction, and as used to accomplish outcomes in strategic conduct. (88)

Action involves intervention in events in the world, thus producing definite outcomes, with intended action being one category of an agent’s doings or his refraining. Power as transformative capacity can then be taken to refer to agents’ capabilities of reaching such outcomes. (88)

[…] power must be treated in the context of the duality of structure: if the resources which the existence of domination implies and the exercise of power draws upon, are seen to be at the same time structural components of social systems. The exercise of power is not a type of act; rather power is instantiated in action, as a regular and routine phenomenon. It is mistaken moreover to treat power itself as a resource as many theorists of power do. Resources are the media through which power is exercised […] (91)

Social systems are constituted as regularised practices: power within social systems can thus be treated as involving reproduced relations of autonomy and dependence in social interaction. Power relations therefore are always two-way, even if the power of one actor or party in a social relation is minimal compared to another. Power relations are relations of autonomy and dependence, but even the most autonomous agent is in some degree dependent, and the most dependent actor or party in a relationship retains some autonomy. (93)

Social systems are produced as transactions between agents, and can be analysed as such on the level of strategic conduct. This is ’methodological’ in the sense that institutional analysis is bracketed, although structural elements necessarily enter into the characterisation of action, as modalities dwarn upon to produce interaction. (95)

Institutional analysis, on the other hand, brackets action, concentrating upon modalities as the media of the reproduction of social systems. But this is also purely a methodological bracketing, which is no more defensible than the first if we neglect the essential importance of the conception of the duality of structure. (95)

Mihhail Lotman “Struktuur ja vabadus I”

February 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Lotman, Mihhail 2012. Struktuur ja vabadus I: semiootika vaatevinklist. I.I, Tartu-Moskva koolkond: tekstist semiosfäärini. Tallinn: Tallinna Ülikooli Kirjastus.

 

Peirce, Saussure ja semiootika alused

Peirce’i lähenemist märkidele võiks nimetada atomistikuks. Tähelepanu keskmes on (üksik)märk, veelgi enam, need eeltingimused, mis teevad märgi märgiks. Peirce’i semiootika seisukohalt on märk elementaarne ja semiootiliselt väikseim element. […] „Märk või esitis on midagi, mis esindab kellelegi midagi mingis suhtes või ulatuses.“ Ehkki niisugune definitsioon on puhtrelativistlik (märgi moodustab suhete süsteem), on märk semiootilises mõttes siiski elementaarne objekt, koosnemata mingisugustest väiksematest koostisosadest. […] Et märk on ükskõik missugune objekt (midagi), võib see olla oma ehituselt üpris keeruline jne, olles semiootilises mõttes ikkagi elementaarne, st see ei koosne väiksematest semiootiliselt relevantsetest elementidest. (52)

Saussure’i jaoks ei eksisteeri isoleeritud märki üldse. Tema seisukohalt on kogu Peirce’i semioosi skeem ebakorrektne, märgi loob mitte selle seos objektiga või märgi kasutajaga, vaid sidemed teiste märkidega, mis kuuluvad samasse märgisüsteemi. (53)

[…] Peirce’il ja Saussure’il tähistab üks ja sama sõna ’märk’ täiesti erinevaid asju. Peirce’i märk on konkreetne objekt, see on substituut, mis asendab teist, samuti konkreetset objekti, Saussure’il aga abstraktne, mis realiseerub konkreetses substantsis, ja mis kõige huvitavam, antud realisatsioon õõnestab teatud määral selle märgilisust: kõnes realiseeritud märk ei ole enam üldse märk selle sõna otseses mõttes. (54)

Ehkki tavaliselt saussure’ilikus traditsioonis semioosist juttu ei ole ja seda terminit ei kasutata, võib siiski öelda, et just märgi funktsioon on märgi moodustuse (st semioosi) aluseks. Niisiis on erinevalt Peirce’ist Saussure’i märk esiteks abstraktne ja teiseks (semiootiliselt) kompleksne objekt. (55)

Arbitraarsus iseloomustab märgi tähendust, absoluutne determineeritus aga väärtust. Tähendus tekib tähistaja ja tähistatava omavahelisest seosest, väärtus iseloomustab elemendi positsiooni süsteemis, s.o väärtus on antud süsteemi elemendi kõikide süsteemisiseste seoste kompleks. (56)

Kui me läheneme sellele probleemile Saussure’i vaimus, peame arvesse võtma, et kõik, mida Peirce vaatleb, iseloomustab mitte keelt, vaid kõnet; kõik keelemärgid on Saussure’i süsteemis samatüübilised. […] kõik Peirce’i märgitüübid iseloomustavad üksnes kõnet, samas kui keelemärgid baseeruvad põhimõtteliselt teistsugusel loogikal, mis rajaneb märgi väärtusel, mitte selle seostel teiste objektidega. (59)

Émile Benveniste rõhutas, et kõnel on oma semiootilised omadused, mis ei tulene keelest. Teiseks, kõne võib olla ka suletud ja stabiilne süsteem. Sellist süsteemi hakati nimetama tekstiks. […] Seega on tekst immanentne süsteem, teksti elemendid moodustavad struktuuri ning igal tekstil on oma kindel väärtus. (60)

Peirce, mitteortodoksne pragmatist, lähtub arusaamast, et mitte keegi ei saa tõeni jõuda teisiti kui praktika kaudu. (61)

Kui me püüame defineerida märki, lähtudes samast loogikast, millega defineerime ükskõik millist teist empiirilist objekti (ent see ongi täpselt, mida Peirce üritab oma fenomenoloogias või faneroloogias teha), libiseb märk lihtsalt minema. See ei ole objekt nagu teised asjad. Märk ei ole „mingiasi“ (something), see pole üldse mingi asi (thing). (64)

[…] Saussure’i jaoks ei ole märk algusest saadik empiiriline fenomen. Tema implitsiitselt platonistlikus süsteemis on märgil sama loomus nagu Platoni ideel. See ei ole mingi objekt, vaid see realiseerub objektis. Teisisõnu, ka Saussure’i puhul peame järeldama sama mis Peirce’i puhul: märke ei saa käsitleda sarnaselt teiste asjadega. Asjade maailmas pole kohta märkidel, märkide maailmas pole kohta asjadel. Semiootika püüab leida ja rajada teid nende maailmade vahel. (65)

Märgi identiteet ei ole temas endas, vaid on täiesti teises objektis, mida nimetatakse märgi tähenduseks. Märk ei ole identne ei iseenda ega objektiga, mida ta tähistab. Märki identifitseerib tema tähendus, kuid märk ei ole identne ka oma tähendusega, need on põhimõtteliselt erinevad fenomenid. Seega ei kehti märgimaailmas identsuse seadus. Semiootika aluseks on sisemine paradoks: A ≠ A. (65-66)

Mis on eneseidentiteedi alus jõe või ükskõik millise teise objekti puhul? See on märk, mis tähistab vastavat objekti. (67)

 

Semiootika, kultuur ja kultuurisemiootika

Peirce’i klassikalise definitsiooni järgi on märk „miski, mis esindab kellelegi midagi mingis suhtes või mingil määral“ (CP 2.228), st märgil enesel ei ole mingit n-ö märgilisuse tunnust, märgilisus on nelja muutujaga funktsioon ning märgiks saamise protsessi nimetatakse Peirce’i õpilase Charles Morrise terminit kasutades semioosiks. (68)

Peirce’i semiootikat võiks nimetada substitutiivseks: märk on objekti asendaja; Peirce nimetbki märki esitiseks (representaameniks), kasutaja on see, kes selle asenduse sooritab (kas adressandina teksti luues või adressaadina seda dešifreerides). (69)

Võiks arvata, et mitte-semiootiline ala on primaarne, semiootiline ala aga tekib selle semiotiseerimise käigus. Kuid semiootika seisukohalt on see suhe vastupidine: mittesemiootiline ala on sekundaarne ja tekib kultuuri teatud semiootilise arengu etapil. Loodus osutub asendatuks kultuuri poolt, niisamuti on mittesemiootiline valdkond välja arendatud semiootilisest. (72-73)

[…] nagu tekst saab eksisteerida ainult tekstivälise reaalsuse taustal, sellest eraldudes, on ka tekstiväline reaalsus spetsiifiline igale tekstile. Jakob von Uexkülli terminoloogiat kasutades võiks öelda, et tekstiväline reaalsus on teksti omailm (Umwelt). Tekst on suletud ja suveräänne struktuur ning just niisugusena tuleb seda tundma õppida. (75)

 

Sekundaarne modelleeriv süsteem

[…] primaarne märgisüsteem on primaarne ainult antud sekundaarse süsteemi suhtes ja sekundaarne süsteem on sekundaarne ainult antud primaarse süsteemi suhtes. See, et luule on sekundaarne märgisüsteem loomuliku keele suhtes, ei tähenda, et loomulik keel ei saa olla sekundaarne mingi muu süsteemi suhtes. (105)

Tihtipeale figureerib keel semiootilise süsteemi sünonüümina. Ma tahan need mõisted lahutada – keel on vaid üks komponent igas semiootilises süsteemis. Teine kohustuslik komponent on väli. Seega defineerime semiootilist süsteemi S paarina ’keel ja väli’: S = {L,F}. Keel  tähendab edaspidi paari ’leksikon ja grammatika’: L = {A,G}, kus L on keel, A on leksikon ja G grammatika. […] Konstruktsioonid, mis on moodustatud baaselementides reeglite abil, moodustavad antud keele lausete hulga. Tekst on ühe või mitme lause realiseerimina a) kindlas aines – materialiseeritud lauset nimetame ütluseks ja b) kindlal väljal (taustal) […] Väli – erinevalt ütlusest – ei ole tuletatav keelest, kuigi neid seob vastastikune sõltuvus; erinevates semiootilistes süsteemides on keel ja välja vahelised seosed erinevad. Väli ei ole üksnes konkreetne materiaalne fenomen – nagu keeleski, võib väljas eristada abstraktset ja materialiseeritud plaani. (106-107)

Autonoomseteks nimetame keeli, mis ei vaja oma realiseerimiseks mõnda teist keelt; nad võivad realiseeruda ka teiste keelte kaudu (st kasutada teist keelt oma väljana), kuid samas võivad esineda iseseisvalt. Need keeled, mis saavad realiseeruda ainult mõnd teist keelt väljana kasutades, on mitteautonoomsed. (111)

Émile Benveniste “Sémiologie de la langue (1)”

January 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Benveniste, Émile 1969. Semiologie de la langue (1). Semiotica 1(1): 1-12

Pour lui [Peirce] la langue est partout et nulle part. Il ne s’est jamais intéressé au fonctionnement de la langue, si même il y a prêté attention. La langue se réduit pour lui aux mots, et ceux-ci sont bien des signes, mais ils ne relèvent pas d’une catégorie distincte ou même d’une espèce constante. (2)

Il faut donc que tout signe soit pris et compris dans un SYSTÈME de signes. Là est la condition de la SIGNIFIANCE. Il s’ensuivra, à l’encontre de Peirce, que tous les signes ne peuvent fonctionner identiquement ni relever d’un système unique. On devra constituer plusieurs systèmes de signes, et entre ces systèmes, expliciter un rapport de différence et d’analogie. (2-3)

La réduction du langage à la langue satisfait cette double condition : elle permet de poser la langue comme principe d’unité et du même coup de trouver la place de la langue parmi les faits humains. Principe de l’unité, principe de classement, voilà introduits les deux concepts qui vont à leur tour introduire la sémiologie. (4)

La langue se présente sous tous ses aspects comme une dualité : institution sociale, elle est mise en œuvre par l’individu ; discours continu, elle se compose d’unités fixes. […] Où la langue trouve-t-elle son unité et le principe de son fonctionnement ? Dans son caractère sémiotique. Par là se définit sa nature, par là aussi elle s’intègre à un ensemble de systèmes de même caractère. Pour Saussure, à la différence de Peirce, le signe est d’abord une notion linguistique, qui plus largement s’étend à certains ordres de faits humains et sociaux. (5)

D’une manière générale, l’objet principal de la sémiologie sera « l’ensemble des systèmes fondés sur l’arbitraire du signe ». (6)

Ces signes, pour naitre et s’établir comme système, supposent la langue, qui les produit et les interprète. Ils sont donc d’un ordre distinct, dans une hiérarchie à définir. On entrevoit déjà que, non moins que les systèmes de signes, les RELATIONS entre ces systèmes constitueront l’objet de la sémiologie. (7)

Un système sémiotique se caractérise : […]

Le MODE OPÉRATOIRE est la manière dont le système agit, notamment le sens (vue, ouïe, etc.) auquel il s’adresse.

Le DOMAINE DE VALIDITÉ est celui où le système s’impose et doit être reconnu ou obéi.

La NATURE et le NOMBRE DES SIGNES sont fonction des conditions susdites.

Le TYPE DE FONCTIONNEMENT est la relation qui unit les signes et leur confère fonction distinctive. (8)

Les caractères qui sont réunis dans cette définition forment deux groupes : les deux premiers, relatifs au mode d’opération et au domaine de validité, fournissent les conditions externes, empiriques, du système ; les deux derniers, relatifs aux signes et à leur type de fonctionnement, en indiquent les conditions internes, sémiotiques. Les deux premières admettent certaines variations ou accommodations, les deux autres, non. (9)

Le premier principe peut être énoncé comme le PRINCIPE DE NON-REDONDANCE entre systèmes. Il n’y a pas de ‘synonymie’ entre systèmes sémiotiques ; on ne peut pas ‘dire la même chose’ par la parole et par la musique, qui sont des systèmes à base différente. (9)

[…] il s’agit de déterminer si un système sémiotique donné peut s’interpréter par lui-même ou s’il doit recevoir d’un autre système son interprétation. Le rapport sémiotique entre systèmes s’énoncera alors comme un rapport entre SYSTÈME INTERPRÉTANT et SYSTÈME INTERPRÉTÉ. C’est celui que nous poserons, à grande échelle, entre les signes de la langue et ceux de la société : les signes de la société peuvent être intégralement interprétés par ceux de la langue, non l’inverse. La langue sera donc l’interprétant de la société. A petite échelle on pourra considérer l’alphabet graphique comme l’interprétant du Morse ou du Braille, à cause de la plus grande extension de son domaine de validité, et en dépit du fait qu’ils sont tous mutuellement convertibles. (10)

Tout système sémiotique reposant sur des signes doit nécessairement comporter (1) un répertoire fini de SIGNES, (2) de règles d’arrangement qui en gouvernent les FIGURES (3) indépendamment de la nature et du nombre des DISCOURS que le système permet de produire. (12)

Ferdinand de Saussure “Course in General Linguistics”

January 10, 2013 Leave a comment

Saussure, Ferdinand de 2011. Course in General Linguistics. New York: Columbia University Press. saussure-signIntroduction

But what is language [langue]? It is not to be confused with human speech [langage], of which it is only a definite part, though certainly an essential one. It is both a social product of the faculty of speech and a collection of necessary conventions that have been adopted by a social body to permit individuals to exercise that faculty. Taken as a whole, speech is many-sided and heterogeneous; straddling several areas simultaneously – physical, physiological, and psychological – it belongs both to the individual and to society; we cannot put it into any category of human facts, for we cannot discover its unity. Language, on the contrary, is a self-contained whole and a principle of classification. (9)

[…] language is a convention, and the the nature of the sign that is agreed upon does not matter. […] we can say that what is natural to mankind is not oral speech but the faculty of constructing a language, i.e. a system of distinct signs corresponding to distinct ideas. (10)

Execution is always individual, and the individual is always its master: I shall call the executive side speaking [parole]. […] If we could embrace the sum of word-images stored in the minds of all individuals, we could identify the social bond that constitutes language. (13)

Characteristics of language:

1)      Language is a well-defined object in the heterogeneous mass of speech facts. It can be localized in the limited segment of the speaking-circuit where an auditory image becomes associated with a concept. It is the social side of speech, outside the individual who can never create nor modify it by himself; it exists only by virtue of a sort of contract signed by the members of a community. […] (14)

2)      Language, unlike speaking, is something that we can study separately. […] We can dispense with the other elements of speech; indeed, the science of language is possible only if the other elements are excluded. (15)

3)      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 meanings and sound-images, and in which both parts of the sign are psychological. (15)

4)      Language is concrete, no less than speaking; and this is a help in our study of it. Linguistic signs, though basically psychological, are not abstractions; associations which bear the stamp of collective approval – and which added together constitute language – are realities that have their seat in the brain. (15)

Finally, speaking is what causes language to evolve: impressions gathered from listening to others modify our linguistic habits. Language and speaking are then interdependent; the former is both the instrument and the product of the latter. But their interdependence does not prevent their being two absolutely distinct things. (19)

One must always distinguish between what is internal and what is external. In each instance one can determine the nature of the phenomenon by applying this rule: everything that changes the system in any way is internal. (23)

But the tyranny of writing goes even further. By imposing itself upon the masses, spelling influences and modifies language. This happens onyl in highly literate languages where written texts play an important role. Then visual images lead to wrong pronunciations; such mistakes are really pathological. (31)

 

Part One: General Principles

The linguistic sign unites, not a thing and a name, but a concept and a sound-image. The latter is not the material sound, a purely physical thing, but the psychological imprint of the sound, the impression that it makes on our senses. (66)

The linguistic sign is then a two-sided psychological entity […] The two elements [concept and sound-image] are intimately united, and each recalls the other. […] I call the combination of a concept and a sound-image a sign […] (66-67)

I propose to retain the word sign [signe] to designate the whole and to replace concept and sound-image respectively by signified [signifié] and signifier [signifiant]; the last two terms have the advantage of indicating the opposition that separates them from each other and from the whole of which they are parts. (67)

The bond between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary. Since I mean by sign the whole that results from the associating of the signifier with the signified, I can simply say: the linguistic sign is arbitrary. (67)

In fact, every means of expression used in society is based, in principle, on collective behavior or – what amounts to the same thing – on convention. […] Signs that are wholly arbitrary realize better thant the others the ideal of the semiological process; that is why language, the most complex and universal of all systems of expression, is also the most characteristic; in this sense linguistics can become the master-pattern for all branches of semiology although language is only one particular semiological system. (68)

The word arbitrary also calls for comment. The term should not imply that the choice of the signifier is left entirely to the speaker (we shall see below that the individual does not have the power to change a sign in any way once it has become established in the linguistic community); I mean that it is unmotivated, i.e. arbitrary in that it actually has no natural connection with the signified. (68-69)

The signifier, being auditory, is unfolded solely in time from which it gets the following characteristics: (a) it represents a span, and (b) the span is measurable in a single dimension; it is a line. […] In contrast to visual isgnifiers (nautical signals, etc) which can offer simultaneous groupings in several dimensions, auditory signifiers have at their command only the dimension of time. (70)

The singifier, though to all appearances freely chosen with respect to the idea that it represents, is fixed, not free, with respect to the linguistic community that uses it. […] No individual, even if he willed it, could modify in any way at all the choice that has been made; and what is more, the community itself cannot control so much as a single word; it is bound to the existing language. (71)

No society, in fact, knows or has even known language other than as a product inherited from preceding generations, and one to be accepted as such. That is why the question of speech is not important as it is generally assumed to be. The question is not even worth asking; the only real object of linguistics is the normal, regular life of an existing idiom. A particular language-state is always the product of historical forces, and these forces explain why the sign is unchangeable, i.e. why it resists any arbitrary subsitution. (71-72)

Again, it might be added that reflection does not enter into the active use of an idiom – speakers are largely unconscious of the laws of language; and if they are unaware of them, how could they modify them? (72)

[…] language is a system of arbitrary signs and lacks the necessary basis, the solid ground for discussion. (73)

A language consitutes a system. In this one respect […] language is not completely arbitrary but is ruled to some extent by logic […] (73)

[…] in language […] everyone participates at all times, and that is why it is constantly being influenced by all. This capital fact suffices to show the impossibility of revolution. (74)

Time, which ensures the continuity of language, wields another influence apparently contradictory to the first: the more or less rapid change of linguistic signs. […] the sign is exposed to alteration because it perpetuates itself. […] That is why the principle of change is based on the principle of continuity. (74)

Regardless of what the forces of change are, whether in isolation or in combination, they always result in a shift in the relationship between the singified and the signifier. (75)

Unlike language, other human institutions – customs, laws, etc – are all based in varying degrees on the natural relations of things; all have of necessity adapted the means employed to the ends pursued. (75)

The causes od contuinity are a priori within the scope of the observer, but the causes of change in time are not. (77)

Language is speech less than speaking. It is the wholes set of linguistic habits which allow an individual to understand and to be understood. But this definition still leaves the language outside its social context; it makes language something artificial since it includes only the individual part of reality; for the realization of language, a community of speakers [masse parlante] is necessary. (77)

Doubtless it is not on a purely logical basis that group psychology operates; one must consider everything that deflects reason in actual contacts between individuals. (78)

If we considered language in time, without the community of speakers – imagine an isolated individual living for several centuries – we probably would notice no change; time would not influence language. Conversely, if we considered the community of speakers without considering time, we would not see the effect of the social forces that influence language. (78)

Everything that relates to the static side of our science is synchronic; everything that has to do with evolution is diachronic. Similarly, synchrony and diachrony designate respectively a language-state and an evolutionary phase. (81)

The first thing that strikes us when we study the facts of language is that their succession in time does not exist insofar as the speaker is concerned. He is confronted with a state. That is why the linguist who wishes to understand a state must discard all knowledge of everything that produced it and ignore diachrony. He can enter the mind of speakers only by completely suppressing the past. (81)

Since changes never affect the system as a whole but rather one or another of its elements, they can be studied only outside the system. Each alteration doubtless has its countereffect on the system, but the initial fact affected only one point; there is no inner bond between the initial fact and the effect that it may subsequently produce on the whole system. (87)

One consequence of the radical antinomy between the evolutionary and the static fact is that all notions associated with one or the other are to the same extent mutually irreducible. Any notion will point up to this truth. The synchronic and diachronic „phenomenon“, for example, have nothing in common. One is a relation between simultaneous elements, the other the substitution of one element for another in time, an event. (91)

The synchronic law is general but not imperative. Doubtless it is imposed on individuals by the weight of collective usage, but here I do not have in mind an obligation on the part of speakers. I mean that in language no force guarantees the maintenance of a regularity when established at some point. (92)

Diachrony, on the contrary, suppoeses a dynamic force through which an effect is produced, a thing executed. But this imperativeness is not sufficient to warrant applying the concept of law to evolutionary facts; we can speak of law only when a set of facts obeys the same rule, and in spite of certain appearances to the contrary, diachronic events are always accidental and particular. (93)

It takes on the appearance of a „law“ only because it is realized within a system. The rigid arrangement of the system creates the illusion that the diachronic fact obeys the same rules as the synchronic fact. (93)

Diachronic facts are the nparticular; a shift in a system is brought about by events which not only are outside the system, but are isolated and form no system among themseleves. To summarize: synchronic facts, no matter what they are, evidence a certain regularity but are in no way imperative; diachronic facts, on the contrary, force themselves upon language but are in no way general. (95)

[…] everything diachronic in language is diachronic only by virtue of speaking. It is in speaking that the germ of all change is found. […] An evolutionary fact is always preceded by a fact, or rather by a multitude of similar facts, in the sphere of speaking. (98)

Synchronic linguistics will be concerned with the logical and psychological relations that bind together coexisting terms and form a system in the collective mind of speakers. Diachronic linguistics, on the contrary, will study relations that bind together successive terms not perceived by the collective mind but substituted for each other without forming a system. (99-100)

 

Part Two: Synchronic Linguistics

We see that in semiological systems like language, where elements hold each other in equilibrium in accordance with fixed rules, the notion of identity blends with that of value and vice versa. (110)

There are no pre-existing ideas, and nothing is distinct before the appearance of language. (112)

The characteristic role of language with respect to thought is not to create a material phonic means for expressing ideas but to serve as a link between thought and sound, under conditions that of necessity bring about the reciprocal delimitations of units. (112)

Linguistics then works in the borderland where the elements of sound and thought combine; their combinations produces a form, not a substance. (113)

[…] even outside language all values are apparently governed by the same paradoxical principle. They are always composed:

1)      of a dissimilar thing that can be exchanged for the thing of which the value is to be determined; and

2)      of similar things that can be compared with the thing of which the value is to be determined. (115)

The conceptual side of value is made up solely of relations and differences with respect to the other terms of language, and the same can be said of its material side. The important thing in the word is not the sound alone but the phonic differences that make it possible to distinguish this word from all the others, for differences carry signification. (118)

The means by which the sign is produced is completely unimportant, for it does not affect the system […] Whether I make the letters in white or black, raised or engraved, with pen or chisel – all this is of no importance with respect to their signification. (120)

But the statement that everything in language is negative is true only if the signified and the signifier are considered separately; when we consider the sign in its totality, we have something positive in its own class. (120)

When we compare signs – positive terms – with each other, we can no longer speak of difference […] Between them there is only opposition. The entire mechanism of language, with which we shall be concerned later, is based on oppositions of this kind and on the phonic and conceptual differences that they imply. (121)

Applied to units, the principle of differentiation can be stated in this way: the characteristics of the unit blend with the unit itself. In language, as in any semiological system, whatever distinguishes one sign from the others constitutes it. Difference makes character just as it makes value and the unit. (121)

We see that the co-ordinations formed outside discourse differ strikingly from those formed inside discourse. Those formed outside discourse are not supported by linearity. Their seat is in the brain; they are part of the inner storehouse that makes up the language of each speaker. They are associative relations. The syntagmatic relations is in praesentia. It is based on two or more terms that occur in an effective series. Against this, the associative relation unites terms in absentia in a potential mnemonic series. (123)

But we must realize that in the syntagm there is no clear-cut boundary between the language fact, which is a sign of collective usage, and the fact that belongs to speaking and depends on individual freedom. (125)

What is most striking in the organization of language are syntagmatic solidarities; almost all units of language depend on what surrounds them in the spoken chain or on their successive parts. (127)

Everything that relates to language as a system must, I am convinced, be approached from this viewpoint, which has scarcely received the attention of linguists: the limiting of arbitrariness. This is the best possible basis for approaching the study of language as a system. In fact, the whole system of language is based on the irrational principle of the arbitrariness of the sign, which would lead to the worst sort of complication if applied without restriction. But the mind contrives to introduce a principle of order and regularity into certain parts of the mass of signs, and this is the role of relative motivation. If the mechanis of language were entirely rational, it could be studied independently. Since the mechanism of language is but a partial correction of a system that is by nature chaotic, however, we adopt the viewpoint imposed by the very nature of language and study it as it limits arbitrariness. (133)

Word order is unquestionably an abstract entity, but it owes its existence solely to the concrete units that contain it and that flow in a single dimension. To think that there is an incorporeal syntax outside material units distributed in space would be a mistake. (139)