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The signs cat and cats are associated in the mind, producing an abstract paradigm of the word forms of cat. Comparing this with other paradigms of word forms, we can note that in the English language the plural often consists of little more than adding an s to the end of the word. Likewise, in syntax, through paradigmatic and syntagmatic analysis, we can discover the grammatical rules for constructing sentences: the meaning of je dois "I should" and dois je?
A third valuation of language stems from its social contract, or its accepted use in culture as a tool between two humans. Since syntagmas can belong to speech, the linguist must identify how often they are used before he can be assured that they belong to the language. To consider a language synchronically is to study it "as a complete system at a given point in time," a perspective he calls the AB axis. By contrast, a diachronic analysis considers the language "in its historical development" the CD axis.
Saussure argues that we should be concerned not only with the CD axis, which was the focus of attention in his day, but also with the AB axis because, he says, language is "a system of pure values which are determined by nothing except the momentary arrangements of its terms". To illustrate this, Saussure uses a chess metaphor. We could study the game diachronically how the rules change through time or synchronically the actual rules.
Course in General Linguistics
Saussure notes that a person joining the audience of a game already in progress requires no more information than the present layout of pieces on the board and who the next player is. There would be no additional benefit in knowing how the pieces had come to be arranged in this way. A portion of Course in General Linguistics comprises Saussure's ideas regarding the geographical branch of linguistics. According to Saussure, the geographic study of languages deals with external, not internal, linguistics.
Geographical linguistics, Saussure explains, deals primarily with the study of linguistic diversity across lands, of which there are two kinds: diversity of relationship, which applies to languages assumed to be related; and absolute diversity, in which case there exists no demonstrable relationship between compared languages. Each type of diversity constitutes a unique problem, and each can be approached in a number of ways. For example, the study of Indo-European languages and Chinese which are not related benefits from comparison, of which the aim is to elucidate certain constant factors which underlie the establishment and development of any language.
Course in General Linguistics Part 1 Chapters 1 3 Summary | Course Hero
The other kind of variation, diversity of relationship, represents infinite possibilities for comparisons, through which it becomes clear that dialects and languages differ only in gradient terms. Of the two forms of diversity, Saussure considers diversity of relationship to be the more useful with regard to determining the essential cause of geographical diversity. While the ideal form of geographical diversity would, according to Saussure, be the direct correspondence of different languages to different areas, the asserted reality is that secondary factors must be considered in tandem with the geographical separation of different cultures.
For Saussure, time is the primary catalyst of linguistic diversity, not distance. To illustrate his argument, Saussure considers a hypothetical population of colonists, who move from one island to another. Initially, there is no difference between the language spoken by the colonists on the new island and their homeland counterparts, in spite of the obvious geographical disconnect. Saussure thereby establishes that the study of geographical diversity is necessarily concentrated upon the effects of time on linguistic development. Taking a monoglot community as his model that is, a community which speaks only one language , Saussure outlines the manner in which a language might develop and gradually undergo subdivision into distinct dialects.
Saussure's model of differentiation has 2 basic principles: 1 that linguistic evolution occurs through successive changes made to specific linguistic elements; and 2 that these changes each belong to a specific area, which they affect either wholly or partially. It then follows from these principles that dialects have no natural boundary, since at any geographical point a particular language is undergoing some change.
At best, they are defined by "waves of innovation"—in other words, areas where some set of innovations converge and overlap. The "wave" concept is integral to Saussure's model of geographical linguistics—it describes the gradient manner in which dialects develop. Linguistic waves, according to Saussure, are influenced by two opposed forces: parochialism, which is the basic tendency of a population to preserve its language's traditions; and intercourse, in which communication between people of different areas necessitates the need for cross-language compromise and standardization.
Intercourse can prevent dialectical fragmentation by suppressing linguistic innovations; it can also propagate innovations throughout an area encompassing different populations. Either way, the ultimate effect of intercourse is unification of languages. Saussure remarks that there is no barrier to intercourse where only gradual linguistic transitions occur. Having outlined this monoglot model of linguistic diversity, which illustrates that languages in any one area are undergoing perpetual and nonuniform variation, Saussure turns to languages developing in two separate areas.
In the case of segregated development, Saussure draws a distinction between cases of contact and cases of isolation. In the latter, commonalities may initially exist, but any new features developed will not be propagated between the two languages.
Nevertheless, differentiation will continue in each area, leading to the formation of distinct linguistic branches within a particular family. The relations characterizing languages in contact are in stark contrast to the relations of languages in isolation. Appendix Principles of Physiological Phonetics. Part One General Principles. Part Two Synchronic Linguistics. Part Three Diachronic Linguistics. Part Four Geographical Linguistics. The Course in General Linguistics is his most important work.
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