Course in General Linguistics

By Ferdinand la Saussure,

Book cover of Course in General Linguistics

Book description

The Cours de linguistique generale, reconstructed from students' notes after Saussure's death in 1913, founded modern linguistic theory by breaking the study of language free from a merely historical and comparativist approach. Saussure's new method, now known as Structuralism, has since been applied to such diverse areas as art, architecture,…

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1 author picked Course in General Linguistics as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Another classic. This book launched the intellectual movement known as structuralism, a theory that calls into question the idea of human autonomy and individual will. Even though I may feel like I am in conscious control of all my words, thoughts, and actions, structuralism says this is an illusion, especially where language is concerned. 

Saussure introduced the radical idea that “language eludes the control of our will.” The larger symbolic system of meaning predetermines what can be said and thought more than my individual intention does. That system developed slowly over time, and we never observed its long process of…

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