Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Ferdinand de Saussure

Ferdinand de Saussure was born on 26 November 1857 in Geneva, Switzerland, and died at age 55. He was a 19th century philosopher and was one of the founding fathers of semiotics. His concept of the sign/signifier/signified/referent forms the core of the field.
Saussure once said ‘It is... possible to conceive of a science which studies the role of signs as part of social life. It would form part of social psychology, and hence of general psychology. We shall call it semiology. It would investigate the nature of signs and the laws governing them. Since it does not yet exist, one cannot say for certain that it will exist. But it has a right to exist, a place ready for it in advance. Linguistics is only one branch of this general science. The laws which semiology will discover will be laws applicable in linguistics, and linguistics will thus be assigned to a clearly defined place in the field of human knowledge.’ This translated basically means that he thought that linguistics was not the only concept of scientific theories; he said that he didn’t know if it existed but he was going to find out.
Semiotics began to become a major approach to cultural studies in the late 1960s, partly as a result of the work of Roland Barthes. Saussure's term, 'semiology' is sometimes used to refer to the Saussurean tradition, whilst 'semiotics' sometimes refers to the Peircean tradition, but that nowadays the term 'semiotics' is more likely to be used as an umbrella term to embrace the whole field. Saussure argued that 'nothing is more appropriate than the study of languages to bring out the nature of the semiological problem'. Semiotics draws heavily on linguistic concepts, partly because of the influence of Saussure and because linguistics is a more established discipline than the study of other sign systems.
Saussure says that with the word H-O-R-S-E, the concept of "horse" is what is signified, the referent is what kicks you. The "real" thing is therefore external to the sign, whereas the signified is a part of it.
Media homework :)