Essay on Language and Parole

2100 Words Mar 1st, 2011 9 Pages
Langue and Parole
John Phillips
The distinction between the French words, langue (language or tongue) and parole (speech), enters the vocabulary of theoretical linguistics with Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics, which was published posthumously in 1915 after having been collocated from student notes. La langue denotes the abstract systematic principles of a language, without which no meaningful utterance (parole) would be possible. The Course manifests a shift from the search for origins and ideals, typical of nineteenth century science, to the establishment of systems. The modern notion of system is reflected in the title of the course: General Linguistics. Saussure in this way indicates that the course will be about
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An utterance is an example of one of the uncountable possibilities that the system makes possible. The system governs all possible relations between signifiers and signifieds. The linguist Roman Jakobson suggested that the functions of language can be understood according to the way the paradigmatic and syntagmatic axes of language interact, with the figurative dimension of metonymy operating on the syntagmatic axis and that of metaphor on the paradigmatic one. The syntagmatic axis features contiguous elements, elements found next to each other, related by association (as the Sun is related to Day). The paradigmatic axis features elements that are not present together but may be substituted for each other (as the Sun might substitute for the clear light of Truth).
To the distinction between langue and parole, corresponds a further distinction between the subject of the énunciation (the exercise of language) and subject of the énoncé (the statement made). To illustrate this, the French linguist Émile Benveniste focuses on the role and implications of the ubiquitous first and second person pronouns, used at least implicitly in every language known to man and woman. The first person, “I,” operates in a way quite unlike other pronouns because it is essentially linked to the exercise of language. In other words, the sign I links Saussure’s two dimensions of language, the collective intelligence of langue and the ephemeral individual acts of parole: “it

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