Towards a rapprochement between phenomenology and structural linguistics
Saussure’s general linguistic is usually heralded for having sacrificed the speaking subject on a semiological altar and for initiating a methodological turn towards structured semiological systems as solely constitutive of cultural signification. This view may reflect, however, a postwar French institutionalized antagonism between the traditions of inquiry which privilege subjective experience on the one hand and semiological systems on the other, that is, phenomenology and structuralism (and post-structuralism). Thus while Kristeva opposes the speaking subject to Saussure’s linguistics and its structuralist legacy, I argue that Saussure’s own, lesser known reflections help to chart a zone of linguistic experience undecided between renewing subjectivity and sedimented signification. My contribution to rethinking the interrelation between subject and structure based approaches in this essay will follow the lead of Saussure’s Nachlass, especially his analysis of the arbitrary (unnatural or unmotivated) status of linguistic signification. While the posthumous edition of the Course in General Linguistics proposes a programmatic statement ofs cientific linguistics with a set of vertical hierarchies between la langue and la parole, synchrony and diachrony, and the signifier and the signified, the Nachlass develops a philosophically refined reflection on the heterogeneity of the linguistic field and the plurality of methods available to the scholar of language.
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