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Course in General Linguistics [Paperback]

Ferdinand De Saussure
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 July 2011
The founder of modern linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure inaugurated semiology, structuralism, and deconstruction and made possible the work of Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Lacan, thus enabling the development of French feminism, gender studies, New Historicism, and postcolonialism. Based on Saussure's lectures, Course in General Linguistics (1916) traces the rise and fall of the historical linguistics in which Saussure was trained, the synchronic or structural linguistics with which he replaced it, and the new look of diachronic linguistics that followed this change. Most important, Saussure presents the principles of a new linguistic science that includes the invention of semiology, or the theory of the "signifier," the "signified," and the "sign" that they combine to produce. This is the first critical edition of Course in General Linguistics to appear in English and restores Wade Baskin's original translation of 1959, in which the terms "signifier" and "signified" are introduced into English in this precise way. Baskin renders Saussure clearly and accessibly, allowing readers to experience his shift of the theory of reference from mimesis to performance and his expansion of poetics to include all media, including the life sciences and environmentalism. An introduction situates Saussure within the history of ideas and describes the history of scholarship that made Course in General Linguistics legendary. New endnotes enlarge Saussure's contexts to include literary criticism, cultural studies, and philosophy.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (8 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231157274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231157278
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.7 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,523,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


I am delighted that Wade Baskin's classic translation is back in print, especially since Saussy and Meisel's judicious updating and summary of recent scholarly discoveries make this an invaluable resource for English readers.

About the Author

Ferdinand de Saussure (1857--1913) received his doctorate from the University of Leipzig in 1880 and lectured on ancient and modern languages in Paris until 1891. He then taught Sanskrit and Indo-European languages at the University of Geneva until the end of his life. Among his published works is Memoir on the Primitive System of Vowels in Indo-European Languages, published in 1878 when Saussure was twenty-one.Wade Baskin (1924--1974) was a professor of languages at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and translated many works from French, including books by Jean-Paul Sartre.Perry Meisel is professor of English at New York University. His books include The Myth of the Modern, The Literary Freud, and The Myth of Popular Culture.Haun Saussy is university professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago. His books include The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic and Great Walls of Discourse.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hugely important book 13 Nov 2009
This is one of the most important books of the 20th century and lies at the core of much of the philosophical thinking that has progressed to the present day. It was at the very beginnings of linguistics taking a core place within philosopy and contains revelations regarding the place language has with regard to human conditioning. It has relevance to many fields including quantum physics, language, meditation, thinking, conditioning, government,education, semiotics.etc, etc. A truly groundbreaking book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what i needed 24 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was just what i needed, and it was in great condition. It arrived earlier than expected and was very useful, being a student the books have to be. Well worth the asking price.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 11 Oct 2014
By des
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Thank you
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Foundation of Structuralism and Post-Structuralism 14 April 2003
By Kenaz Filan - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Saussure is important as a linguist (although many of his theories have since been put out to pasture) ... but he is most important for his contributions to the theory of Structuralism (and, later, Poststructuralism). His idea that you could not study language as individual units, but rather had to examine it as a structure and study how the units interacted within the structure, was enormously influential in modern and postmodern philosophy.
This book is not particularly difficult; it's a bit dry, but what can you expect from a linguistics class? If you read it carefully, you'll have no problem grasping what he is saying... and, when you are done, you will be well on your way to understanding what people like Lacan, Derrida and Foucault are trying to say. (You'll also be well along your way to understanding Claude Levi-Strauss, who attempted to do for anthropology what Saussure did for linguistics). If you want to understand modern philosophy, Saussure is as indispensible as Marx or Freud. Combine this with *Saussure for Beginners* and you'll pick up Saussure's train of thought in no time.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The central concepts of linguistics 13 July 2005
By Vinay Varma - Published on
This book comprised from lecture notes of Saussure to his students in Geneva (compiled posthumously by his students) is a work which changed the course of lingustics since its publication. In this book he makes distinctions which have later become central to discussions of linguistics like:

1. Sign as the unity of signifier (letters, sounds, image) and signified (meaning implied by the signifier)

2. Language (langage) as the unity of langue (code - language as a system) and parole (usage)

3. Syncrhonic (language as static system) and diachronic lingustics (langauge as an ever changing, evolving system)

4. Retrospective (language evolution so far) and prospective linguistics (future evolution of a language).

Many linguists have added a cloud of debate over these concepts, but non explains as lucidly as the master who propounded these. For those confused bout semiotics, semiology etc., this work is a reference point for the original meaning of the term 'semiology' as intended by Saussure. Many of Saussure's binary distinctions became the central to an approach to social sciences called structuralism which still holds sway in social sciences.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for any English Major!!! 13 Feb 2005
By Christopher J. Sugar - Published on
If you need to know the foundation of structuralism then you need to read this book. This is where it all begins and the translation of this edition flows well and is perfect for the beginner and novice alike.

One problem with this translation that potential readers should be aware of: If you are reading this to get a better understanding of the terms used by structuralists (signifier and signified) then you need to get the other version. This edition uses the words signification and signal.

Although the rest of text is fine, the exclusion of signifier and signified is, I believe, the only major drawback to the book since these were the terms adopted by structuralist and post-structuralist.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saussure = Five Stars, This Edition = Zero Stars 4 Sep 2009
By Steward Willons - Published on
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What is there to say about Ferdinand de Saussure's most important work that I could possibly say in a short Amazon review? This is a foundational work of incredible importance. If you're looking at this listing, I probably don't need to sell you on the book itself.

My comments strictly pertain to this particular edition (ISBN 978-1443253352 - Philosophical Library publishing) because I found it very disappointing. I assumed that because the publishing date was later, there had been some improvement to the translation, a new critical introduction, or some other such feature. There are no such features to be found. You get Saussure's text and that's it.

The real outrage is in the incredibly poor printing. Much of the book looks like it's actually a photo-copy. In fact, a number of pages have blemishes on the text, as if there was a hair between the page and Xerox machine. It literally looks like this edition was photo-copied from a previous edition. I've never seen anything like it.

My advice is to avoid this edition and buy one of the earlier, more inexpensive ones. You're certainly not getting any additional quality for the increased price. This will be the last title I purchase from Philosophical Library Publishers.

Fredinand de Saussure's Course in General Linguistics - FIVE Stars
This edition - ZERO Stars
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Critical Edition 9 Aug 2012
By A critical reader - Published on
Many of these comments pertain earlier editions of this work, but readers should be aware that the 2011 Coulmbia University Press edition is a big improvement. Using Wade Baskin's classic translation, it includes introductory material and notes that take account of recent scholarship, including the discovery of a lot of new material by Saussure himself.
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