Sign and Value in Saussure

Hugh Bredina1

a1 The Queen's University Of Belfast

The most important, or at least the most central, part of Ferdinand de Saussure's Course in General Linguistics is found in the first six chaptersof Part Two. Here, Saussure formulates one of the basic principles of Structuralism. Yet the text is in some ways oddly impenetrable. It is dear enough on a quick reading, but closer attention discovers doubtful meanings, ambiguity, the beginnings even of contradictions. These defects may, of course, be inevitable in a reconstructed text. Or they may testify to some profound erroneousness in the thought, to a theory whose natal difficulties are symptoms, not of the elusiveness of truth, but of a miscarriage. It is mypurpose here to argue the latter.