Jakobson's Response to Saussure's Cours

10 Sep 2022

From Ladislav Matejka’s “Jakobson’s Response to Saussure’s Cours”:

In the parlance of the octogenarian Jakobson, the decomposition of the phoneme into concurrent distinctive features rejected Saussure’s “linearité du signifiant” and, thereby, one of the general principles of his Cours. In spite of this rejection, it is clear, however, that in the gradual development of distinctive feature theory Jakobson’s decades-long duel with Saussure’s concept of the phoneme had played a crucial role. In fact, it is perhaps not far from the truth to claim that without Jakobson’s life-long dual with Saussure’s Cours, there would not be Jakobson’s distinctive features theory as we know it.

Matejka goes on to note that Jakobson early on rejected the absoluteness of Saussure’s antinomy between synchrony and diachrony: “every system necessarily exists as an evolution, whereas, on the other hand, evolution is inescapably of a systemic nature” (Jakobson 1928).

Matejka, Ladislav. 1997. Cahiers de l’ILSL 9: 169–176.

You can go back to the logbook or dive into the archive. Choose your own adventure!