Saussure and Sechehaye: Myth and Genius

A Study in the History of Linguistics and the Foundations of Language

In this book, Pieter Seuren argues that Ferdinand de Saussure has been grossly overestimated over the past century, while his junior colleague Albert Sechehaye has been undeservedly ignored. Saussure was anything but the great innovator he is generally believed to be. Sechehaye was a genius providing many trenchant analyses and anticipating many modern insights. The lives and works of both men are discussed in detail and they are placed in the cultural, intellectual and social environment of their day. Much attention is paid to the theoretical issues involved, in particular to the notion and history of structuralism, to the great subject-predicate debate that dominated linguistic theory at the time, and to questions of methodology in the theory of language.

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Biographical Note
Pieter Seuren, PhD (1969), professor emeritus Nijmegen University, now researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, Netherlands, has published widely on the theory of language, grammar, semantics, presuppositions, natural logic, Creole languages and the history of linguistics.
Table of contents
List of Figures

1 Introduction
2 Who was Ferdinand de Saussure?
 2.1 Family History and Life
 2.2 The Cours de linguistique générale and Its Mythical Status
 2.3 Saussure’s Problem with His Intellectual Environment
 2.4 Saussure’s Limited Intellectual Outlook and His Implicit Rationalism
 2.5 The Saussurean Myth
  2.5.1  The Coming about of the Saussurean Myth
  2.5.2  Saussure the ‘father’ of European Structuralism?
  2.5.3  Saussure in literature, art and philosophy
3 TheCours: A Critical Look
 3.1 Language as a Social Phenomenon
  3.1.1  The Social Dimension of Language
  3.1.2  Early French Sociology
  3.1.3  ‘Völkerpsychology’
 3.2 Linguistics as the Science of Language, Not of Speech
  3.2.1  The Tasks of Linguistics
  3.2.2  The Distinction between ‘langue’ and ‘parole’
  3.2.3  ‘Frequency linguistics’ Untenable
  3.2.4  Who Introduced the Distinction between ‘langue’ and ‘parole’?
  3.2.5  The Speech Circuit
 3.3 The Notion of Syntax and the Notion of Sentence
  3.3.1  The Notion of Syntax
  3.3.2  The Notion of Sentence
 3.4 The Notion of Sign and Its History
  3.4.1  Saussure’s Notion of Sign
  3.4.2  The Type-token Distinction
  3.4.3  Some History of the Notion of Sign
  3.4.4  The Arbitrariness of the Linguistic Sign
  3.4.5  The Linearity of the Signifier
 3.5 Differences, Oppositions and ‘valeurs’
  3.5.1  Comparison with Chess
  3.5.2  Only Differences in the Language System?
 3.6 Synchrony versus Diachrony
 3.7 Conclusion
4 Charles-Albert Sechehaye
 4.1 Private Life
 4.2 Scholarly Life: Preliminaries
  4.2.1  Production and Reception
  4.2.2  Weaknesses and Prejudices
  4.2.3  Sechehaye and Saussure: A Paradoxical Relation
  4.2.4  Sechehaye and Bally: At Cross Purposes
  4.2.5  Why was Sechehaye Forgotten, or, Rather, Ignored?
 4.3  Programme et méthodes of 1908
  4.3.1  Overall Survey of pmlt
  4.3.2  Comments on Successive Chapters
 4.4 The Essai sur la structure logique de la phrase of 1926
  4.4.1  Overall Survey of slp
  4.4.2  Comments on Successive Chapters
5 Sechehaye and the Great Subject-predicate Debate
 5.1 The Subject-predicate Debate: How it Arose and Ended up in a Quagmire
 5.2 How Did Sechehaye Deal with the Subject-predicate Debate?
 5.3 Why Discourse-driven and Fact-driven Propositions?
 5.4 Intermezzo on the Structure of Propositions
 5.5 An Analytical Synthesis of the Whole Question
  5.5.1  Definition of the Notion ‘proposition’
  5.5.2  Anchoring and Keying
  5.5.3  The Question-answer Game: Underlying Cleft Constructions
  5.5.4  Formal Aspects of tcm : The Need for ‘parameter theory’ in Grammar
  5.5.5  The Collapse of Quine’s Argument of the Opacity of Modal Contexts
6 Structuralism, Rationalism and Romanticism in Psychology and Linguistics
 6.1 What is Structuralism?
 6.2 Rationalism versus Romanticism: Clarifying the Terms
 6.3 Human versus Natural Sciences
 6.4 Reductionism
 6.5 The Coming about of the Human Sciences
 6.6 Early Structuralism in Psychology: The Theory of ‘gestalts’
 6.7 Early Structuralism in Linguistics
  6.7.1  The Young Grammarians
  6.7.2  Who Were, and are, the Real Structuralists in Linguistics?
  6.7.3  Romanticist or Nonstructuralist Grammar?
 6.8 Summary
7 Conclusions
All interested in the history of linguistics, especially European structuralism, in the theory of grammar and semantics, and in the philossophy of language.
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