Monthly Archives: March 2009

Semiotics, authorship and creativity

Though Ferdinand de Saussure’s semiotic theories primarily constitute an analysis of language, its overriding principles can also be applied to the analysis of literature. Saussure’s desire to quantify linguistic study into something empirical, systematic and scientific highlights the ultimately methodical nature of speech and the construction of language. Of all the ideas that originate from Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics, perhaps the most important to the study of literature is the notion that language is beyond the control of the individual: it is an external structure that the individual speaker is unable to influence, only merely to absorb and utilise in an act of passivity. As Saussure states, ‘Language is a system of interdependent terms in which the value of each term results solely from the simultaneous presence of the others’.[1] From this we can surmise that speech is largely of a predetermined nature, in that words can only be defined by their relation to other words, meaning there is a degree of inevitability about how a sentence will be constructed, and by extension how conversations are carried out.

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