Source of the picture:

Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)


  • belongs to a family of illustrious scholars
  • brilliantly finished classic studies in Latin, Greek, Sanskrit
  • lectured on ancient and modern languages in Paris and Geneva.

Contribution to Linguistics

His famous Course on General Linguistics (1916) was published 3 years after his death by his former students. The course became one of the most important works in linguistics, due to Saussure's innovative approach in discussing linguistic phenomena.

Central Knowledge

  • language defined as a system of randomly chosen signs, whereby each sign has two characteristics, that of the significant (the concept of sound) and the signifié (an abstract signified concept).
  • distinction between language (la langue) which is the topic of interest in linguistics and spoken language (la parole) which is the speech of an individual.


His approach had enormous influence on the development of linguistic theory in the first half of the 20th century.

  • Europe: impact on structural linguistics developed by the Prague School (Nikolay Trubetzkoy, Roman Jakobson).
  • America: impact on distributionalism (Leonard Bloomfield).
  • Outside linguistics, Saussure's methodology was adopted in fields like ethnography (Levi-Strauss) and philosophy (Lacan).

Main Publications

  • Cours de linguistique générale. 1916

Categories: People