Reading Saussure (1987)

   •Roy Harris

Hardcover: 248 pages
ISBN: 0812690494

This book complements Saussure. Course in General Linguistics (Harris 1983). Saussure’s famous Cours is known today mainly through the quotation of selected aphorisms, which students mistakenly accept as summaries of the whole of his teaching about language. These aphorisms are often badly translated and quoted out of context. Reading Saussure attempts to redress the balance. It is the first full-length study which takes the reader through the text, chapter by chapter, examining the progressive development of the arguments and their underlying assumptions. It aims to construct an interpretation which makes sense of the book as originally published by its editors in 1916, as opposed to ‘reconstructing’ the hypothetical book which modern scholars sometimes create anachronistically by reading back modern views into the original text. It offers a detailed and sympathetic but penetrating criticism of a work which has influenced, directly or indirectly, virtually all subsequent developments in modern linguistics.


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© Roy Harris, Emeritus Professor of General Linguistics, Oxford, 2010-2015