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15 December 2013



Firstly, the term segregation itself is highly problematic and acts to conflate the reality further. As Saussure theorised on syntagmatic relations, ‘within speech, words are subject to a kind of relation that is independent of the first and based on their linkage

That's basically a quote they've lifted at random: what does 'the first' even refer to in their sentence? The quote is meaningless without the first part.

It's actually from Saussure's Course on Linguistics:

1) Outside speech, the association that is made in the memory between words having something in common creates different groups, series, families, within which very diverse relations obtain but belonging to a single category: these are associative relations.

But post-modern discourse denies there's anything 'outside speech' so they're just left with:

2) Within speech, words are subject to a kind of relation that is independent of the first and based on their linkage: these are syntagmatic relations, of which I have spoken.

Which amounts to nothing other than 'words are arranged in order' - syntax, or 'grammar'.

And while that might have been a novel insight in Saussure's day it doesn't add anything to the argument the writer is making other than to say 'I've heard of a linguist who's work was almost entirely demolished by Chomsky half a century ago'.


Saussure, I should point out, has the same relationship to modern linguistics as Freud has to psychology - in the sense that you know when you see either quoted that you are talking to a literary theorist and not someone educated in either linguistics or psychology.


Thanks for the comment. My knowledge of linguistics is non-existent. I just read this and thought "language games". So glad to have a little intellectual back up on this.

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  • Rosie Bell

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