1 Course in General Linguistics Ferdinand de Saussure Edited by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye In collaboration with Albert Riedlinger Translated, with an introduction and notes by Wade Baskin m S9(6). McGraw-Hill Book Company New York Toronto London PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION. phonetic changes, for example, includes things that have been said before, and perhaps more definitively; but, aside from the fact that this part contains many valuable and original details, I NTRODUCTION. even a superficial reading will show to what extent its omission would detract from an understanding of the principles upon which Chapter I. F. de Saussure erects his system of static Linguistics . We are aware of our responsibility to our critics. We are also aware of our responsibility to the author, who probably would not A GLANCE AT THE HISTORY OF Linguistics . have authorized the publication of these pages. This responsibility we accept wholly, and we would willingly bear it alone. Will the critics be able to distinguish between the The science that has been developed around the facts of language teacher and his interpreters?
2 We would be grateful to them if they passed through three stages before finding its true and unique would direct toward us the blows which it would be unjust to heap object. upon one whose memory is dear to us. First something called "grammar" was studied. This study, in- itiated by the Greeks and continued mainly by the French, was Geneva, July 1915. Charles Bally, Albert Sechehaye based on logic. It lacked a scientific approach and was detached from language itself. Its only aim was to give rules for distinguish- ing between correct and incorrect forms; it was a normative dis- PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION cipline, far removed from actual observation, and its scope was The second edition is essentially the same as the first. The limited. editors have made some slight changes designed to facilitate Next appeared philology. A "philological" school had existed reading and clarify certain points. much earlier in Alexandria, but this name is more often applied Ch. B. Alb. S. to the scientific movement which was started by Friedrich August Wolf in 1777 and which continues to this day.
3 Language is not its PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION sole object. The early philologists sought especially to correct, With the exception of a few minute corrections, this edition is interpret and comment upon written texts. Their studies also led the same as the preceding. to an interest in literary history, customs, institutions, etc.' They Ch. B. Alb. S. applied the methods of criticism for their own purposes. When they dealt with linguistic questions, it was for the express purpose of comparing texts of different periods, determining the language peculiar to each author, or deciphering and explaining inscriptions made in an archaic or obscure language. Doubtless these investi- gations broke the ground for historical Linguistics . Ritschl's studies of Plautus are actually linguistic . But philological criticism is still deficient on one point: it follows the written language too slavishly i At the risk of offending some readers, certain stylistic characteristics of the original French are retained.
4 [Tr.] (The bracketed abbreviations S., Ed. and Tr. indicate whether footnotes are to be attributed to De Saussure , to the editors of the Cours de linguistique generate, or to the translator.). 1. 2 Course IN General Linguistics A GLANCE AT TEL HISTORY OF Linguistics 3. and neglects the living language. Moreover, it is concerned with Sanskrit failed in other respects to preserve the features of the little except Greek and Latin antiquity. prototype; for instance, it had completely revolutionized the vo- The third stage began when scholars discovered that languages calic system. But in General the original elements that Sanskrit has can be compared with one another. This discovery was the origin preserved are remarkably helpful in research-and fate decreed of "comparative rhilology." In 1816, in a work entitled (1ber das that it was to clarify many points in the study of other languages. Conjugationssystem der Sanskritsprache, Franz Bopp compared Other distinguished linguists soon added to the contribution of Sanskrit with German, Greek, Latin, etc.)
5 Bopp was not the first Bopp: Jacob Grimm, the founder of Germanic studies (his Deutsche to record their si mi larities and state that all these languages belong Grammatik was published from 1822 to 1836) ; Pott, whose etymo- to a single family. That had been done before him, notably by,the logical studies made a considerable amount of material available English orientalist W. Jones (died in 1794) ; but Jones' few isolated to linguists; Kuhn, whose works dealt with both Linguistics statements do not prove that the significance and importance of and comparative mythology; the Indic scholars Benfey and comparison had been generally understood before 1816. While Aufrecht, etc. Bopp cannot be credited with the discovery that Sanskrit is re- Finally, among the last representatives of the school, Max lated to certain languages of Europe and Asia, he did realize that Milller, G. Curtius, and August Schleicher deserve special atten- the comparison of related languages could become the subject tion.
6 In different ways, all three did much to advance comparative matter of an independent science. To illuminate one language by Max Miiller popularized them in his brilliant discussions means of another, to explain the forms of one through the forms (Lessons in the Science of Language, 1861) ; but his failing was a of the other, that is what no one had done before him. certain lack of conscientiousness. Curtius, a distinguished philol- Whether Bopp could have created his science-so quickly at ogist known especially for his Grundziige der griechischen Etymologie least-without the prior discovery of Sanskrit is doubtful. With (1879), was one of the first to reconcile comparative philology with Sanskrit as a third witness beside Latin and Greek, Bopp had a classical philology. The latter had watched the progress of the new larger and firmer basis for his studies. Fortunately, Sanskrit was science suspiciously, and each school had mistrusted the other. exceptionally well-fitted to the role of illuminating the comparison.
7 Schleicher was the first to try to codify the results of piecemeal For example, a comparison of the paradigms of Latin genus investigations. His Compendium der vergleichenden Grammatik der (genus, generic, genere, genera, generum, etc.) and Greek (g&nos, indogermanischen Sprachen (1861-62) is more or less a systemiza- geneos, genei, genea, genoon, etc.) reveals nothing. But the picture tion of the science founded by Bopp. His book, with its long record changes as soon as we add the corresponding Sanskrit series (danas, of service, recalls better than any other the broad outlines of the anasas, 1anasi, anasu, #anasam, etc.). A glance reveals the simi- comparative school, which is the first chapter in the history of larity between the Greek forms and the Latin forms. If we ac- Indo-European Linguistics . cept tentatively the hypothesis that anal represents the primi- But the comparative school, which had the indisputable merit tive state-and this step facilitates explanation-then we conclude of opening up a new and fruitful field, did not succeed in setting up that s must have fallen in Greek forms wherever it occurred be- the true science of Linguistics .
8 It failed to seek out the nature of its tween two vowels. Next we conclude that s became r in Latin under object of study. Obviously, without this elementary step, no the same conditions. Grammatically, then, the Sanskrit paradigm science can develop a method. exemplifies the concept of radical, a unit (fans) that is quite The first mistake of the comparative philologists was also the definite and stable. Latin and Greek had the same forms as San- source of all their other mistakes. In their investigations (which em- skrit only in their earlier stages. Here Sanskrit is instructive pre- braced only the Indo-European languages), they never asked them- cisely because it has preserved all the Indo-European s's. Of Course selves the meaning of their comparisons or the significance of the 4 Course IN General Linguistics A GLANCE AT THE HISTORY OF Linguistics 5. relations that they discovered. Their method was exclusively com- proper place, owes its origin to the study of the Romance and parative, not historical.
9 Of Course comparison is required for any Germanic languages. Romance studies, begun by Diez-his Gram- historical reconstruction, but by itself it cannot be conclusive. And matik der romanischen Sprachen dates from 1836-38-were in- the conclusion was all the more elusive whenever the comparative strumental in bringing Linguistics nearer to its true object. For philologists looked upon the development of two languages as a Romance scholars enjoyed privileged conditions that were un- naturalist might look upon the growth of two plants. For example known to Indo-European scholars. They had direct access to Latin, Schleicher, who always invites us to start from Proto-Indo-Euro- the prototype of the Romance languages, and an abundance of pean and thus seems in a sense to be a confirmed historian, has no texts allowed them to trace in detail the evolution of the different hesitancy in saying that Greek e and o are two grades (Stufen) of dialects; these two circumstances narrowed the field of conjecture the vocalic system.
10 This is because Sanskrit has a system of vocalic and provided a remarkably solid frame for all their research. alternations that suggests the notion of grades. Schleicher supposed Germanic scholars were in a similar situation. Though they could that each language has to pass through those grades separately and not study the prototype directly, numerous texts enabled them to in exactly the same way, just as plants of the same species pass trace the history of the languages derived from Proto-Germanic through the same developmental stages independently of one through the Course of many centuries. The Germanic scholars, another, and saw a reinforced grade of e in Greek o and a reinforced coming to closer grips with reality than had the first Indo-Euro- grade of d in Sanskrit a. The fact is that a Proto-Indo-European pean scholars, reached different conclusions. alternation was reflected differently in Greek and in Sanskrit with- A first impetus was given by the American scholar Whitney, the out there being any necessary equivalence between the gram- author of Life and Growth of Language (1875).