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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Volume 2017, Issue 217


Ghostwriting: The inception and reception of the Course in General Linguistics

Beata Stawarska
Published Online: 2017-06-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2016-0042


Stawarska 2015 The Course in General Linguistics presentes contemporary scholars of Saussure’s linguistics with a performative paradox: as in the case of any other Great Book, a critical study of this posthumously ghostwritten text contributes to its canonization. That is why one can offer a scholarly critique of the Course without diminishing the established legacy of this foundational text. The contribution of this essay is indeed chiefly critical: I reconstitute the process of ghostwriting – and reviewing – the Course by its two editors, Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye, in order to raise doubts about book’s being a reliable statement of Saussure’s linguistics. I argue specifically that the received “official doctrine” articulated in the Course and appropriated within structuralism, which is based upon a set of oppositional and hierarchical pairings between la langue and la parole, synchrony and diachrony, is rendered suspect in light of the book’s complicated editorial history. This “official doctrine” emerged out of an institutional interest to establish general linguistics as a recognizable academic discipline with proper object and method; its enduring status as an unrivaled truth of Saussurianism can be deciphered by investigating the interrelation between dominant discourses and social relations of power.

Keywords: Course in General Linguistics; Ferdinand de Saussure; general linguistics; language; social power

Article Note

This essay draws on material previously published in Stawarska 2015.


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-06-01

Published in Print: 2017-08-28

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2017, Issue 217, Pages 79–96, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2016-0042.

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