Ricœur and Saussure: On meaning and time

Yong-Ho Choi 1 , 1
  • 1 Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.


This paper attempts to arrange a meeting between Ricœur and Saussure through their texts. Ricœur's reading Saussure reflects a particular limitation of his time, i.e., the structuralism to which we are no longer confined. He criticizes Saussure from a semantic point of view by appealing to the notion of discourse. According to Meschonnic, the discovery in 1996 of a manuscript of Saussure regarding the double essence of language reveals a particular interest in this notion, warranting a revisiting of Saussurean thought and thus reopening a debate on the status of meaning. Ricœur regards the question of meaning as a moment of self-understanding, situated outside the semiotic system in the world of signification. Saussure suggests defining the value of a linguistic unit in relation to its surrounding units. Where the former searches outside the linguistic unit, the latter searches around it: both refuse to remain, as it were, inside it. In this paper, I suggest that they were to be at odds with the question of time when raising the question of meaning. Eager to grasp a meaning that changes from one moment to the next, they relied on notions of system or context to regulate semantic diversity.

Purchase article
Get instant unlimited access to the article.
Log in
Already have access? Please log in.

Log in with your institution

Journal + Issues

The official journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, founded in 1969 as one of the first scholarly journals in the field, Semiotica features articles reporting results of research in all branches of semiotic studies, in-depth reviews of selected current literature in the field, and occasional guest editorials and reports. The journal also publishes occasional Special Issues devoted to topics of particular interest.