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Publisher's Summary

Edited and produced from the lecture notes of his students at the University of Geneva, Ferdinand de Saussure's Course in General Linguistics was first published in 1916, three years after his death. The book aims to explain Saussure's theory that all languages share an underlying structure, and that this underlying structure is the same, regardless of historical or cultural context. Although the book marked a break with the traditional, history-focused study of linguistics of the time, Saussure still uses examples based on more traditional studies. He describes the mechanism of how words can mean things, using a three-part structure of signifier, signified, and sign. The signifier is a word or symbol; the signified is the thing that word or symbol refers to; and the sign is the combination of both. Saussure also draws a distinction between specific speech acts and the larger system of language that is the basis for speech. His ideas have had a huge influence in the study of linguistics ever since.
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