Conclusion to Part I

  • Feifei Zhou


What I have done in this section is to trace out important developments in linguistics after Saussure’s founding text. The Course, with its pioneering theoretical programme of studying langue, is treated as the occasion when a ‘system’ view in linguistic study was initiated. The tensions inherent in the distinction of langue and parole have been analysed in the light of two recent readings of Saussure. My analysis of these readings is intended to highlight some important issues in the theoretical study of language as a system, such as the relationship between the individual and the social, and how communication works. The main section of this part studies the notion of system in structural linguistics, generative grammar, Labovian linguistics, identity study in sociolinguistics, and ecology of language. What looms large in the picture is the incompatibility of the system view and the dynamic workings of language in social life, which involve culturally, socially, and historically situated individuals. It is observed that there has been an evergrowing tendency in linguistics, especially post-Chomskyan linguistics, to break away from a homogeneous notion of linguistic system and place the individual speaker at a more important position. Yet, as I have tried to argue, their efforts stop short of challenging the persistent belief that individual speakers share a certain pre-existing system, which remains largely independent of them.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Feifei Zhou
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishLingnan UniversityHong KongChina

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