The Challenge of Semiology and the Phenomenology of Language. The Reinterpretation of Phenomenology as Language Theory

  • Domenico Jervolino
Part of the Contributions to Phenomenology book series (CTPH, volume 6)


Ricoeur, following Hjelmslev’s systematic elaboration of Saussure’s lessons, holds that the “semiological model,” common to structuralism in its various forms, both in its narrow application to linguistics and its extension to the study of socio-cultural phenomena, rests on five basic premises. 1) Language is an object of empirical science, where ‘empirical’ implies not only that observation has a primary role but also that inductive operations are subordinate to deduction and calculation. The possibility of referring to language as an object of science presumes the well-known Saussurian distinction between langue and parole. 2) A distinction must be drawn between a science of states of system, viz. synchronic linguistics, and a science of changes, viz. diachronic linguistics. It is the system which is understood first; change is understood as the passage from one state of the system to another. 3) In a state of system there are no absolute terms but only relations of reciprocal dependence; language is a form, not a substance; in language only differences exist. 4) The collection of signs, in order to be subject to structural analysis, must be seen as a closed system; all relations are within the system. 5) In this context one must give up the naive idea that the sign stands for a thing. The sign is defined by its opposition to all the other signs on its same level and, in itself, as pure difference; the sign is both the difference between signs and, within each sign, the difference between expression and content.57


Symbolic Function Personal Pronoun Semantic Point Naive Idea Demonstrative Pronoun 
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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

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  • Domenico Jervolino

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