Friday, March 25, 2011

Reflection 4: Saussure, Signifiers, and Sauce

Ferdinand De Saussure was a very complex thinker and "gave birth to structuralism by means of a book he never wrote" (845). After Saussure's death in 1913 his colleagues discovered Saussure's class notes and compiled them into what is now known as "The Course in General Linguistics" (845).

From the readings an attempt is made to find the truest meaning for language.

"Language is a storehouse of sound-images, and writing is the tangible form of those images" (850).

"Language is a system of signs that express ideas"(851).

"The words of our language" are thought of like "sound-images"(853). These sound images are linked to a "concept". "The two elements are intimately united, and each recalls the other" (853). A good example of this is the word "pencil". When one reads the word "pencil" their mind should have created an image of a pencil. Some may have pictured a mechanical pencil (and if you hadn’t you just did) or perhaps a wooden pencil. More sound images can be aligned with its related concept to create very detailed imagery to the point of being almost identical. The same is to go the opposite way. If someone held up a pencil in front of you and told you to write down what you see in their hand, you would write the word "pencil". In a room of thirty English as a first language people asked the same question they would most likely write the word "pencil" as well.

We were given different articles from a magazine in class this day, and were told to write down what you see. Professor Wexler then went around the class and held up articles to see if there is a common description of the message that the ads were attempting to portray. The class had a lot of fun interpretation the message of the ads. We could have done this for an entire class. My ad was a boy holing a jar that once held tomato sauce, but now held a grass hopper. His eyes were very excited about his discovery of this new creature as he held it up for the picture. Parents sometimes have difficulty feeding their kids nutritious things, but the ad suggests just the opposite will happen if this sauce is on their plates.

Works Cited

Ferdinand De Saussure. "Course in General Linguistics". ed. Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. Print.

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