What Is Meant By The Term Structuralism? What Is Saussure's Structuralist Theory Of The Sign?

1903 words - 8 pages

What is meant by the term 'structuralism'?What is Saussure's Structuralist theory of the sign?It must at first be stated that the term 'structuralism' is not only applicable to literature, but also philosophy and psychology, and many of the social sciences. It is important to acknowledge this since thorough out the essay references will be made to as many of these disciplines as possible where appropriate. 'Structuralists' will look at 'surface phenomena' and the rules that put units together. These are basic words, which will certainly be explained as the essay develops, but initially it would be best as stated if the theory is explained in as much detail as possible, and relevant. The ...view middle of the document...

And so structuralist analyses of literature (or other forms of narrative whether they be fairy tales or whatever) are concerned only in this.Structuralists will then stress that the organisation of rules and units into some significant system is carried out by the mind as oppose to sense perception or the idea of innate knowledge. Hence they explain that in order to create some kind of systematic and limited reality, our minds categorise these units. Structures are universal, applicable to all aspects of life and therefore 'every human mind in every culture at every point in history has used some sort of structuring principle to organise and understand cultural phenomena.' This is why it fits so easily into philosophy since it can be considered to be the science of human thought.Dr Klages proclaims that 'Wholeness', 'Transformation', and 'Self Regulation' is all important properties in every structure. She goes on to explain in a straightforward and simple manner that wholeness is an important aspect since the system is able to function only as a whole and not in independent parts. Furthermore, she states that these units are able to transform, (or new units are able to transform) into the system such as new words which are introduced in to a dictionary every time a new one is published. It is important to remember that despite this the system itself does not change; elements may well be added but the basic structure of the system remains the same. It is important that this has been addressed so that now the relevance of Saussure on literary theory is becoming apparent. In order to view how literature functions, language must be analysed and this is why Saussure is important; he is interested in language as a structure and his concept of language is relevant to all kinds of languages and anything we call a 'signifying system'. However he is only interested in the design of the structure.Saussure stated that language is based on the 'naming' process by which things get associated with a word or name. He then introduces two parts to the linguistic unit explaining that the linguistic unit is made up of the 'concept' and 'sound image';Concept is the idea and the sound image is the psychological imprint that the sound of a word makes, the impression it has on your mind. Sussure then went on to explain the union of sound image and concept; as one part instantly conjures an image of the other, the union is strong and therefore provokes a sign. It is the sound image of a word that projects the image of that particular word. Thus the 'meaning' of that sign is associated with this union. Saussure makes it clear that the meaning of a word maybe different in different languages and it is only the collective opinion of a society which argues on whether or not that meaning successfully conveys reality or not. This will be explained in detail later in the essay.The sign may also be explained as the combination of the 'signifier' (sound image) and the...

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