LINGUIST List 7.213

Fri Feb 9 1996

Disc: Emphasis, Saussure

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Celso Alvarez-Caccamo, Emphasis
  2., Re: 7.193, Qs: BBC in LA, Saussure, Paper by Eric Hamp

Message 1: Emphasis

Date: Thu, 08 Feb 1996 20:21:56 +0100
From: Celso Alvarez-Caccamo <>
Subject: Emphasis
I haven't read *absolutely all messages concerning *the ongoing discussion
on emphasis? But perhaps something *is missing *from accounts attempting
*to interrelate prosody *and information status exclusively. In
interaction, prosody works like another layer of signification, at times
merely superposed to lexis and grammar. What characterizes a given type
of ritualized discourse is the distribution of pseudo-emphases, pauses,
final junctures, etc. Sometimes rhytmic accents fall on foregrounded
items, sometimes they don't. Pauses may fall in between two constituents,
or they may not. This, for example, is pervasive in current political
discourse in Spain (regardless of language used, by the way):

'el partido 'socialista ^ [up-arrow]
'en la proxima legislatura ^
'realizara mejoras 'de todo tipo .

Of course, the exact distribution of accents, tempos, pauses, etc., in
each code ('flight attendant talk', 'political talk', 'sports broadcaster
talk') is hard to imitate spontaneously -- it has to be learned, like any
other code. That's what grants the code its in-group nature. I've been
told by journalism students that there's no special reason why a
broadcaster adopts a given style -- he/she does so, others follow the
lead, and there you have it.

Celso Alvarez-Caccamo
Depto. de Linguistica Geral e Teoria da Literatura
Faculdade de Filologia
Universidade da Corunha
15071 A Corunha - Galiza (Spain)
Tel. 34 - 81 - 130457, ext. 1758
FAX 34 - 81 - 132459
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Message 2: Re: 7.193, Qs: BBC in LA, Saussure, Paper by Eric Hamp

Date: Wed, 07 Feb 1996 11:13:14 -0400
From: <>
Subject: Re: 7.193, Qs: BBC in LA, Saussure, Paper by Eric Hamp
Mark Adderley asks about two ideas repeated in literary analysis and attributed
to Saussure: "The first is that we can never know the real, extra-linguistic
world except through the medium of language. The second is that reality only
exists in relationships--light to dark, etc." A careful reading of Saussure's
Course in General Linguistics shows that neither view is explicitly stated OR
implied. Jacques Derrida charges Saussure with Idealism, missing the same key
point that Lacan missed, namely Saussure's teaching that both thought and sound
are formless and acquire form only when they are linked in the linguistic sign.
There are no pre-existing ideas for Saussure, as Derrida believes. Derrida
attaches primary importance to the concept of "difference," which is also
fundamental for Saussure, but he separates it from the complementary term
"opposition." While this separation is ostensibly principled by a rejection
of dualities as an analytical framework, it very conveniently allows Derrida
to advance his own notion of "archi-writing," and this in turn is buttressed
by the charge that Saussure held a prejudiced view of writing as merely a
derivative representation of speech. This charge is made in utter disregard
of Saussure's purpose in making speech primary in linguistic analysis, namely
avoiding what he saw as the endless confusion and errors in the work of
earlier linguists who had always limited themselves to written texts. As for
Derrida's wish to scrap dualities, it becomes wonderfully irrelevant when we
recall that the conclusion of Saussure's lessons on syntagmatic and associative
relations shows how they interact. They are defined independently, but they
function interdependently. In this way, Saussure provided for moving beyond
his dualities in a fashion which collapses the distinction between language
and metalanguage. It is Saussure who deconstructs Derrida & Co. If we look
for Saussure's contribution to literary theory (rather than the appropriation
of his ideas to theory by others), it turns out to be on the subject of
anagrams--words hidden in other words. His ideas on this subject have not
been subject to the same distortion as his linguistic principles, though some
commentators have ventured the opinion that with the anagrams he undermined
various principles from the CGL such as the arbitrariness of the linguistic
sign and the linearity of the signifier. One could just as easily argue that
the anagrams combat the tendency of the linearity of the signifer to prevent
the speaker/hearer's perception of complex signs. Much work remains to be
done before all of Saussure's insights into language are fully understood,
well taught, and applied in a fashion that will advance both linguistic and
literary studies. 

Dept of French
Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia

*******************REFERENCES RE: SAUSSURE DISCUSSION**************************
Status: RO

ANGENOT, Marc. "Structuralism as Syncretism: Institutional Distorsions of
Saussure." In John Fekete, ed., The Structural Allegory (Minneapolis: U of
Minnesota Press, 1984), pp150-163.

GADET, Franc,oise. Saussure and Contemporary Culture. London: Hutchinson
Radius, 1989.

GORDON, W. Terrence. "Making Saussure Accessible." In Donna L. Lillian, ed.,
Papers from the Nineteenth Annual Meeting of the Atlantic Provinces Linguistic
Association 19 (1996).

GORDON, W. Terrence. Saussure for Beginners. New York & London: Writers and
Readers Publishing, 1996.

STROZIER, Robert. Saussure, Derrida and the Metaphysics of Subjectivity.
Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1988.

TALLIS, Raymond. Not Saussure. London: Macmillan, 1988.
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