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A Critique on Saussure's Theory of Linguistics from a Nietzschean Point of View: Abstract

Saussure's theory of linguistics has an overwhelming influence not only on the understanding of language but also on philosophy and human sciences. However, viewed from a Nietzschean perspective the basic tenets of Saussure's theory seem dubious.His principles of the arbitrariness of the relationship between signifier and signified, his emphasis on the synchronic study of linguistics and paradigmatic structures appear to be inappropriately formulated when viewed from a Nietzschean perspective.

Nietzsche , in his essay 'On Truth and Lie from an Extra Moral Sense', says that instead of signifying the thing itself, the concept part in the sign signifies the human relationship with the the thing. Moreover, the concept , the signified, is formed after overlooking so many differences that exist among the members of the class for which the concept is formed. Thus, the concept , the signified, is an equality of the unequal. No two leaves in the world are exactly similar to each other, yet we designate each of the leaves as leaf. This, Nietzsche describes as the arbitrariness of the relationship between the signified and the thing it designates.

As far as the sound image, the signifier, is concerned, Nietzshe's account reveals that these are previously existed signs used metaphorically to designate a new concept. Thus, the relationship between the sound image, the signifier, and the concept , the signified, is not arbitrary.

Furthermore, Nietzsche, in his book Beyond Good and Evil cites an example for the change in language through associating (in Saussurian sense) the sign 'life' with the chain of signs like life enhancing , life specie protecting, specie preserving, condition for life etc. Moreover truth is associated with the signs like an effaced coin, illusion etc. This association depicts a paradigmatic shift in the extant language which cannot be understood without a historical understanding of language.

These examples show that if studied from a Nietzschean perspective , semiology would be established on the tenets different from that of Saussure's theory. This article criticizes Saussure's principles of linguistic theory mainly from a Nietzschean perspective.

Khalid Jamil Rawat


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