When I was destabilized

I was an incipient writer, I was doing my Cultural Studies degree. Here we were introduced to key texts and ideas one of which was Ferdinand de Saussure’s theories on structural linguistics. I’ll put this as simply as I can from what I remember of it: as human beings we enter into many sign systems to create meanings, one of these sign systems is language. De Saussure splits language into the signifier (the word) and the signified (the psychological or mental idea we all agree on when we hear the word, as below). Outside the circle of the whole sign there is something called ‘the referent’ – the object itself, in this case a tree.

What does all this mean? In short, it means this: language is a holding system for controlling you: you don’t own it, it owns you – it was here before you arrived and it’ll be here after you’ve gone. This was an idea I found nasty and unsettling because I had never considered it before, and in my previous state of semiotic virginity I believed that it was I who was in charge of the words I used, not vice-versa.

The sign is the whole that results from the association of the signifier with the signified.

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11 Responses to When I was destabilized

  1. Daftburger says:

    Can you post me a nice video to watch while you interlectewals chew the cud? Fanks! :-X

  2. njkk says:

    This was in the eyewaycode , it means Beware Tree Ahead

  3. Stephen Foster says:

    Will do; I’ve just been watching Keith Richards being interviewed by art critic Andrew Graham Dixon on BBC 4 telly. The video will spring from that. Keef is a darling, and it was rather sweet to watch AGD’s defences crumble and for him to become a simpering fan (which of course he already was) of the legendary guitarist and ‘famous drug addict’ [Keith’s own words].

  4. Chiffs says:

    Meaning is use, to paraphrase Wittgenstein. Now gimme Keef.

  5. OS says:

    Hiya Nick. *waves handy across the ethernet*

    I aktewally agree with the thesis. You’re the perfect example of how language controls your being. Seriously! You love language. It has taken you over. It rules your daily life. There’s nothing wrong with that. You have become semi-successful 😉 because of language. You’re well know in our cirtles for the way you speak: like a gayer. Don’t knock it. 🙂

    Eli, too. He’s so clever because he understands language, that he cuts himself every time he opens his mouth. 🙂

    Language makes a person.


  6. Stephen Foster says:

    I always loved that Arthur Scargill line: ‘My father read the dictionary every day, he said language gives you the power to change your life…’

  7. Daftburger says:

    Bet Latin scholars were saying the same and look what happened to Latin!

  8. calvininjax says:

    Arthur should have followed his father’s advice and then he would have understood the meaning of “massive coal stocks”. 😉

    Is Arthur still with us or has he gone to the great coal face in the sky?

  9. OS says:

    I think he’s still very much with us, Calvin. Anyways, he won’t go to the great coal face in the sky: he’ll go to the great union office in the sky. Most of the union officials I knew when I was dine the pit were in an office for two reasons; they had the gift of the gab and they didn’t like hard work all that much. Very much like most pollytishans. 😉


  10. Stephen Foster says:

    Most war leaders overestimate their resources, Calvin.*

    * trans: I once read this book called Stalingrad.

  11. calvininjax says:

    Have we switched to a discussion of the Second World War?

    Sorry, I must have dozed off. 😉

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