Frederick J. NEWMEYER

The 'Saussurean Sign' in Twenty-first Century Linguistics

In the first part of this talk, I discuss the fact that most current approaches to syntax, from Construction Grammar to Cognitive Linguistics to some varieties of functional linguistics, consider themselves 'Neo-Saussurean' in the sense that the concept of the 'sign' plays a major role in the particular theory. I argue that for the most part these approaches adopt a very superficial interpretation of the Saussurean sign, while at the same time ignoring other major aspects of Saussure's ideas.
The second part of the talk is devoted entirely to Chomsky's evolving views on Saussure. For decades Chomsky's published opinions on Saussure could be described as 'respectful, but highly critical'. However, in more recent years the evaluations of Saussure by Chomsky (and his cothinkers) have been uniformly positive. I attribute this fact to a convergence between the Minimalist Program and some central ideas found in Saussure's Cours.

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