These scholarly meetings are motivated by a vision of global academic citizenship. The intellectual perspective opened by the Course in General Linguistics spread across all of Europe and beyond, and this universality has given rise to a co-operative, non-exclusive cultural identity within an open society of knowledge and research. It is this ideal of collective scholarly work, in which differences become positive factors, that we hope will inspire these colloquia, devoted as they are to a book that opened a new way to understand the nature and functioning of institutions, based on an approach grounded in notions of identity and difference.
Published in 1916, the Course in General Linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure was the foundational work of general linguistics and made an essential contribution to renewing the humanities and social sciences through the whole of the 20th century. Widely translated, it inspired all the linguistic schools of the first half of the century, not only in Geneva and Paris, but also from Prague to New York, passing via Copenhagen. It played a pivotal role in the rise of classic European structuralism, from cultural anthropology to the semiology of literature, and went on to function as a landmark for poststructuralism. Always a source of fertile discussions, it sometimes met with enthusiastic approval as an indispensable theoretical tool; but even when it met with rejection (often on ideological grounds), it has never ceased to be invoked and interpreted. Over time, spanning continents and diverse disciplines, it has offered a conceptual framework and a common terminology for the interaction and advancement of the totality of the human and linguistic sciences in Europe, while also allowing for their fragmentation and differentiation.
Over the last fifty years, many questions have been raised about how the text was established, what its sources were, and how in some cases it appears to deviate from Saussure’s thought as expressed in unpublished manuscripts of his that have become available. In addition, confronting the Course with later developments in the analysis of language, from analytic philosophy to generative grammar, has brought about a new phase of re-examination. The first translations have been subject to revision; the text has been endowed with commentaries and reread in the light of different points of view. The debates remain lively, but fragmented and blocked by interpretations that are sometimes idiosyncratic and questionable.
The centenary of the first edition provides an opportune moment for the scholarly community to take stock of the achievements of the past century and to assess future possibilities, looking beyond differences in approach to find the shared premises and the theoretical impetus that the Course has provided for so long.
The various events presented on this website offer multiple opportunities for participating in this unifying enterprise.
- Honorary President
- Academic Committee
- Organizing Committee for the Colloquium “The Course in General Linguistics, 1916-2016: THE FUTURE”, Paris, 15-17 June 2016
- Organizing Committee for the Colloquium “The Course in General Linguistics, 1916-2016: THE EMERGENCE”, Geneva, 9-14 January 2017