I Saussure also studied Sanskrit, a language

I will be analysing Ferdinand de Saussure’s Theory of Signs in an attempt to better understand the impact left on the school of linguistics, that being that there is a structure behind every language, and how it should be analysed by structural means only, and not associated with other relations such as the social, cultural, political or historical. (Ross, 2014) Ferdinand de Saussure was born to Henri Louis Frédéric de Saussure and his wife, Louise de Pourtalès; in being well-known scientists, Saussure was raised in a non-religious household. This by no means meant that he had a negative view of religion; rather, he was able to put religion under scrutiny without basing knowledge on dogmas or bias. In writing this, I am foreshadowing his theory of signs in action, and thus I will be detailing said theory in a structured manner, providing examples and criticising where necessary. In being a linguistic, Saussure also studied Sanskrit, a language that was discovered to have similarities to Germanic, Greek and Latin. This led to a new goal being set by linguistics, that of finding similarities between different languages, ultimately realising that each language has to follow a set of internal laws.(Mangion, 2011) Saussure’s theory starts with the idea of the sign. The sign consists of the signifier, that is the ‘sound’, if spoken verbally, or string of letters that make up a word if written, used in order to mean the thing we want to denote, whilst the signified is the concept, the idea that comes to mind when the signifier is used. “According the Saussure, the sign is formed from the union of the signifier (the sound-image) and the signified (the concept it represents). The connection between them is arbitrary and conventional, but only through their union are significant sounds and ideas articulated (marked off as meaningful units to be selected and combined).” (Brown University, n.d)The specific entity that exists in the real world is called a referent, and this is somewhat different to what the signifier pertains to. You can say that the signifier is the platonic form of an object, the general concept that, say, forms an ideal image of a cat inside our mind, an image which is unique to everyone’s experiences, and yet is different from that of a dog, albeit they both have a tail and walk on four legs. Now the signifier and the signified cannot exist without one another, the same as a piece of paper cannot technically exist with only one side. In saying this, however, the relationship between the signifier and the signified is quite subjective, with Saussure even going far as to call arbitrary, as there is no apparent reason we call a tree a tree. (Ross, 2014) This is why different languages have different words that mean the same thing, in this case tree being the english word, albero being the italian version. Onomatopoeias are another example of the internal laws of a language coming into practice. In saying onomatopoeia, one is referring to the sound that is being generated by the signifier is what the referent sounds like – buzz, woof, meow for example. In hearing another language’s interpretation of the same ‘sound’, like the Japanese version for meow being nya, one can take a step back and wonder at how cultures and dialects shape the reality that is language. Different languages have different words for separate occasions, however, and as such a literal translation may not always be possible. For example, while we are content with one word for snow, which can be used in a variety of situations, Inuits are known to have five different words used to describe particular types of snow. (B.F.Mangion, personal communication, 2017) This is the same as when verbs are used in a particular context, all the while having more than one meaning when taken out of said context. One has to be careful in order to understand the actual sentence of a foreign language as it was meant to be understood, more so in being a translator oneself, as conveying the wrong message can be quite embarrassing.A language is subjected to change throughout the course of time, and yet Saussure preferred to focus on a synchronic, static approach, that is the entirety of said language with its ruleset and patterns at one point in time. (Brown University, n.d) A diachronic approach would entail noting how the word gay has had its meaning warped and used in an entirely different context throughout the centuries.”late 14c., “full of joy, merry; light-hearted, carefree;” also “wanton, lewd, lascivious” (late 12c. as a surname, Philippus de Gay), from Old French gai “joyful, happy; pleasant, agreeably charming; forward, pert; light-colored” (Douglas, 2018)This can be felt in the space of generations as well, with our grandparents using words that are no longer used, for lack of documentation or just because a simpler way of referring to the subject has been found. Languages can inherit words from other languages and then give them their own cultural twist, such that phonetic pronunciation may sound similar, but are in fact written completely different.