Raymond de Saussure’s Freudian appropriation of Antoine Meillet’s historical and general linguistics

Cover of Imago 1922

John Joseph
University of Edinburgh

One hundred years ago, Raymond de Saussure (1894-1971), the second son of Ferdinand and Marie de Saussure, published a review of a collection of papers by his father’s most famous and devoted student, Antoine Meillet (1866-1936). Saussure (henceforth the surname used alone will designate Raymond) was not a linguist, but a psychologist who had become attached to Freudian psychoanalysis. He was personally psychoanalysed by Freud, who contributed a preface to Saussure’s first book in 1922, the same year as the review of Meillet. Saussure was a founding member of the SociĂ©tĂ© Psychanalytique de Paris in 1926, and his important role in establishing psychoanalysis in France and Geneva is chronicled in Roudinesco (1982).

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Recent publications in the history and philosophy of the language sciences-July-August 2022

Didier Samain & Pierre-Yves Testenoire, ed. 2022. La linguistique et ses formes historiques d’organisation et de production. Paris: SHESL. HEL Livres 1. 336 p. ISBN : 979-10-91587-16-7. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.6675029
Publisher’s website

La production et la transmission des savoirs scientifiques s’effectuent par des instances dĂ©diĂ©es (exemplairement l’UniversitĂ©), mais aussi par la mĂ©diation de multiples structures, qui se sont agrĂ©gĂ©es autour d’une thĂ©matique (acadĂ©mies, sociĂ©tĂ©s savantes), d’une affiliation (dans le cas notamment des « Ă©coles »), ou encore d’un projet (comme la grammatisation – l’individuation et la description – d’une langue vernaculaire). Quoique bien identifiĂ©es dans leurs aspects sociaux, ces structures sont moins souvent apprĂ©hendĂ©es dans toute la complexitĂ© de leurs apports spĂ©cifiques. Tel Ă©tait donc l’enjeu du colloque consacrĂ© Ă  « la linguistique et ses formes historiques d’organisation et de production » (Paris, 24-26 janvier 2019), Ă  l’occasion du quarantiĂšme anniversaire de la SociĂ©tĂ© d’histoire et d’épistĂ©mologie des sciences du langage.
La plupart des contributions au prĂ©sent volume portent sur des pĂ©riodes contemporaines de l’organisation moderne du savoir et montrent comment ces structures se sont positionnĂ©es par rapport aux institutions dĂ©jĂ  existantes. Mais le lecteur y puise Ă©galement des perspectives plus larges, grĂące Ă  des analyses consacrĂ©es Ă  d’autres espaces culturels et aussi aux empans temporels abordĂ©s, de la microhistoire aux temporalitĂ©s longues. Sous la diversitĂ© des contextes et des situations, certains mĂ©canismes se rĂ©vĂšlent alors Ă©tonnamment rĂ©currents, qu’ils concernent l’émergence et la disciplinarisation de nouveaux objets d’étude ou les comportements cognitifs des acteurs.

Book in open access

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Posted in Publications

Podcast episode 27: Interview with Peter Trudgill on sociolinguistic typology

John Sell Cotman – Mousehold Heath (1810)

In this interview, we talk to Peter Trudgill about how the structure of speaker communities may influence the structure of languages.

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Podcast episode 26: Interview with Philipp KrĂ€mer on creoles and creole studies

Street sign

In this interview, we talk to Philipp KrÀmer about the history of the study of creole languages and present-day efforts to standardise creoles around the world.

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Recent publications in the history and philosophy of the language sciences-June 2022

Giuseppe Cosenza, Claire A. Forel, Genoveva Puskas & Thomas Robert, ed. 2022. Saussure and Chomsky. Converging and Diverging. Lausanne: Peter Lang. 172 p. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3726/b19300
Publisher’s website

Saussure and Chomsky, the two major figures in linguistics of the twentieth century and beyond, have often been compared. The collection of bilingual English and French papers of this volume offers different perspectives, defended by two generations of researchers, on what brings together and distinguishes the Saussurean and Chomskyan theories. The papers all highlight that the two theories offer points of convergence, as they are interested in the same human manifestation, while divergence emerges from the fact that they build on two different premises about the nature of their object of study. The authors do not always reach similar conclusions but offer thoughts and material that will definitely help readers form their own opinion.

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Podcast episode 25: Interview with Felicity Meakins on contact linguistics

Gurindji kids

In this interview, we talk to Felicity Meakins about Pidgins, Creoles, and mixed languages. We discuss what they are, and how they are viewed in both linguistic scholarship and in speaker communities.

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Recent publications in the history and philosophy of the language sciences – May 2022

Roger Schöntag. 2022. Das VerstĂ€ndnis von VulgĂ€rlatein in der FrĂŒhen Neuzeit vor dem Hintergrund der questione della lingua. TĂŒbingen: Gunter Narr Verlag. 761 p. ISBN: 978-3-8233-8540-0
Publisher’s webiste

Die sprachliche Verwandtschaft zwischen Latein und Italienisch waren im Mittelalter nur vage bekannt. Dies Ă€ndert sich mit einer Diskussion im Jahre 1435, an der maßgebliche Humanisten wie Leonardo Bruni und Flavio Biondo beteiligt sind, die sich im Geiste der RĂŒckbesinnung auf die Antike fragen, welche Sprache, d.h. welche Art von Latein, die Römer einst gesprochen haben mögen. Hieraus entspinnt sich nun eine Debatte (bis 1601) zwischen Lateinhumanisten und VulgĂ€rhumanisten, an deren Ende sich die Erkenntnis durchsetzt, dass sich das Italienische (und andere romanische Sprachen) aus dem gesprochenen Latein der Antike, dem VulgĂ€rlatein, herleitet. Die sprachwissenschaftliche Aufarbeitung dieser Debatte im Rahmen der italienischen Sprachenfrage (questione della lingua) ist Ziel und Gegenstand vorliegender Abhandlung.

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Posted in Publications

Cfp: SHESL Conference 2023

Call for papers
SHESL Conference 2023
New historical and diachronic perspectives on grammaticalization

Paris, 12–13 January 2023

The SociĂ©tĂ© d’histoire et d’épistĂ©mologie des sciences du langage (SHESL) invites abstracts for the 2023 annual conference on the topic “New historical and diachronic perspectives on grammaticalization”.

This conference is intended as an opportunity to present and discuss contributions for a projected edited volume on the historical background and epistemological foundations of grammaticalization research. For this reason, the conference will consist of a small number of one-hour sessions, each with a 45-minute presentation and 15-minute question time.

Please send abstracts for contributions by 15 August 2022 to grammaticalisation@ens.psl.eu
Abstracts should be around 250 words long and include a bibliography.

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Posted in Conferences and workshops

Recent publications in the history and philosophy of the language sciences – April 2022

Camille Joseph & Isabelle Kalinowski. 2022. La Parole inouĂŻe. Franz Boas et les textes indiens. Toulouse: Anacharsis. 198 p. ISBN: 9791027904365
Publisher’s website

Franz Boas (1858-1942) est considĂ©rĂ© comme le pĂšre fondateur de l’anthropologie amĂ©ricaine. Par-delĂ  de vastes collectes d’objets, il s’est livrĂ© pendant des dizaines d’annĂ©es Ă  une pratique frĂ©nĂ©tique d’édition de textes indiens. Pour bien des raisons, notamment parce qu’il s’abstenait systĂ©matiquement de commenter les textes publiĂ©s, les laissant Ă  nu sur des milliers de pages, cette entreprise est dĂ©routante.

Cet ouvrage se propose d’élucider ses mĂ©thodes de travail en se focalisant sur l’attention portĂ©e Ă  la transcription puis Ă  la traduction du matĂ©riau collectĂ© : comment entendre, comprendre, transcrire et traduire des langues et rĂ©cits de tradition orale ? Comment, au fond, s’est construit un vaste matĂ©riau ethnographique textuel et matĂ©riel – dont Claude LĂ©vi-Strauss entre autres a su maintes fois tirer parti ?
Ce sont ici, autour de questions fondatrices, les contours d’une autre anthropologie possible qui sont esquissĂ©s.

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Podcast episode 24: Interview with Lorenzo Cigana on the Copenhagen Circle

Louis Hjelmslev

In this interview, we talk to Lorenzo Cigana about Louis Hjelmslev and the Copenhagen Linguistic Circle.

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Posted in Podcast

Upcoming events

12–13 January 2023
Paris, France
SHESL Conference 2023
New historical and diachronic perspectives on grammaticalization

4-6 September 2023
Universidade de TrĂĄs-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal
2023 Annual Colloquium of the Henry Sweet Society
What counts as scientific in the History of Linguistics?

6-9 September 2023
Universidade de TrĂĄs-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal
XXXII. International Colloquium of the “Studienkreis ‘Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft'” (SGdS)
Controversies in the history of linguistics