Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Structuralism names, in the first instance, a movement of thought briefly dominant in Europe, especially France, in the mid-twentieth century. It traced its origins in part to the work of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913), who, in his Course in General Linguistics , put forward a view of language as a synchronic structure—that is, a set of relations between signifying sounds (or marks) on the one hand, and signified concepts on the other, and between the signs thus defined, holding simultaneously for a population of speakers and hearers (or writers and readers) at a given moment in time. Saussure's basic insight, on which his importance to the structuralist movement rested, is that the differential relations that distinguish one sign from another and thus make language possible are constitutive. He already saw that while the concept of difference generally assumes previously existing positive terms, basic linguistic differences do Saussure ...