langue and parole


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langue and parole

(LINGUISTICS) the distinction between LANGUAGE as a communal resource, a socially established system of linguistic units and rules (langue), and as actually produced speech (parole). Introduced by SAUSSURE, the distinction is an important one not only in theoretical linguistics, but also for its influence in the formation of the more diffuse body of ideas in social science known as STRUCTURALISM.

In his own work Saussure regarded the understanding of langue as the paramount concern of theoretical linguistics. The significance of this is that it places an emphasis on the internal 'S tructural’ relations of language, even though language is constantly changed as the result of parole, i.e. by language use. In structuralism more generally, it is the same emphasis on structural explanations, sometimes to the exclusion of the individual subject or AGENCY, which is uppermost and which defines the approach, but which is also much criticized for its onesidedness.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
The author's main analytic tool is Ferdinand de Saussure's theoretical distinction between langue and parole. Langue refers to the basic code of any empirical language, the set of sounds and semantic constructs passively imposed on anyone who is born into or learns it.
Many such analytical models draw on a crucial distinction in semiotic/linguistic theory between langue and parole, between language as a synchronic system, and language as diachronic utterance, devolving in time.
(This important observation recalls a further distinction of langue and parole: the former is sui generis, but parole is inevitably mixed, involving, e.g., gesture and tone.
If we follow the teachings of linguists, among them Saussure in his Cours de linguistique generale or Benveniste, we should make the distinction between langue and parole. In Chomsky's terms, the feature of langue is to provide a `competence' that it is parole's business to realize and act upon, rather like the muscles that give life to the basic skeleton.
Is this functional balance between langue and parole maintained when violence breaks into language?
Worrall's critical approach denies such marginality, using Saussure's distinction between langue and parole to argue that every utterance requires an already existing language to make it possible: 'One utterance or parole, ideologically marked, proves the availability of the system of langue which, in turn, enables it to be infinitely articulated.
Saussure's most famous concepts, langue and parole, language as a system of signs, and synchrony and diachrony, were already removed from their original formulation by the time they appeared in print, since Saussure never prepared them for publication himself.