Skip to main content

Langue or Parole? - Part 1

I will now explain the name of my blog. I have had a blog since March of this year (2011) and there truly is a reason (multiple reasons actually) behind the name.

The French words langue and parole have been used as linguistic terms for a bit more than a century. Ferdinand de Saussure, whose book (class notes compiled by his students) Cours de linguistique générale (Course in General Linguistics) introduced structural linguistics and ushered linguistics into the 20th century, used the terms to denote the universal characteristics of language (langue) and the individual expression or use of language (parole). You could think of them as the impersonal and the personal, the macroscopic and microscopic. To quote Saussure himself from Cours de linguistique générale:
L'étude du langage comporte . . . deux parties : l'une, essentielle, a pour objet la langue, qui est sociale dans son essence et indépendante de l'individu ; cette étude est uniquement psychique ; l'autre, secondaire, a pour objet la partie individuelle du langage, c'est-à-dire la parole y compris la phonation : elle est psycho-psychique. (37)
Translation: The study of language has two parts: first, and essential to this study, is langue, that aspect of language which is social in its essence and independent of the individual; this study is only mental; secondarily, there is the individual aspect of language, parole, which includes phonation: this aspect is psycho-mental.

It must be noted Saussurean linguistics no longer exists in its original form. The terms langue and parole are viewed as insufficient and imprecise.

Nonetheless, I choose to use them because they are immediately recognizable terms and remain quite useful as a starting point for linguistic discussion. After all, where would we be linguistically without Saussure? (Or, though I hate to say it, without Chomsky or Derrida?)

Thus, the title of this blog, Langue or Parole?, has several implications:

1. It implies that this is not a monolingual blog: the title includes French and English, the primary languages here.
2. It implies that this is a blog generally focused on language and linguistics: the title is not PC or Apple?.
3. It implies a minor linguistics quiz: you have to decide whether blogging falls in the linguistic category of langue or that of parole (and that same question could be applied to each specific blog post).
4. It implies continuing discussion and refinement of ideas: the question mark indicates that I am not always sure about my linguistic observations and therefore invite contributions and corrections.

Image Credit: (NOTE: I could find no copyright or other information about the cool graphic. If it is copyrighted, however, please let me know and I will immediately remove it.)


Popular posts from this blog


Read this in English.





今週初めて黒澤明の『隠し砦の三悪人』という映画を見ました。この三悪人とは、だれですか? 三船敏郎が演じる真壁六郎太(まかべろくたろう)と二人の百姓です。この3人の登場人物の関係はとても面白くて、全ての人間の弱さも愛される性質も示します。


Movie Review: A Better Life - Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part review of A Better Life. The first part dealt more with the background issue of illegal immigration, whereas this part focuses more on the movie itself.

In the movie, neither the undocumented immigrants (representative of all the undocumented, but particularly those with upright motives) nor the police (representative of the legal system, including courts, prisons, and immigration) is entirely at fault. Both are stuck in an imperfect, human system.

The viewer is led to sympathize with the undocumented man, an honest landscaper who wants nothing but to work hard so that his one son can have a better life. He’s away from home; his wife left him when his son was little; he has next to nothing; when he does acquire something (a lawn business and pickup with equipment) it gets stolen from him. And yet, the movie does not excuse what he does wrong nor does it try to show him as a man victimized and ruined by the consequences of his actions.

Apart fr…