Learning & Teaching Foreign Languages



In Saussurean structural linguistics, a sign results from the association of the linguistic form of a word (signifier) with a concept (signified). The sign is arbitrary, for we see the concept 'dog' associated with the word 'dog' in English, but 'chien' in French and 'Hund' in German. The sign is meaningful (has value) only as an element of a linguistic system and takes its meaning in opposition to other signs; a dog is a mammal which is not a cat, or a wolf.

A linguistic system is a series of differences of sound combined with a series of differences of ideas.

(Saussure, 1916)


  1. Read more: Saussure
  2. Classroom illustration: Contrast

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