In linguistic, structuralism is a part of a literary theory

What is structure?

Structure refers to the term in which small units like words, sets of grammars rules, punctuation, idioms etc. are combine to form a word of a language. The way a wall built by combining bricks, that is called structure.

What is structuralism?

Structuralism is a method used by linguists, sociolinguists, sociologist and anthropologists to show how all aspects of culture of a language are based upon some underlying structure.

Structuralism termed coined by Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, who is also known as father of structuralism. He wrote a book name “A course in General Linguistic” in 1915, in which he said a language is formed by combining small units of set of grammars, punctuation etc. This term is majorly grew during the period of 1950s and 60s.

Before structuralism, John Crowe Ranson who termed the coin ‘New Criticism’ in which he said while writing a work it is not necessary to know about the author’s intention or background, but we must know the text, language and style of the work.

New Criticism majorly focused on language of a literary text, while structuralism focus on human culture or language like; how they feel? how they communicate? What and how they use a language? and how they produce a sound?

Therefore, structuralism is a pattern or a system of a language which is used by linguists to study the human perception or human culture in a text or by text.

Further, Saussure elaborate in his book that how a meaning of a word changes according to the period of time. For ex; “fair” word in earlier age used to form the meaning as “beautiful”, many poets used this word in their work to describe a beauty.

But now the meaning of word “fair” has changed to describe the color of skin i.e. ‘gora’ in Indian language.

Saussure also defines that a meaning of a word depends on meaning of another word, for ex; the word ‘cat’ is used to name an animal which can not be a ‘bat’ or ‘hat’, the “cat” will be “cat”. Saussure says that meaning of any word is not created naturally but it is created when we use or name the word in a conversation repeatedly.

So, how the ‘cat’ word is used is a signifier and meaning or image of the word created in mind is signified.

Therefore, given words to any object help us to understand what the object is? Or in which category they belong? It is work like a sign language.

Saussure says that the relationship between the word and its meaning is called arbitrary. Arbitrary refers to the different names of a word or its meaning in different places, for instance; “cat” is called in English country but in India it is called “billi”, same it could be identified with different name in different parts of world.     

Thus, Saussure divided language in two components i.e. ‘Langue’ and ‘Parole

Langue (set of rules or system of rules) This term is followed by its users, it is used like tools in a language. 

Parole (speech of an individual’s language) this term tells us that how ‘langue’ used in a language.

After Saussure, in the late 1950s the idea of structuralism has been adapted and used by an anthropologist Claude Levi- Straws in his work.

The same idea has been adapted by literary critics of Russia and Europe during 1950s.

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