Not so sure...

Salikoko Mufwene mufw at MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU
Wed Mar 7 05:31:59 UTC 2001

At 11:28 PM 3/6/2001 -0500, Daniel Ezra Johnson wrote:

>>Another curious lapse is Saussure's dictum that a language is >"un système
>>où tout se tient."  Again, this is virtually always cited in French (and
>>frequently so), but it appears in the Crystals' compilation in the almost
>>unrecognizable and far less memorable English rendering: "language is a
>>system of
>>interdependent terms" (16:60).
>I always thought this was Saussure as well, but I recently read the
>"A basic tenet of modern linguistics is the theory that phonemes exist by
>virtue of their being phonologically opposed to one another, and that they
>form, in Maurice Grammont's now famous words, 'un système où tout se tient,
>où tout est dans une étroite dépendance.'"
>The footnote gives Grammont, Traité de phonétique (Paris, 1933), p. 167.
>This is from the article "Dialect Geography and the Concept of Phonological
>Space" by William G. Moulton, Word 18 (1962).
>The quote is attributed to Saussure all the time. Would it be possible to
>trace the origin of the misattribution, if it is one?
>Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

I thought it was from Meillet, in the following reference (unless I mistook 
it for another famous quote--Saussure voiced it with the metaphor of 
mosaic, in relation to the internal structure of the lexicon):

Meillet, Antoine. 1906. L’état actuel des études de linguistique générale. 
Revue des Idées 3.296-308


Salikoko S. Mufwene                   s-mufwene at
University of Chicago        773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
Department of Linguistics
1010 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Ads-l mailing list