In This Chapter

  • The structure of language
  • The arbitrariness of signifiers
  • How structuralism deals with historical change
  • Roman Jakobson’s functional structuralism
  • Culture as structure

One of many influential philosophies that took shape near the beginning of the twentieth century is structuralism. And the first structuralist was a Swiss philosopher and linguist named Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913), who said that we should regard language as a structure, independent of the things that it refers to.

This line of thinking led to some controversial ideas, not the least of which was that the individual is essentially a ...

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