Book Title

Giuseppe D’Ottavi et Pierre-Yves Testenoire (dir.), « Langages » 209 (1/2018), Le cours de linguistique. Formes, genèses et interprétations de notes d’auditeurs

ISBN 9782200931612, URL:

Francesca MURANO

Università degli Studi di Firenze

The volume 209 (1/2018) of the journal Langages (“Le cours de linguistique. Formes, genèses et interprétations de notes d’auditeurs”) is devoted to a particular genre of documentation in the history of linguistic ideas: texts drawn from an oral situation, in particular the notes taken down by students who attend lectures. The scientific context is the France between the end of the 19th century and today: a well-identified tradition of linguistic studies, thus, is isolated. The volume explores the subject according to three principal aims: analysing the formation of linguistic knowledge; studying the genesis of the publication of a course; questioning about the concepts of linguistic school and linguistic tradition. It consists of the editors’ preface and 6 contributions, presenting a number of case-studies related to five great scholars (L. Havet, F. de Saussure, A. Meillet, E. Benveniste and A. Culioli) and different by perspective: Bergounioux gives attention to the didactic aspects of teaching linguistic disciplines; Sofía, Fenoglio, Ducard and Doquet focus on more specific methodological aspects in the publication of notes; in the latter field Testenoire emphasises issues related to authorship.

In the majority of the papers, the historiographical contribution is enriched by a specific attention to the genetic process of composition of the analysed documents: in fact, the comprehension of the long process of elaboration of scientific thought finds support in the notes of the attendants, in particular the ones continuing their academic career. As the editors write, “les notes prises par des linguistes majeurs aux leçons de leurs maîtres constituent un observatoire privilégié des processus de transmission des savoirs linguistiques à l’époque contemporaine”, as well as presenting “un intérêt évident pour l’histoire de la linguistique comme discipline enseignée, chacun des scripteurs devenant par la suite professeur” (pp. 8-9). In fact, the informational flow of students’ notes is paramount in reconstructing the linguistic ideas: notes are often the only organically preserved witness of a magisterium; even when authorial notes emerge as direct evidence of authors’ thought, students’ notes constitute a different, complementary witness: see, one among all, Saussure’s courses.1 Therefore, together with the authors’ notes, student’s ones allow to get to a deeper knowledge of the linguistic thought and to recover authors’ speech. It is no coincidence that in recent years the attention for this peculiar form of documentation, for the linguists’ archives and for the genetic textual perspective has grown considerably.2

As the editors themselves declare, the choice of the authors analysed in the volume is not representative but imposed by the contingency of the available archives and the state of the art, although it isolates the tradition of the Historical, Comparative and French Linguistics in France starting from the 19th century (pp. 11-12).

In their preface, Les notes d’auditeurs: un nouvel objet pour la linguistique et son histoire (pp. 5-18), after an introduction on the nature of scientific discourse and on the role of the linguistic textuality, D’Ottavi and Testenoire highlight the issues of authorship and reconstruction of the scientific discourse related to the process of formation, transmission and appropriation of linguistic concepts by scholars. Therefore, the substantial oral context in which these notes were composed poses many methodological problems in their editing process: in fact, the publication of such materials implies a not easy passage in the transfer from orality to writing. Added to this is the different epistemological nature of the material, ranging from layout information to theoretical contributions.3

Bergounioux’s contribution, Faire cours : l’enseignement de la linguistique au temps de Meillet et Saussure (pp. 19-34), makes a sketch of the development of Linguistics as an academic discipline. After an historical excursus about the institutionalisation of linguistic discipline in France, Bergounioux focuses on the École Pratique des Hautes Études and on the two prominent figures of Saussure and Meillet; in particular he relates to their almost contemporary courses in General Linguistics (respectively 1907 and 1909) and to the handbooks derived from them, which, as known, were very diverse for composition and reception. Bergounioux carefully reconstructs the pedagogical structure in which Saussure and Meillet move their teaching in the educational model born at the EPHE.

Testenoire’s contribution, Comment éditer un cours ? L’exemple de la collaboration de Louis Havet et d’Antoine Meillet (pp. 35-57), focuses on the publications of courses as a genre and the relative issues, approaching the subject also in the perspective of authorship. Testenoire proposes a new editorial categorisation of the textual genre ‘courses’, on the basis of two parameters: the type of sources we deal with and the nature of the editor. Testenoire reflects on the problems of editing this genre of texts, characterised by an oral dimension, and addresses the thorny problem of the determination of the authorship and editing responsibility. He outlines his reflexions presenting a very interesting unpublished case-study: the collaborative editorial work accomplished by Louis Havet and Antoine Meillet to publish Havet’s course in Latin metrics, which a young Meillet attended in 1887. Through a careful analysis of the documentation, Testenoire describes the subject of the course and reconstructs the genetic phases of the editorial project, including the dialectical exchange between the two scholars, flourished like a real scientific collaboration. Testenoire provides some photographs of the manuscripts and publishes some passages, according to the genetic criteria.

Also Sofía’s contribution, Aux prises avec les prises de notes sur les prises de notes sur les prises de notes. Retour à la genèse du Cours de linguistique générale de Saussure (pp. 59-75), addresses the problem of editing oral teaching, investigating the well-known but problematic case of the CLG’s redaction between 1913 and 1915.4 After having briefly retraced the history of the CLG, Sofía explains in detail the diverse and numerous types of CLG’s notes scholars deal with. Examples of editor’s interventions are drawn from the “Collation Sechehaye” and from the “Copie Sechehaye”: Sofía offers reflexions about the genetic process of these notes, valuing with rigorous accuracy their contribution to the final version of the CLG. Excerpts are provided, according to the genetic criteria, along with some photographs. The analysis of Sofia allows the re-establishment of the motivation of the interventions carried out by Bally and Sechehaye, and the reconsideration of their role and significance in a more objective way for the elaboration of the CLG.

The third contribution devoted to the edition of the courses is by Fenoglio, Éditer un cours de linguistique générale à partir d’archives manuscrites. Essai de méthodologie critique (pp. 77-96). The contribution focuses on the methodological aspects, emphasising the different quality of the available sources. Fenoglio – she as well –, keenly discusses the theoretical issues, highlighting the methodological problems that the editions of this kind of material pose. Fenoglio brings as a very interesting example a comparison between Benveniste’s unpublished texts related to his courses in General Linguistics (1963-1964) and the Dernières leçons (1968-1969),5 providing detailed information both on the subject and the editorial work. Photographs and some passages, edited according to genetic criteria, are also provided.

The last two contributions are related between each other by the chosen case-study: the work of Antoine Culioli. Ducard’s contribution, Notes contre notes. Retours et détours d’un lecteur et auditeur d’Antoine Culioli (pp. 97-114), explores the conceptual elaboration aimed at the comprehension of the scientific and theoretical development of a scholar’s thought. After having presented the principles of the “Theory of Predicative and Enunciative Operations”, developed by Culioli in the framework of the Linguistics of Enunciation, Ducard focuses on the notion of ‘intensity’ and other metalinguistic issues, presenting notes related with Culioli’s lectures and work. The comparison between a documentation differing in production and reception, in typology (reading annotations vs. notes took down by the attendants at the seminar) and chronology, allows the tracing of the tortuous path of transmission. Therefore, the re-writing process of the notes, aiming to disseminate the scientific thought and their interpretative reading, becomes a means for a re-appropriation process, necessary for the transmission of the knowledge.

With Doquet’s contribution, Écrire la parole. Modalités de mise à l’écrit d’entretiens avec Antoine Culioli (pp. 115-135), the volume returns to the methodological issues concerning the publication of notes. Referring to the theoretical framework provided by Authier-Revuz’s “Representation of the other’s discourse”, the writing process of an oral text being its special case, Doquet presents “Variation sur la linguistique” (2002) as a case-study. It is a peculiar book containing an interview carried out by Fau to Culioli. Doquet describes the genetic phases of the drafting process, presenting an attentive analysis of documentation and detailed considerations about the writing and edition processes of the discourse markers. The case-study is a very particular type of writing: the text is “negotiated”, drafting after drafting, between interviewer and interviewee; this gives life to a new text, made of corrections, second thoughts, self-censorship.

The volume presents interesting points and the contributions are noteworthy for their scientific originality and methodological coherence. It is placed in a research trend currently very active. Many reflections are very topical in the scientific debate of these years, in particular those related with editing process of texts, either developed on the basis of diverse typologies of notes and in strong orality situations. Reflexions on the methodological problems these texts pose are also at stake. These considerations would benefit from considering the available IT tools. If on one hand the digital editions pose new problems related to the medium, on the other hand they open a completely new plethora of brilliant and helpful solutions.6

The volume shows how, in this research trend, methodological and theoretical considerations must go hand in hand: theory is intended to provide the foundations for methods application; methodological praxis, thus, is necessary for a true understanding of the theory.


1 See D. Gambarara (ed.), “Ferdinand de Saussure. Le troisième cours de linguistique générale”, Cahiers Ferdinand de Saussure 58 (2005), pp. 27-290.

2 See, among the latest studies, I. Fenoglio, J.-C. Coquet (eds.), Emile Benveniste. Dernières Leçons. Collège de France (1968-1969), Paris, EHESS-Gallimard-Le Seuil, 2012; G. D’Ottavi, “Il caso degli altri corsi. I quaderni di sanscrito di Henri Duchosal”, in D. Gambarara and M.P. Marchese (eds.), Guida per un’edizione digitale dei manoscritti di Ferdinand de Saussure, Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso, 2013, pp. 55-80; G. D’Ottavi, “Aux sources d’une école: notes de maître et cahiers d’étudiants”, Histoire Épistémologie Langage 37/2 (2015), pp. 33-51; F. Murano, Il corso di “Étymologie grecque et latine” (1911-1912) di Ferdinand de Saussure negli appunti di Louis Brütsch, Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso, 2013; F. Murano, Saussure, Bally e la linguistica greca. I corsi ginevrini del 1893-1903, Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso, 2017; V. Chepiga and E. Sofia (eds.), Archives et manuscrits de linguistes, Louvain-La-Neuve, Academia, 2014; E. Sofia, La Collation Sechehaye du Cours de linguistique générale de Ferdinand de Saussure, Leuven, Peeters, 2015; M. Zinzi, “Un corso sul verbo indoeuropeo di Saussure a Ginevra nelle note di Charles Bally (BGe Ms. fr. 5128). Alcune osservazioni preliminari”, in M. Ballerini et al. (eds.), “Ce qui nous est donné, ce sont les langues”. Studi linguistici in onore di Maria Pia Marchese, Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso, 2017, pp. 369-382; A. Rousseau (ed.), Ferdinand de Saussure. La grammaire du gotique. Deux cours inédits. Cours de grammaire gotique (1881-1882 et 1890-1891), Paris, Honoré Champion, 2018; M. Zinzi, “Ferdinand de Saussure e gli altri corsi. I quaderni sul verbo indoeuropeo di Charles Bally (BGe Ms. fr. 5128)”, AION. Sezione linguistica 8 (2019), pp. 77-107.

3 Relatively to the CLG see lastly F. Murano, “Problemi metodologici nella filologia saussuriana. L’apporto delle rappresentazioni semantiche dell’informazione”, in M. W. Bruno et al. (eds.), Linguistica e filosofia del linguaggio. Studi in onore di Daniele Gambarara, Milano – Udine, Mimesis Edizioni, 2018, pp. 387-396.

4 See E. Sofia, La Collation Sechehaye.

5 See I. Fenoglio, J.-C. Coquet (eds.), Emile Benveniste. Dernières Leçons.

6 See, e.g., D. Gambarara et M. P. Marchese (eds.), Guida per un’edizione digitale dei manoscritti di Ferdinand de Saussure, Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso, 2013; E. Pierazzo, “Unpacking the draft page: a new framework for digital editions of draft manuscripts”, Variants: the Journal of the European Society for Textual Scholarship 11, 2014, pp. 29-46; G. Cosenza, G. D’Ottavi and L. Nerima, Saussure’s manuscripts, among others. Problems, strategies and publishing solutions for digital archives. Workshop 2017 [].