Saussure on the odd and unconscious nature of language

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Felice Cimatti


As Starobinski explicitly showed, Ferdinand de Saussure discovered that language has its own semantic power which largely exceeds those of speakers; that is, Saussure discovered that language exists as an (almost) autonomous entity. According to this discovery language is not mainly a means of communication at the service of human beings, it is quite the contrary: human communication is a sort of collateral effect of language, because language does not exist only with the aim of allowing humans to communicate. Saussure discovered the existence of a somewhat mysterious semiotic life under the surface of natural languages, a “life” that is completely independent in respect to conscious human communicative needs. The psychoanalytical consequences of such a discovery will be explored through the Lacanian notion of lalangue.


Starobinski, Sanagrams, Chomsky, Lacan, lalangue

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Cimatti, F. 2022. Saussure on the odd and unconscious nature of language. Cahiers Ferdinand de Saussure. 74, (déc. 2022), 35-54. DOI:
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