By Bertha Siertsema
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Additional info for A Study of Glossematics: Critical Survey of its Fundamental Concepts
Yet this is what has to be done. To create a true linguistics. language should be studied "not as a conglomerate of non-linguistic phenomena, but as a self-sufficient totality, a structure sui generis" (OSG p. 7). This would not only be the sole true method for a synchronic linguistics, it would also be the only way to establish a real and rational diachronic linguistics: the theory of such a linguistics could provide a uniform basis of comparison between languages, by formip,g concepts which would no longer be applicable only to certain regions of language, to certain particular languages or groups of languages, but to all.
This is all. Hjelmslev does not explain how it is possible for us to work with the sign function. g. " The answer must be: because the word'gestalt' in which we know those sounds forms, with the meaning, a unit we know. In the 'gestalt' c-a-t we recognize the form c-a-t because we use the word cat to talk about a cat 1). Although this element of knowing the language analyzed is nowhere mentioned explicitly by Hjelmslev, yet it is inherent in his commutation theory and is, as we shall see, the basis of all his exclusively formal premisses.
In relation to thought language is primary: it is language that articulates thought, divides it into parts, outlines and defines its concepts 2). The best view of this difficult problem is no doubt the way Sapir describes it already in 1921, when he speaks of t-he "interaction of language and thought": ... "the instrument makes possible the product, the product refines the instrument. The birth of a new concept is invariably foreshadowed by a more or less strained or extended use of old linguistic material; the concept does not attain to individual and independent life until it has found a distinctive linguistic embodiment ....
A Study of Glossematics: Critical Survey of its Fundamental Concepts by Bertha Siertsema