Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mourning Ferdinand de Saussure

He could also grow an amazing moustache.
100 years ago yesterday, a relatively unknown man died. The man was not unknown, however, in the field of linguistics. Ferdinand de Saussure was considered one of, if not the greatest linguists of the 20th century and his work changed the way languages are thought of.

Ferdinand de Saussure was born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1857. He was a talented man who studied Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and various other courses which would lead him into graduate work at the University of Leipzig.

He wrote his doctoral thesis on Sanskrit in Berlin, and after receiving his doctorate in Leipzig he moved to Paris where he taught for eleven years. A professorship in Geneva saw him return to his hometown. In 1907, Saussure began teaching his Course on General Linguistics.

His work on general linguistics was second to none at the time and although the field of linguistics has progressed enough to make his work rather outdated, the field would be nowhere near where it is today without him.