Lausanne & Paris, 1916. Lex 8vo. Uncut in the orig. printed wrappers. Minor wear w. minor loss to capitals and corner of front wrapper, otherwise an exceptionally nice copy. A few pages w. underlining. Text-illustrations. 336, (1, -errata) pp.
The first edition of Saussure's seminal main work, which marks a turning point in the history of linguistics and had a monumental impact on related fields such as philosophy, logic, sociology, literary theory, etc. Because of this work, Saussure is considered the father of 20th century linguistics, and the influence of his ideas on the development of linguistic theory in the first half of the 20th century can hardly be overstated.
After having published his "Mémoire sur le système primitif des voyelles dans les langues indo-européenes" in 1878, Saussure did not publish another full-length work in his life-time, and his "Course in General Linguistics" is a summary of the three lecture-courses he gave on linguistics at the University of Geneva in 1906-07, 1908-09 and 1910-11. The work was published posthumously by two of his former students and based on lecture notes. In this monumental work, based on his lectures, Saussure sets out to examine the relationship between language (langue) and speaking (parole), both as the relation of a social phenomenon to an individual phenomenon, and as the relation of a system to the concrete use of this system. He determines that there is a structured system of common signs between the users of a language, and that language can be analyzed as a formal system of elements. These elements are signs, signs that again can be divided into expression (signifiant) and content (signifié). This theory of language has deeply influenced all later theories of language.
With this work, Ferdinand Saussure (1857-1913) thus came to occupy a seminal place in the history of language theory. In this work he is strongly focused on creating a science of language, free of its former embedment in archaeology, psychology, and also -or perhaps especially- the history of language. And he succeeds. Before his work, linguistics had had been dominated by a historical, though also partly structural, understanding of language, but now, Saussure introduced and determined the purpose and meaning of linguistics, the universal science of language.
With Sausurre, linguistics now became, not only the study of the history of languages and of the influences that determine the development of it, but also, and primarily, the study of language and the study of the manifestations of human speech, of what makes human speech possible.
Thus, there is no doubt as to the monumental impact of this groundbreaking work, and almost all language theoreticians ever since have been deeply influenced by it. In Europe, the Prague School with e.g. Roman Jakobson and the Copenhagen School with e.g. Louis Hjelmslev, and in America, Leonard Bloomfield and his followers (later Noam Chomsky), were all influenced by Saussure's theories and based their formings of structural linguistics on his basic notions.
Saussure's work reached much farther, though, and the principles of structuralism came to deeply influence thinkers such as Jacques Lacan, Claude Lévi-Strauss etc., etc.