Saussure and the elusive question of the origin

Demelza Marlin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Before he gave the lectures that were to become the Course in General Linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure undertook research into an ancient practice of inscribing anagrams into Old Latin poems. His primary concern in this research was the elusive question of 'the origin.' Commentators like Sylvère Lotringer and Jean Starobinski contend that, in seeking an authorial origin for the anagrams, Saussure was lured into a logocentric conception of language. However, a close examination of Saussure's theory of synchronic linguistics reveals that it is the language system itself that produces its own origin as a conceptual possibility. With reference the to theory of the 'two Saussure's,' this paper will argue that both the anagrams research, and the elaboration of synchronic linguistics in the Course, invite us to rethink the status of 'the origin' in Saussure's earlier work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-200
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Anagram
  • Lotringer
  • Origins
  • Presence
  • Saussure
  • Semiotics


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