As a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan, Saussure’s “assimilation” grabbed my attention. Trekkies know this term well, thus, I refer to Star Trek for two reasons:
a.) First and foremost, Captain Picard’s superior intelligence is WAY sexier than Captain Kirk’s overactive libido.
2.) And probably far more applicable to Saussure’s theory is this: The Borg Collective, arch enemy of Picard’s individuality, expands and grows through assimilation, much like Saussure’s definition of language.
Saussure says language is developed by society as a whole, employing a collection of conventions adopted by the social body. It is then assimilated through speech into the mind of an individual. Dude, the Borg would totally love this concept. But geographical dialects, institutional influence, Ethnology? These would be surely be assimilated, stomped on and disregarded too. Speech? Sure, the Borg use it, but not because it is “an individual and wilful act.” I guess the Borg aren’t much for literary theory.
So, the question is posed: Can speech exist without language? Saussure thinks no, although the two certainly influence each other. But can language exist without speech? I think yes. – Who cares what Saussure thinks (although he said it first). I am an individual. I WILL NOT BE ASSIMILATED. I have spoken! – Speech, like sign language, is just an expression of ideas through signifiers. This certainly begs the question of whether we have a natural instinct to use vocal chords rather than our hands to communicate, although Saussure says that’s only a secondary consideration. Linguistics doesn’t deal with that. Linguistics deals with tracing ALL manifestations of human speech, and when it can’t be studied aurally, texts are used to uncover the history.
Sadly, as the Borg have departed from this theory, I too must go. But stay tuned! After a word from our sponsor, I’ll be right back to spout more ridiculisciousness. (<- There. I just influenced language, although technically this only happens if you assimilate the word into your own vocabulary and influence the societal whole.)
PS: The last time I visited Border’s, I noticed the staff’s new little ear thingies used to communicate with other employees. I asked the guy behind the counter if this was part of the Borg Collective. Rather irritated, he was sure to tell me, “No. I am perfectly capable of thinking on my own.”
The Borg never did have a sense of humor.
How ridiculiscious. 😉