Langue as a Social Fact

Langue as a Social Fact

Saussure tended increasingly toward sociological rather than psychological formulations of langue as Sociology offered one of the most progressive approaches to human phenomena and did not pose any threat to the emergence of an autonomous General Linguistics.
In Saussure’s view langue is a “treasury” or “collection of impressions” that is “deposited” in identical form in the brain of each member of a given speech community. He uses the metaphor of a dictionary, of which every individual possesses an identical copy. What the individual does with this socially-shared system falls entirely into the realm of parole.

In terms of Saussurean traditions, sociolinguistics pursued his view of the social nature of langue. By the mid-1930s it was commonplace to equate “synchronic linguistics” with “social linguistics”. By the early 1950s inquiry combining empirical sociological and linguistic techniques was underway, to be refined significantly by William Labov and others in the 1960s.

In terms of Saussurean traditions, Sociolinguistics pursues the view of the social nature of langue, which Chomskian Generative Linguistics (to which Sociolinguistics has stood in irreconcilable contrast for a generation) pursues the Saussurean view of the mental and abstract nature of langue.