China! Inside the People's Republic by Committee of concerned Asian Scholars

By Committee of concerned Asian Scholars

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The signs of a language thus become subject to the so-called 'play of differences', a concept popular among post-Structuralists. Because they are mere forms, signs have neither complete stability nor complete identity. Change in one sign will entail changes in those other signs with which it enters into relations in the system, and this is true whether the changes are to the sound of the sign or to its meaning. '~It is a fact, also, that although the entry into a language of new forms belongs to the diachronic or historical study of that language, when this happens the new forms do not replace old ones straight away; there is sure to be a period when new and old forms coexist and compete until one or other gives way, or until both are preserved and accorded different 'values' in order that they may be differently used.

How is it that the system comes to be sufficiently represented in our brains so that we can, without being at all aware of it, exploit it in our daily use of language? This is not a problem Saussure himself faces up to but it is one which has been placed at the heart of contemporary linguistics by Chomsky. Chomsky would certainly not wish to be thought of as a Structuralist because his career as a linguist has been spent in vigorous and fruitful reaction against the Structuralism of Bloomfield and others in America.

The narrower version of Structuralism is that identified here and throughout this book by a capital letter, in order to distinguish it from structuralism with a lower-cases. But the credentials of capital-S Structuralism are clearly enhanced by the existence of small-s structuralism, as a solidly established methodological background against which it deserves to be seen. ' It still, in 1993, has few predecessors, and the author of a volume such as this knows only too well why. The difficulties facing whoever sets out to write one are severe.

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