The Glossematic School of
Linguistics (Fudge, 1995)
History of Glossematic Movement
 Louis Hjelmslev, Denmark, 1920s- 1950s
 Developed from Saussure: “importance of the units of a
language is that they are distinct from one another,
rather than that they exhibit particular concrete
properties” (262)  went further to develop universal
 Criticized Prague phonology: too“phonetic”, focus on
 Collaborated with Hans Jorgen Uldall on “An Outline of
Glossematics”, ultimately parted ways
Four Characteristics of Logical Positivism
 1.) Metaphysical sentences= meaningless
-against idea that language can’t be treated same as
other sciences because of “human factor”
 2.) Deductive reasoning
-account for as much as you can using deduction
from as few initial assumptions as possible
 3.) Structural statements >statements of content
-compare two colors
 4.) Scientific language = unambiguously defined
-develop algebra
Form and Substance (Logical Priority of Form)
 According to Saussure, sounds and ideas are “formless masses” only
conceptualized by having form superimposed on them
 According to Glossematicians, the form of a particular language acts
on purport to produce substance; therefore, there can be no
substance unless form has done its work
 Purport: whole range of possibilities (e.g. sounds, colors)
 Substance: range actually used (language specific)
a.) content-substance (meanings/morphosyntactic properties)
b.) content-form (syntactic, lexical structure)
c.) expression-form (phonology, writing)
d.) expression-substance (phonetics)
Analytical Procedures of Glossematics
1.) Discover expression units and content units by
looking at the relationships between them and the
properties of substance (I)
2.) Describe expression/content units in relation to
each other without reference to substance (I)
3.) Hypothesize a system based on these units and
relationships (I)
4.) Repeat for as many languages as possible (I)
(I = inductive)
Analytical Procedures of Glossematics
5.)Estimate from the total relations actually found in the
language to the total number of theoretical relations (D)
6.) Use theoretically possible relations to contribute to
“system of language” (universal) (D)
7.) Characterize each language based on the relations it has
“selected” (this helps revise 3)
*These steps would have been rejected by American
Structuralists (inductive only)
Basic Relations in Glossematics
Paradigmatic = both/and
Syntagmatic = either/or
Togeby (1965): The Procedure Exemplified
French: Description of Expression
 Syntagmatic subsection “phonotactics” (substance?)
-e.g. word accent (tonal elements, does not apply) or syllables
 Paradigmatic subsection “phonology” (form?)
-e.g. phonemes, accents, consonants and vowels
French: Description of content
 Syntagmatic subsection “syntax” (form?)
-17 operations from sentence to morphemes
-e.g. stem: root and derivational marker, clause nucleus:
subject and predicate
 Paradigmatic subsection “morphology” (substance?)
- derivational markers: prefixes, suffixes, non-finite verb
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