Monash University
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“Certain Vowel Sounds”: Beckett’s Not I and Lacanian Phonemics

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-05-22, 09:56 authored by Mark Webster Hall
Structuralist interpretations of language characteristically focus on the systems in which speech sounds emerge rather than on the existence of such sounds as acoustic particles. Neither are such interpretations typically interested in the vocal machineries which body the individual speech particles forth. The real breakthrough of Ferdinand de Saussure in this regard was, as Danny Nobus makes clear, the linguist‘s zeroing in ―more on the meaningful function of sounds than on their anatomo-physiological basis.‖ 1 Where the domain of parole is a raw hubbub of noises and spittle, we may say that that of langue is relatively frictionless and quiet. Structuralist linguistics distances itself from involvement with a history of particular acoustic collisions which would otherwise abort the attention given to language per se. ―The linguistic sign, as Richard Boothby notes, ―must evacuate its own status as an image in order to fulfil its signifying function. The perceptual body of the sign is merely a point of entrance, a kind of jumping-off point for structured reverberation across the network of relations that constitutes the sign system. Saussure‘s groundwork on the linguistic sign can thus be understood, in part, in terms of its displacement and marginalisation within the field of inquiry of the individual speech sound.


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