Langue and Parole
The concept of Langue and Parole in Linguistics was introduced by the Swiss Structural Linguist Ferdinand de Saussure in his seminal book Cours de Linguistique Générale (Course in General Linguistics), which was published posthumously in 1916 by Saussure’s students in the form of class notes.
Langue and Parole are actually French words. In English, Langue means language or tongue and Parole means speech or speaking. La Langue (La is the definite article in French, just like “the” in English) is the complete, though abstract, system of signs of a language and its principles. Parole, on the other hand, is the manifestation of this “abstract system of principles” into speech. Parole (or utterance) is, thus, not possible without Langue (or language system).
Langue comprises the rules of grammar of a language, the syntax, the phonetics, spellings, etc. Parole is making use of these rules to produce utterances. Langue is the system and parole is the use of the system. An individual can use the language system to produce speech and also to produce writing. Hence, writing is also an act of parole.
The complete language cannot exist without langue and parole. Language is thus equal to langue + parole.
Langue is abstract, it is difficult to observe and almost impossible to capture. Parole is, however, concrete. It can be seen and even recorded as speech by individuals. Langue is the collective act of the whole race. It is internal and innate. It cannot be changed. Parole is an individual act or expression. It changes from one individual to another and is subjected to individual preferences. Langue exists before Parole.
To explain langue and parole, Saussure used the example of chess. The rules of the game of chess are analogous to Langue. They are there for everyone. They pre-exist and do not change. The act of playing chess by an individual, using the rules of the game of chess, is analogous to parole. Every individual makes use of the system of rules in his own way. Playing chess cannot be done without the system of rules of the game.
© 2014 Payal Khullar. All Rights Reserved.