'Anagrammar. In defense of Ferdinand de Saussure's Philology'
Beiträge zur Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft 5 (1995): 231-252
In his research on anagrams, Ferdinand de Saussure scrutinized general problems of linguistic analysis and interpretation in a way that seems far away from the self-evidences of post-Saussurean linguistics. To date, his theory of language is known almost exclusively from the Course in general linguistics, which was composed posthumously on the basis of notes taken by students that attended his lectures on general linguistics. The view of language expressed in this publication, however, rather diverges from the lecture notes. It produces an improbable break with Saussure's lifelong involvement in comparative historical grammar, and brings about even more remarkable contrasts with philological investigations to which Saussure payed special attention just before and in the time of the lectures: on German heroic legends, Vedic metrics, saturnian verses, and anagrams. A confrontation of the mythical Saussure with his historical counterpart may give an impression of the denial (both the break with the past and the blind spot) on which linguistics as a modern science is based.