Linguistics and Grammatology - Derrida

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Linguistics and Grammatology Author(s): Jacques Derrida and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Source: SubStance, Vol. 4, No. 10 (Autumn, 1974), pp. 127-181 Published by: University of Wisconsin Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 23/02/2011 11:55Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

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Jacques Derrida

is nothing but the repreWriting sentation it is bizarre of speech; that one gives more care to the of the image than to determining the object. J. J. Rousseau, d'un essai sur inedit Fragment les langues

The concept of writing should of a science. define the field But can it be determined outside of all the historicoby scholars that we have just so situated metaphysical predeterminations What can a science of writing if to signify, clinically? begin it is granted: the very idea of science was born in a certain 1) that epoch of writing; it was thought and formulated, as task, 2) that idea, proin a language a certain kind of structurally and ject, implying and writing; determined between axiologically speech relationship to that extent, to the conit was first related 3) that, of phonetic valorized as the cept and the adventure writing, telos of all writing, even though what was always the exemplary model of scientificity--mathematics--constantly moved away from that goal; of a general the strictest notion science 4) that of writing was born, a certain for non-fortuitous of reasons, during period the world's around the eighteenth and history (beginning century) within a certain determined of relationships between system and inscription; "living" speech *(c) for the English Gayatri Chakravorty version. This Spivak constitutes the second essay of Jacques chapter Derrida's De Za (c) Les Editions de Minuit, Grammatologie. 1967. Professor translation Spivak's of the entire English book is forthcoming. Printed with permission. 127 SUB-STANCE No. 10, 1974

1 "8


of science--and ticular pointed the possibility

5) that


jectivity.the episteme.


its first, possibly object--but out in The Origin of Geometry, of ideal and therefore objects

is not only

an auxiliary

means in the serviceas IIusserl the condition of scientific in parof ob-






the condition


of 6) that historicity is tied to the possibility itself of writing to the possibility in general, writing; beyond those in the name of which we have long forms of writing particular Before and without history. spoken of peoples without writing an historical science--writing being the object of a history--of And the forof history--of historical becoming. opens the fieldmer

look for its object of writing should therefore The science should of writing The history at the roots of scientificity. of the A science turn back toward the origin of historicity. which would A science of the science of science? possibilityno








of philosophy? or a history of history, the possibility are of writing sciences and the classical The positive this sort of question. to repress point, Up to a certain obliged of positive to the progress is even necessary such repression be held Beside the fact that it would still investigation. the ontophenomenological within a philosophizing question logic, of essence, that is to say of the origin of writing, could, by or historical or sterilize the typological itself, only paralyze research of facts. not to weigh that prejudicial moreover,.is My intention, of and somewhat facile question that dry, necessary, question, researches of the positive the power and efficacy against right, and system of The genesis which we are allowed to witness today. had never led to such profound, extended, and assured exscripts a matter of weighing the question It is not really plorations. are since the questions the importance of the discovery, against If the issue is not quite imponderable, they cannot be weighed. has real consequences that, it is perhaps because its repression case in the present in the very content of the researches that, and in a privileged way, are always arranged around the problems and commencement. of definition himleast of all can avoid questioning The grammatologist of of his object in the form of a question self about the essence means "where and when does writing "What is writing?" origin; come very quickly. The responses They circle generally begin?" and move within evidence which within little-criticized concepts that a It is around these resnonses always seems self-evident. are always on the growth of writing typology of and a perspective of writing are comAll works dealing with the history organized. classiand teleological posed in the same form: a philosophical the critical exhausts fication problems in a few pages; one passes We have a contrast between the of facts. next to an exposition and the historical, of the reconstructions theoretical fragility wealth of information. philological ethnological, archaeological,



a logical


a grammatical


A history



and Grammatology


The question of the origin of writing of and the question the origin of language are difficult to separate. Grammatolowho are generally gists, historians, by training epigraphists, and archaeologists, seldom relate to the their researches modern science of language. It is all the more surprising that, of man," linguistics whose is the one science among the "sciences is given as an example with a zealous and insistent scientificity unanimity. Has grammatology, then, the right to expect from linguistics an essential that it has almost never looked for? assistance On at work, in the the contrary, does one not find efficaciously sets itself up as a science, very movement by which linguistics a metaphysical about the relationship between presupposition Would that presupposition not hinder the speech and writing? constitution of a general science of writing? Is not the liftof the landscape an overthrowing ing of that presupposition installed? of language is peacefully For upon which the science better and for worse? For blindness as well as for productivity? This is the second type of question that I now wish to outline. To develop this question, I should like to approach, as a priviand texts of Ferdinand de Saussure. leged example, the project That the particularity of the example does not interfere with the generality of my argument is a point which I shall occasionally try not merely to take for granted. thus wishes to be the science of language. Let Linguistics us set aside all the implicit decisions that have established such a project and all the questions about its own origin that the fecundity of this science Let us allows to remain dormant. first that the scientificity of that science is simply consider often acknowledged because of its phonoZogical foundations. it is often said today, communicates its scientificity Phonology, to linguistics, which in turn serves as the epistemological model for all the sciences of man. Since the deliberate and of linguistics orientation systematic phonological (Troubetskoy, out an intention carries which was originally Jakobson, Martinet) I shall, at least provisionally, confine myself to Saussure's, the latter. Will my argument be equally a fortiori to applicable the most accentuated forms of phonologism? The problem will at least be stated. of linguistics field The science determines language--its of objectivity--in simthe last instance and in the irreducible of its essence, as the unity of the phonZ, the gZossa, plicity and the logos. to all is by rights anterior This determination the possible that arose within the systems of differentiations of the different schools [Zangue/ terminology (language/speech paroZe]; code/message; scheme/usage; linguistic/logic; phonology/ And even if one wished to phonematics/phonetics/glossematics). on the side of the sensible and contingent signikeep sonority fier since formal (which would be strictly speaking impossible, identities isolated within a sensible mass are already idealities that are not purely sensible), it would have to be admitted that and the immediate and privileged unit which founds significance



the act of language is the articulated of sound and sense unity the phonie. With regard to this within would unity, writing be