SAUSSURE, Ferdinand de. Geneva 26.9.1857 — Vufflens-le-Château, Vaud 22.2.1913. Swiss Linguist. Professor in Geneva. Son of Henri Louis Frédéric de S., a zoologist, and Louise de Pourtalès, the family was originally of Lorrainean nobility settled in Switzerland in the 16th century. Brother Sinologist Léopold de S. (1866-1925). After school in Geneva he studied in 1875-76 at Geneva,1876-78 at Leipzig (under Curtius and Brugmann) and 1879 at Berlin (Oldenberg and Zimmer). Ph.D. 1880 Leipzig (under Windisch). In 1881-91 maître de conférences at É.P.H.É. in Paris, beside Sanskrit also taught Gothic and Old High German, eventually also comparative grammar and Lithuanian. In 1891-96 eo. Professor of comparative IE linguistics at Geneva, in 1896-1913 ord. of Sanskrit and IE there, in 1907-13 also Professor of General Linguistics. Married Marie Faesch, three sons.
F. de Saussure was a famous pioneer of modern linguistics, whose full importance was only understood after his death. In IE linguistics he was the first to propose the idea of laryngal vowels, which he called “sonant coefficients” (1879, even before his dr. dissertation). After studies at Leipzig he was the first to present Neogrammarian ideas in Paris. His most important students there were Duvau, Grammont and Meillet. After the early period published very little, mostly when feeling duty e.g. in festschrifts. The famous Cours was published by his studentsSechehaye and —> Bally from their lecture notes. These lectures he held three times, first in 1907.
Publications: “Essai d’une distinction des différents a indo-européens”, MSL 3:5, 1878, 359-370; “Un point de la phonétique des consonnes en indo-européen”, MSL 6, 1887, 246-257.
– Mémoire sur le système primitif des voyelles dans les langues indoeuropéennes. 303 p. Lp. 1879; a few articles.
– Diss. De l’emploi du génitif absolu en sanscrit. 95 p. Geneva 1881.
– Cours de linguistique général. Lausanne – Paris 1916 and several editions (partly with additional material, e.g. 12+515 p. Wb. 1967), English transl. 1959.
– Recueil des publications scientifiques de F. de S. Geneva 1922.
– S. Bouquet & R. Engler (eds.): Écrits de linguistique générale. 353 p. P. 2002, transl. by C. Sanders & M. Pires, Writings in General Linguistics. N.Y. 2006.
Sources: R. Gauthiot in *F. de S. 1857–1913. Geneva 1915/62, 87-95 (republ. in Sebeok 1966:2, 87-91) and A. Meillet, *Ibid. 69-85 (republ. in Sebeok 1966:2, 92-100); *J.E. Joseph, Saussure. O.U.P. 2012; *K. Koerner, Bibliographia Saussureana 1870-1970. Metuchen NJ 1972; *B. Mounin, F. de S. P. 1968 (with bibliography); *R. Engler, Lex. Gramm. 1996, 826f. (with further references); *M. Mayrhofer: Nach hundert Jahren — Ferdinand de Saussures Frühwerk und seine Rezeption durch das heutige Indogermanistik. 1983; *T. M. Scheerer, F. de S. Rezeption und Kritik. Darmstadt 1980; *W. Streitberg, Idg. Jb. 2, 1914, 203-213 (with photo, republ. in Sebeok 1966:2, 100-110); Hist.-Biogr. Lex. d. Schweiz 6 (with photo); Wikipedia with photo and further references; photo from Idg. Jb. 2, 1915 also in Pedersen 1959, 289.