The Concept of Langue and Parole by Saussure

The concepts of “langue” and “parole” were introduced by Ferdinand de Saussure, a Swiss linguist, in his seminal work “Course in General Linguistics.” These concepts are fundamental to understanding his structuralist approach to language. The distinction between “langue” and “parole” can also be contextualized within the works of later linguists such as Leonard Bloomfield and Noam Chomsky, who approached the study of language from different perspectives.


“Langue” refers to the abstract, systematic set of rules and conventions of a language shared by a community. It is the social side of language, encompassing the norms and structures that make communication possible.

Key Characteristics of Langue

Langue is collective and stable over time. It includes grammar, syntax, and vocabulary that exist in the minds of the speakers of a language community.

  • It is stable and institutionalized.
  • It is passive.
  • It is a social fact and general for the community.
  • It contains the negative limits on what a speaker must say.
  • It is the sum of properties shared by all speakers of a community.
  • A scientific study can only be based on langue.
  • It is an abstraction.
  • It is a collective instrument
  • It is a set of conventions and habits handed down to the next generation readymade.
  • It is language as a speaker is expected to use.
  • It is not subject to social and individual pressure.
  • It is a potential form of a language

 Example: The French language as a system, including its grammar rules, syntax, and vocabulary, constitutes “langue.”


“Parole” refers to the actual use of language in concrete situations by individuals. It is the individual, practical side of language, encompassing speech acts and utterances.

Key Characteristics of Parole

Parole is personal, variable, and dynamic. It includes the specific words and sentences spoken or written by individuals.

  • It is mobile and personal.
  • It is active.
  • It is individual and idiosyncratic.
  • It does not put any negative limits on what a speaker says.
  • It contains an infinite number of individual properties.
  • It is not amenable to scientific study.
  • It is a concrete manifestation.
  • It is not a collective instrument.
  • It is diverse and variegated.
  • It is a language in actual use.
  • It is susceptible to social and other pressure.
  • It is an actualized form of language.

Example: A specific conversation in French between two people is an instance of “parole.”