Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises



core definition

Parole is a term used in linguistics to refer to language in use, or speech.

explanatory context

Parole is an individual act of selection and actualisation. Parole is realised temporarily; it is self-referential; it applies to an object world; and is aimed at an addressee.

Parole is usually contrasted with langue.

analytical review

associated issues

Barthes: On Parole and Langue


For Roland Barthes ([1957] 1974) language is language minus speech. Language is systematic but arbitrary in the sense of being unmotivated. It is institutional, unaffected by individual usage. Speech is an individual act of selection and actualisation. Phonation (style of speech) is not part of language. Language and speech are dialectically related. Language is the product and instrument of speech. The separation of language and speech is a semiological task that in itself identifies the meaning of language and speech.


Barthes developed his ideas in terms of an analysis of Louis Hjelmslev's (1943) three planes of language.

1. Schema: language as pure form (=Saussure's ‘langue’).

2. Norm: language as material form.

3. Usage: language as a set of habits prevailing in society.


The planes of language are set against ‘speech’. For Hjelmslev, norm determines usage, schema and speech.  Usage and speech are interrelated and both determine schema. This leads to two fundamental planes:

(a) Schema, which is formalistic and 
(b) Norm/Usage/Speech, which is substantive.


So for Hjelmslev, schema/usage replaces language/speech.


The advantage of Hjelmslev's reconceptualisation is to put all the ‘positive’ and ‘substantial’ elements under the heading of speech (usage) and all the differentiating ones under that of language. Which removes one of the contradictions of Saussure’s language/speech distinction.  However, Hjelmslev's reconceptualisation involves  problems as it implies that language can be  identified with code and speech with the message.  Barthes (1974, pp. 19–20) casts doubt on this coincidence.

related areas

See also





Barthes, R., [1957] 1974, Mythologies (Selected and translated by A. Lavers). London, Cape. (First published Paris, 1957, and in English, London, Cape, 1972).
Hjelmslev, L.,  [1943], 1961, Prolegomena to a Theory of Language. Madison, University of Wisconsin Press.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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