A Science of Language and Humidity

A Science of Language and Humidity focuses on the scientific achievements of Férdinand de Saussure and his grandfather, Horace-Bénédict de Saussure. Both men’s work centered on elusive phenomena—language and relative humidity.

The concept of the arbitrary nature of the sign is key to Férdinand de Saussure’s work, forming the basis of this project. He proposed that “a given language is a system of arbitrary signs whose signifying properties depend entirely on their place within the system.” Horace-Bénédict de Saussure was the inventor of the hygrograph, an instrument using human hair to measure humidity in the atmosphere. For this project, Férdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics was recited into a specifically developed hygrographic reading machine, which registered the spoken text based on the humidity of the reader’s breath.

hygrographic reading machine, book, rag board, and pen on paper
dimensions variable
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