chapter  46
The emergence of language as a complex adaptive system
ByNick C. Ellis
Pages 14

Saussure (1916) characterized the units of language as linguistic signs, the signifiers of linguistic form and their associated signified functions, concepts or meanings. In Saussure’s view linguistic signs arise from the dynamic interactions of thought and sound – from patterns of usage:

what happens is neither a transformation of thought into matter, nor a transformation of sound into ideas. What takes place is a somewhat mysterious process by which ‘thoughtsound’ evolves divisions, and a language takes place with its linguistic units in between these two amorphous masses.