On the wikipedia for post structuralism,

In Elements of Semiology (1967), Barthes advances the concept of the metalanguage, a systematized way of talking about concepts like meaning and grammar beyond the constraints of a traditional (first-order) language; in a metalanguage, symbols replace words and phrases. Insofar as one metalanguage is required for one explanation of the first-order language, another may be required, so metalanguages may actually replace first-order languages. Barthes exposes how this structuralist system is regressive; orders of language rely upon a metalanguage by which it is explained, and therefore deconstruction itself is in danger of becoming a metalanguage, thus exposing all languages and discourse to scrutiny. Barthes' other works contributed deconstructive theories about texts.

The idea of symbolic logic existed already in 18th century (1700s), so what is new in Barthes ideas?

Note: As far as I understand this meta language idea is the same which underlies propositional logic/predicate logic. See here for an exaplanation given in a mathematical Logic book Stephen Kleene ( Student of Alonzo Church).

  • As far as Barthes' idea of metalanguage is that above: nothing new. Commented May 13, 2023 at 15:35
  • But the context: semiology, is not that of mathematical logic. Commented May 13, 2023 at 15:36
  • But metalanguage applies not only to propositional logic. Also to predicate logic, etc Commented May 13, 2023 at 15:37
  • I would have imagined all philosophers to have been educated with meta language/ propositional logic in that time.
    – Babu
    Commented May 13, 2023 at 15:38
  • 1
    There is a big distance from the idea of symbolic logic and the first order/meta-language distinction. Under the original conception, there was no separation between language about objects and language about language, they were taken as parts of the same language. Such a universal language is how logic was formalized by Russell in Principia. It is only after Godel's results and their reformulation by Tarski that the distinction was introduced to develop formal semantics while avoiding paradoxes of self-reference. It was still relatively novel in 1967, but it was Tarski's idea, not Barthes'.
    – Conifold
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 3:36


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