Saussure's synchronic approach to language marked the beginning of a rupture in the history of linguistics by dispensing with the diachronic study of the history of languages and by meditating instead on the structurality of language in general. Taking Saussure's linguistics as our point of departure and bringing to bear Derrida's critique of the metaphysics of presence, we can begin to raise epistemological as well as political questions about language's epistemic status as a lens through which we may access reality. .
Humans are capable of uttering an infinite number of random noises one after another in a disorganized fashion; that is, we are free to play with speech and to substitute any noise for any other noise unrestrained since all noises are equal. The function of language, for Saussure, is to organize these utterances within a structure and regulate human speech into a lexicon of iterable signifiers capable of communicating, intelligibly and in a regularized fashion, the ideas of the speaker. This essential function of signifying concepts stabilizes language, limits the free play of substitutions, and grounds human speech by tying it to the intentions of the speaker in a fixed relationship between signifier and signified. In Derrida's terms, intentionality functions as the center of the structure, which imposes structural constraints on free play as all utterances cease to be equal (and thus substitutable) and only those utterances which signify the speaker's intentions remain available for articulation. Play persists within the structure, since any utterance that communicates the speaker's thoughts can be uttered at any given moment, but this play is always regulated by the Center. .
According to Derrida, language thus participates in the metaphysics of presence by posting the presence of the speaker's intentions in language, an assumption that Derrida questions in his deconstruction of the speaking/writing opposition.