Semiotic Insights

Semiotic Insights: The Data Do the Talking

Copyright Date: September 1999
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Semiotic Insights
    Book Description:

    This collection of articles by Irmengard Rauch provides a lucid narrative on the nature of semiotics and linguistics, revealing their symbiotic relationship through concrete, data-based application.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7976-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    Thomas A. Sebeok

    If the ever-busy grammarians of the ancient Western world concerned themselves with nonverbal signs or perceived, by contrast with the rhetoricians of their times, any explicit functional relationships between verbal and other signs at all, they were thus engaged in a dilettante capacity only. The earliest linguists seemed to have left little or no trace of any such speculative preoccupations.

    While, according to historiographers, as also observed by Jakobson, a Sumerian grammar may be the oldest known text of a linguistic character, there is every reason to believe that this too was the product of a long antecedent tradition—surely...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  5. Introduction: Leitmotifs at the Nexus of Semiotics and Linguistics
    (pp. 1-18)

    This book, based in part on previous research, is bifurcated into a set of eleven chapters (Part One) which lay the foundation for uncovering leitmotifs at the nexus of semiotics and linguistics, and a set of nine chapters (Part Two) which display the cooperation of semiotic method and linguistic method leading to a more adequate justification of hard linguistic data as occurring in given language growth phenomena in Indo-European, Slavic, and Germanic. The chapters in Part One address the seminal questions of what semiotics and linguistics are, indeed, the nature of their shared object, language, along with historiography of both...


    • 1 Semiotics: A Fire in the Belly
      (pp. 19-28)

      Why is there a lifelong fire in the belly of semiotists for semiotics? The lure of semiotics is ultimately signification or meaning. Since, as Merrell (1997: ix) writes: “Meaning is nowhere and at the same time it is everywhere; it is in the interrelatedness of the sign interaction incessantly being played out on the stage of semiosis”, what we do in semiotics is unceasingly enticing. Moreover, this seemingly elusive task is provided with a most affable paradigm. The affability of semiotics is, nevertheless, misconceived if it is understood as a panacea for everything. It is neither a panacea nor has...

    • 2 Saussure: Roots of Today’s Linguistics
      (pp. 29-48)

      Today’s linguistics was nurtured in the flowering of nineteenth-century scientific activity which, in its drive for legitimization, cultivated the roots of science, in particular affinities with physics and biology. Saussure’s action and his reaction to these roots account for a great deal of his thought. The interlacing effects of biology and physics are, accordingly, evident in semiotics as well (cf. also Chapter 9 below).

      Arnold Toynbee writes in his book Change and Habit (1966: 89):

      The study of human affairs has to adjust itself to their nature. Human affairs are a part of life, and life has two salient characteristics;...

    • 3 Linguistics and Semiotics Juxtaposed — 1
      (pp. 49-60)

      The intimacy of the relationship between semiotics and linguistics is accountable on the one hand to the role assigned to language within semiotics, and on the other hand to the role assigned to linguistics within language. Specifically, the arrangement of the arguments of these “within” relations prefigures the controversial hierarchical entanglements between and among semiotics, language, and linguistics. Just as today’s linguistics finds its recent roots in the nineteenth century (cf. Chapter 2 above), so too does semiotics, in North America primarily in the person of Peirce, and on the continent in the person of Saussure.

      Recent linguistic history on...

    • 4 Peirce and Linguistics
      (pp. 61-72)

      Notwithstanding the fairly facile, non-teleological application of Peirce’s icon, index, symbol to language data, e.g., the iconic positioning of the protasis before the apodosis in a conditional sentence, or the indexical relationship of a pronoun to its referent, or the symbolic structure of that part of the lexicon which is arbitrary (cf. Chapter 3 above, “Semiotic Linguistics”), Peircean categories are generally neglected and/or underutilized in restructuring or grammaticalization discussions on language data. Thus, Dressler and Mayerthaler (1987: 17) note: “The important role of diagrams [iconicity] has become clearer since Jakobson … and is a dominant theme in Natural Morphology.”


    • 5 Semiotics as Metalanguage
      (pp. 73-80)

      Semiology is defined by Hjelmslev (1963: 120; cf. “Trabant on Hjelmslev,” Chapter 10 below) as a metasemiotic, and the science of language is called semiotic by Carnap (1942: 9), who considers it to be composed of pragmatics, semantics, and syntax. Reichenbach (1947: 15) holds that metalanguage is divided into syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, “corresponding to the three arguments of the sign relation.” One could infer, accordingly, that semiotics is metalanguage, and the reverse, relegating the term metasemiotic to redundancy. (For the separate issue of the varying distinctions accorded syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, cf. Lyons 1977: 4.4.)

      The object language is...

    • 6 Language as Inlay in Semiosis
      (pp. 81-90)

      So pervasive and ubiquitous is the concept of the role of language in semiotics (cf. Chapter 3 below) that in this chapter we seek to confront head-on how language, as an infrastructure or inlay in semiosis or the semiotic act, can be conceived to function.

      In spite of Kristeva’s (1975: 47) unwavering conviction that “What semiotics has discovered in studying ‘ideologies’ … as sign-systems is that the law governing, or, if one prefers, the major constraint affecting any social practice lies in the fact that it signifies; that is, that it is articulated like a language,” and Jakobson’s attractive observation...

    • 7 The Narrative Inlay in Semiosis
      (pp. 91-100)

      While language is thus construed as signification via illation (cf. Chapter 6 above), illation or inference is instantiated in the concept of narrative, which finds refinement and applicability to both verbal and nonverbal semiosis in action theory.

      In the “anything goes” era of Paul Feyerabend (Against Method, 1978), it would seem that semiotists might content themselves to bask in the sun of the necessarily multimethodological input which channels into the theory of signs from innumerable disciplines (cf. Chapter 1 above). Once it is understood and accepted that semiotic method by nature can only be heterogeneous, the mirage of sought-after methodological...

    • 8 Narrative Configurated with Text and Discourse
      (pp. 101-110)

      It is necessary to test whether narrative construed as action, specifically propositional macrostructure, modalities, inferential structure (cf. “Action Theory and Inferential Structure,” Chapter 7 above), can be sustained in configuration with its oft occurring syntagmatic partners text and discourse. Not infrequently these three terms are found in commutation for one another. We test them empirically in reference to a citation from Wittgenstein.

      Wittgenstein writes in a letter to Ludwig von Ficker (von Wright 1969: 5): “My work consists of two parts: the one presented here plus all that I have not written. And it is precisely the second part that...

    • 9 Protosemiotic
      (pp. 111-126)

      The understanding of the language-inlay, the narrative inlay (cf. Chapter 6, 7, 8 above) in all semiotic modalities is, of course, most spectacular in the conceptualization of man as a “text” (cf. Sebeok 1977b: 181, cf. “Text = First, Discourse = Second, Narrative = Third,” Chapter 8 above). The most fundamental and essential, indeed primeval, reading (meaning) of what we can term the human text, the “signifying animal,” is based in medicine.

      Historically medicine has been synonymous with semiotic. Human beings themselves, i.e., their wellness/illness as signaled by signs, has always been a hermeneutic endeavor entailing a symptom, its object,...

    • 10 Protosemiotists
      (pp. 127-150)

      If the confluence of the roots of both humanism and science is to be found in medicine (cf. end of Chapter 9 above), and if medicine can be characterized as a protosemiotic and as one leg of the semiotic tripod, the other two being linguistics and philosophy (cf. “Medicine,” Chapter 9 above), then the progenitors of semiotics are to be found in medicine-related disciplines, in particular in philosophy and linguistics.

      We have already been introduced to two modern protosemiotists, Saussure (cf. Chapter 2 above) and to Peirce (cf. Chapter 4 above). This chapter furthers our insight into the semiotic contributions...

    • 11 Semiotics: At the Turn of the Millennium
      (pp. 151-158)

      In closing off Part One of this book, Chapter 11 returns to the pervasive question of the identity of semiotics, first encountered in the Introduction, amplified in Chapters 1 and 2, and seen to recur as an essential leitmotiv, whether subliminally or overtly, throughout all of the preceding chapters.

      The Bibliography of Semiotics 1975–1985, edited by Eschbach and Eschbach-Szabo (1986), is one of several indicators reflective of the vast, seemingly non-integrated efforts which feed into the semiotic enterprise. The Bibliography compilers (1986: 7) describe this harried state of semiotic affairs, a near-frenzy in semiotic research as a

      … world-wide...


    • 12 Spelling of Sounds and Iconism
      (pp. 159-164)

      The principal evidence which the reader of a historical text utilizes in cognizing the text is the written data. This is particularly the case in Old Saxon (cf. “Drawl in a Dead Language,” Chapter 13 below) because of the richness of the variations in spelling, both for consonants and vowels, and both in root and affix syllables in the data yielded by the ninth/tenth century biblical epics entitled Heliand and Genesis.

      Variation between and among graphs is rampant in all syllables of an Old Saxon word. The variations may be free, i.e., not influence meaning, for example the adverb simlon...

    • 13 Accompanying Sound: Paralanguage
      (pp. 165-170)

      Not all of the sound of a chunk of speech is visible in the spelling or writing of words or sentences. The invisible sound parts of written words, that is, those not reflected in writing segments, e.g., alphabets, hence called segmental systems, belong to suprasegmental systems, e.g., stress and pitch, or to paralanguage (cf. “[L] in Paralanguage,” chapter 6 above).

      If language is the many children of several disciplines (cf. “The Language Inlay,” Chapter 3 above), then paralanguage is also; but paralinguistics is to linguistics, unfortunately, a neglected stepchild at most (cf. Poyatos 1993: 1–6). George Trager’s admonition, over...

    • 14 Causality
      (pp. 171-178)

      As observed in the previous chapter in the section “Delineating Paralanguage,” linguists appear to shy away from paralanguage. Yet, we found in Chapter 13 above that the paralinguistic feature of drawl may well be reconstructed as the catalyst in effecting diphthongal and for a language of a millennium ago, Old Saxon. In this chapter on causality, we confront the question of exactly what sort of catalysts for language change/growth are commonly pursued by linguists. The question as to what cause is has for linguistics the position of, let us say for the sake of analogy as well as...

    • 15 Analogy
      (pp. 179-186)

      In linguistic causation, analogy has a venerable history. To be sure, analogy is a case of abduction (cf. “Abductive Processing of Features,” Chapter 6 above), and hence Firstness; as such it is fallible yet creative. This chapter traces the development of analogy in contemporary linguistic thought and its nondiscriminate application to language change/growth (cf. “Linguistic Analogy and Semiotic Abduction,” Chapter 2 above).

      “Nothing shows quite so clearly that ‘language is a form of life’ as does our recourse to analogous expressions.” This sort of statement implies that analogy is user-oriented, and as such the statement could be found in a...

    • 16 Linguistics and Semiotics Juxtaposed — 2
      (pp. 187-192)

      We have seen in the two cases of linguistic change, delineated in the previous chapter (15), that the Peircean distinctions of index and icon which obtain between the sign and its object allow us to treat linguistic analogies as discrete relational strategies, rather than as unmotivated generalizers. Peirce’s icon, index, and the third member of this semiotic triad, symbol, derive directly from his three pervasive elements or categories inherent in all phenomena, namely Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness (cf. “What Is Semiotics? Introduction above). Particularly fascinating in the two linguistic changes are the indexical analogical relationships which represent which represent the...

    • 17 A Language Evolves
      (pp. 193-206)

      The previous chapter (16) displays well that language yields some compulsory features which override all other features configured in causation for a given instance of language change/growth. That the compulsion is in the phonological, i.e., phonetic component (a voiceless consonant engenders a contiguous voiceless consonant; cf. Chapter 16 above), is not surprising since sound is produced by the physiological sound tract and is physically acoustically perceived. Phonology, i.e., phonetics, is accordingly the most physical component of the grammar of a language, and it is subject to the laws of physiology and acoustics.

      The present chapter (17) will demonstrate again the...

    • 18 Interlingual Translation of Signs
      (pp. 207-222)

      While data in Chapter 12 centered in graphology, i.e., spelling, in Chapter 13 and 14 in phonology, in Chapter 15 in phonology as well as morphology, in Chapter 16 and 17 in morphology, this chapter (18) offers data primarily for its syntactic and semantic insights. The reader will have noticed that these various principal components of the grammar of a language readily interdigitate, i.e., influence one another, so that any component may play a role in another component. The two sets of data in Chapter 18 configurate with Saussurean concepts, in particular, that of the synchrony: diachrony axes and that...

    • 19 Language Change/Growth Begins
      (pp. 223-234)

      Just as there are typological universals of language structure, so also we recognize universals of language change/growth. To a large extent this recognition proceeds from the typological universals themselves. The observation that variation in linguistic synchrony and change in linguistic diachrony are one and the same is an automatic corollary. The corollary is supported by the uniformitarian principle, which holds that we can infer historical operations in language by observing present operations. The opposite is, of course, also true, although it is more uncertain and risk-taking; that is, that we can predict present, inprogress linguistic operations via extrapolations from past...

    • 20 The Lie
      (pp. 235-250)

      It is appropriate that the final data evidence in this volume speaks to mendacity or signs yielding false information. For that matter, all signs are disingenuous insofar as they are a representation of an object, i.e., aliquid stat pro aliquo. Certainly Eco subsumes this broader interpretation when he (1975: 120) writes that “the fundamental characteristic of the sign is that I can use it to lie.” Outright focus on prevarication data necessarily requires yet one more revisiting of a primary leitmotiv of this volume, viz., the semiotic-linguistic understanding of language.

      The philosopher Peter Caws (1969: 1380) observes that “truth …...

  8. Conclusion: Facts and Human Factors
    (pp. 251-256)

    Perhaps the lie (cf. Chapter 20 above) is the ultimate deconstruction, indeed, a defining signifying feature at the end of the second millennium. Eco (1995: 344) explains the view of Romantic authors that Babel is a felix culpa, writing: “… natural languages are perfect in so far as they are many, for the truth is many-sided and falsity consists in reducing this plurality into a simple definite unity.” To be sure, Eco’s expression of diversity among natural languages with reference to truth reflects well postmodernist thought, albeit probably not the ethics of the lie. However, in the popular media we...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-284)
  10. Name Index
    (pp. 285-290)
  11. Subject Index
    (pp. 291-300)