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Semiotics Unbounded

Semiotics Unbounded: Interpretive Routes through the Open Network of Signs

Susan Petrilli
Augusto Ponzio
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 670
  • Book Info
    Semiotics Unbounded
    Book Description:

    Semiotics Unboundedoffers a new and original survey of the science of signs, evaluating it in relation to the problems of our time, not only of a scientific order, but also the problems concerning everyday social life.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5711-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xvii-2)
  4. Introduction: An Excursion into Semiotics
    (pp. 3-32)

    ‘Semiotics’ refers to both thespecificity of human semiosisand the generalscience of signs.

    Under the first meaning, semiotics relates to the specific human capacity formetasemiosis.In the world of life that encompasses semiosis, human semiosis is characterized as metasemiosis – that is, as the possibility of reflecting on signs. We can approach signs as objects of interpretation indistinguishable from our responses to them. But we can also approach signs in such a way that we suspend our responses to them so that deliberation is possible.

    At the beginning of hisMetaphysics,Aristotle correctly observed that man tends by...


    • 1 An Itinerary: From Peirce to Others
      (pp. 35-79)

      As theorized and practised by Charles Sanders Peirce (see biographical note, p. 79), the science of signs or semiotics (‘semeiotic’ is the term he preferred; cf. Fisch 1986) offers a unified perspective on a potentially infinite series of sign manifestations or semioses, traditionally covered by a vast range of studies and areas of research. In tandem with his analysis of the relationship between sign and interpretant, Peirce’s approach has opened the gates to the signifying universe and enabled us to explore an open and constantly expanding sign network. Although triadism is an essential characteristic of Peirce’s studies of signs, this...

    • 2 About Welby
      (pp. 80-137)

      The term ‘significs’ was coined by Victoria Lady Welby (see biographical note, p. 134) in 1896 to indicate the particular slant she wished to place on her theory of sign and meaning. She intended this term to emphasize the ethical dimension of her approach and her particular focus on the interrelations among signs, sense, and values. Thus, significs is also oriented toward the pragmatic dimension of signifying processes. Welby called for a triadic approach to meaning:

      ‘sense,’ ‘meaning,’ and ‘significance.’ This was to be the basis for a series of other triads she would explore throughout her research. She also...

    • 3 About Bakhtin
      (pp. 138-166)

      An author’s importance becomes obvious once his writings begin to generate multiple readings. Mikhail M. Bakhtin (see biographical note, p. 166) is one of these cases.

      His research came to light after years of silence and since then numerous studies from various perspectives have been dedicated to him. Some of his writings were discovered only after his death, and were published gradually and out of chronological order. These include texts from the early 1920s that have become available only recently and that have shed new light on all of Bakhtinian research.

      Bakhtin’s thought ranges across multiple disciplines and is now...

    • 4 About Morris
      (pp. 167-202)

      Semiotics as conceived by Charles W. Morris (see biographical note, p. 201) – he in fact spelled the term ‘semiotic’ – proposes a general description of sign as embracing all that belongs to the world of life. As such he intended his approach to account for all types of signs. To this end, he constructed his semiotic terminology from the language of biology; this is especially evident inSigns, Language, and Behavior(1946). Morris’s choice of a biological framework for his sign theory led one of his most acute interpreters, Ferruccio Rossi-Landi (who authored a monograph on Morris published in 1953), to...

    • 5 About Sebeok
      (pp. 203-231)

      Because of Thomas A. Sebeok (see biographical note, p. 230), semiotics is emerging as ‘global semiotics.’ From the global semiotic perspective, signs and life coincide and semiosis is behaviour among living beings.

      A lire les ouvrages de Sebeok, on est confondu par sa familiarité avec les langues et les cultures du monde, par l’aisance avec laquelle il se meut à travers les travaux des psychologues, des spécialistes de neuro-physiologie cérébrale, de biologie cellulaire, ou ceux des éthologues portant sur des centaines d’espèces zoologiques allant des organismes unicellulaires aux mammifères supérieurs, en passant par les insectes, les poissons et les oiseaux....

    • 6 About Rossi-Landi
      (pp. 232-297)

      In 1968, the Italian intellectual Ferruccio Rossi-Landi (see biographical note, p. 297) wroteIl linguaggio come lavoro e come mercato(now 1992b, Eng. trans.Language as Work and Trade, 1983), which even today is extraordinary for its topicality and insight. Rossi-Landi anticipated problems that are now considered central to the development of present-day capitalism, an era when communication is a constitutive factor in production and ‘immaterial work’ is the principle economic resource. Communication plays a dominant role not only in the intermediary phase in the productive cycle (the phase ofcirculationorexchange,according to market logic), but also in...

    • 7 About Eco
      (pp. 298-340)

      We end this survey of significant figures in contemporary semiotics with a chapter on Umberto Eco (see biographical note, p. 340). First, we describe the importance of his contributions to the success, spread, and elaboration of interpretation semiotics or semiotics of the Peircean matrix. Eco has done much to direct our focus toward the interpretive component of signs and texts. Related to this is his interrogation of the ‘limits of interpretation,’ which the problem of interpretation implies. Another important aspect of his research is his constant return to the problem of the relationship between sign and referent; this, too, is...


    • 8 Modelling and Otherness
      (pp. 343-376)

      The terms ‘model’ and ‘modelling’ are used in the present text as understood by Thomas A. Sebeok and his global semiotics.

      As noted earlier (see 5.1.1), a fundamental concept in Sebeok’s global semiotics is that ofmodel, which he developed from the Moscow–Tartu school (cf. Lucid 1977; Rudy 1986), which makes a distinction between the ‘primary modelling system,’ used to denote natural language, and ‘secondary modelling system,’ used for all other human cultural systems. However, Sebeok extended the concept of model beyond the domain of anthroposemiotics by connecting it to the research of the biologist Jakob von Uexküll and...

    • 9 Writing and Dialogue
      (pp. 377-428)

      Mikhail M. Bakhtin’s multiple interests are closely connected with two problematics that characterize much of his research: ‘dialogue,’ examined through its literary depiction in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘polyphonic novel’; and the ‘grotesque realism’ of ‘carnivalized’ popular culture, studied through its depiction in François Rabelais. ‘Dialogue’ in Bakhtin does not ensue from the decision to assume an open attitude toward others (as has often been wrongly maintained); nor is it the result of any initiative taken by the I, the result of a disposition for opening to the other; rather, it is the place of the I’s very formation and manifestation. Dialogue...


    • 10 Understanding and Misunderstanding
      (pp. 431-477)

      As general sign theory, semiotics concerns itself with foundations, principles, and conditions of possibility and is necessarily philosophical in orientation. From this perspective, it is difficult to distinguish betweensemioticsandphilosophy of language.

      In this chapter we consider problems that concern both philosophy of language and semiotics asconstitutive phenomenology. Our focus will be onlogicandtheory of knowledgefrom the point of view of theirformation.

      Edmund Husserl (1948: 1) would say that we are turning our considerations to the sphere of theUrsprungsproblem(the problem of origin). Moreover, logic and theory of knowledge or gnoseology are...

    • 11 Closed Community and Open Community in Global Communication
      (pp. 478-534)

      The term ‘global communication’ expresses the fact that the communication–production network has been extended over the entire planet and that the market – that is, equal-exchange logic – has also spread around the world. Even more radically, global communication means that human life in all its aspects has been incorporated into the communication-production network. This has had profound implications for development, well-being, and consumerism, or underdevelopment, poverty, and impossible survival; for health or disease; for normality or deviance; integration or marginalization; for employment or unemployment; for transfer of people functional to the workforce (which is characteristic of emigration) or transfer characteristic...

    • 12 Global Communication, Biosemiotics, and Semioethics
      (pp. 535-558)

      In what follows, we develop global semiotics in the direction of what we propose to callsemioethics. As a unique semiotic animal – that is, the only animal capable of reflecting on signs and communication – the human being has a singular responsibility toward life (which is comprised of signs and communication), which also means the quality of life. More thanlimited responsibility,the type of responsibility involved isunlimited responsibilityin the terms so far discussed – that is,responsibility without alibis, absolute responsibility.Our responsibilities toward life in the global communication–production phase of development in late capitalist society are enormous,...

  8. Glossary
    (pp. 559-564)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 565-612)
  10. Index
    (pp. 613-630)