Papers from Jakobson's SW (1)

Jakobson, Roman 1971. Selected Writings II: Word and language. The Hague; Paris: Mouton.

Jakobson, Roman 1971 [1953]. Results of a Joint Conference of Anthropologists and Linguists. In: Selected Writings II: Word and language. The Hague; Paris: Mouton, 554-567.

Now, if we study language together with anthropologists, their help is most welcome and stimulating, because again and again anthropologists repeat and prove that language and culture imply each other, that language must be conceived as an integral part of the life of society, and that linguistics is closely linked to cultural anthropology. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 555)
In a very generalizing way, we can state that both are systems of signs; or that while language is a system of signs, culture is a system of languages (in Lotman's very general sense, system of discrete and continuous systems of signs). My own task is to conceive nonverbal behaviour as "an integral part of the life of society."
Language is an instance of that subclass of signs which under the name of symbols have been astutely described by Chao, who indeed symbolically embodies the best in both Western and Eastern thought. Therefore, when specifying language we must, with H. L. Smith, observe other symbolic patterns for comparison, the system of gestures, for instance, so stimulatingly tackled by Kulešov, M. R. Critchley, and now by F. Birdwhistell [sic]. It presents, I agree, instructive similarities to language and - let us add - not less prominent differences. In the impending task of analyzing and comparing the various semiotic systems. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 555)
I suspect that R. Birdwhistell's name was here mistyped as F. Birdwhistell. He did indeed talk of "patterns" (because he was a student of Boas). Equally indicative is the hint towards finding "similarities" between language and body-motion communication systems. It is curious that this task was "impending", because after Birdwhistell published his findings this endeavor was pretty much forsaken.
We will then be able to discern the peculiar features of a linguistic sign. Now, one can only agree with our friend N. McQuown who realized perfectly that there is no equality between systems of signs, and that the basic, the primary, the most important semiotic system is language: language really is the foundation of culture. In relation to language, other systems of symbols are concomitant or derivative. Language is the principal means of informative communication. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 556)
I can agree with inequality and concomitance, but derivation appears only in instances when there is an apparent interrelation - as in concourse, for example. As to the "principal means of informative communication" seems to be viable only as far as spoken and written word will not be replaced with pictures, videos, audio, raw data and other such stuff that information technology allows us to exchange.
Although communication engineering was not on the program of our Conference, it is indeed symptomatic that there was almost not a single paper uninfluenced by the works of C. E. Shannon and W. Weaver, of N. Wiener and R. M. Fano, or of the excellent London group. We have involuntarily discussed in terms specifically theirs, of encoders, decoders, redundancy, etc. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 556)
I don't know what happened to redundancy - maybe it got lost with the "mathematical" side of the theory of communication, but the other two terms are still used by nonverbalists. In terms of FACS, a "decoder" is someone who is able to discriminate the muscle movements of the face and an "encoder" is someone who is able to produce these movements intentionally.
Sometimes these different functions act separately, but normally there appears a bundle of functions. Such a bundle is not a simple accumulation but a hierarchy of functions, and it is very important to know what is the primary and what the secondary function. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 557)
This is very characteristic of Jakobson. He seemingly ascribed a hierarchy to almost everything he could think of. Maybe there is no hierarchy? Maybe all the functions are equally important? Functions have to, after all, be imputed on communication. They have to be discriminated. To ascribe a hierarchy of functions on any communication seems rather a fancy of the researcher or of methodology, not a fact of ontology. Rather, the hierarchy is like a typology - in one message one function is prevalent, in another message another function. Maybe two functions are most important for some messages? Maybe I just don't like the concept of hierarchy? I'll keep an eye out for other matters on which Jakobson imputes a hierarchy.
New terms are very often a children's disease of a new science or of a new branch of a science. I now prefer to avoid too many new terms. When we discussed phonemic problems in the twenties, I myself introduced many new terms, and then I was by chance liberated from this terminological disease. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 557)
Curiously, Birdwhistell wrote something similar - that in his young naivete he coined new terms which he had to dispense with because they didn't stand the test of time. Jakobson's statement also applies to Roger Wescott, who had a bad habit of producing an enormous amount of new terms; among them, parrallel with Birdwhistell's kinesics, "coenesics". If I had to choose I'd actually choose coenetics, because it goes along with "coenesis" which would be, basically, "nonverbal semiosis". But alas, Wescott's book is such a rarity that I still haven't figured out how or where to get it.
But I don't object - I still follow my late teacher A. M. Peškovskij who said: "Let's not quibble about terminology; if you have a weakness for new terms, use them. You may even call it 'Ivan Ivanovich', as long as we all know what you mean. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 557)
Good advice, but I have a weakness for old terms - the ones that were coined and forsaken. Impractical "dead" terms are such a curiosity that they could actually fill a whole dictionary: The Semiotics That Wasn't, for example. The main problem would be to gauge what some special terms mean.
The proper subject of inquiry into poetry is precisely language, seen from the point of view of its preponderant function: the emphasis on the message. This poetic function, however, is not confined to poetry. There is only a difference in hierarchy: this function can either be subordinated to other functions or appear as the organizing function. The conception of poetic language as language with a predominant poetic function will help us in understanding the everyday prosaic language, where the hierarchy of functions is different, but where this poetic (or aesthetic) function necessarily exists and plays a palpable role both in the sychronic and diachronic aspects of language. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 558)
This may actually help clarify John Cowper Powys's claim that there is a poetic element to life, which he nevertheless demonstrates in the use of poetic language. I wonder if this latter explanation could be merely my own explaining-away or is there actually more in Powys than this confusion of object- and metalevel?
No communication is feasible without a certain stock of what the engineers, and especially D. M. MacKay, one of the nearest to linguists among them, call preconceived possibilities and prefabricated representations. When I read all that was written by the communication engineers, especially American and English (in particular E. C. Cherry, D. Gabor, and MacKay), on message and code, I realized of course that both these conjoined aspects have been for a long time familiar to the linguistic and logical theories of language here and abroad under various dichotomious names such as langue/parole, Language/Speech, Linguistic Pattern/Utterance, Legisign/Sinsign, Type/Token, Sign-design/Sign-event, etc. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 558)
What did Jakobson read by Colin Cherry? His On Human Communication was first published in 1957. Until that, he seemed to publish only technical papers on television and radar technology. Also, add to this list of code/message distinctions Morris's sign-vehicle and sign-family.
But at the same time I must confess that the Code-Message concepts of communication theory are much clearer, much less ambiguous, and much more operational than the traditional presentation of this dichotomy in the theory of language. I believe that it's preferable to work at present with these well-defined, measurable and analysable concepts without replacing them by new, once again somewhat vague terms, such as the "common core". (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 559)
It is a very operational distinction, but then again the notion of code carries along with it certain repulsive implications. Bakhtin, for example, criticized the Tartu School for it's reliance on the notion of code because it seemed too restrictive for him (a code is something finished, closed). Also, in the Bakhtin-inspired communication model by the Revzin's, this "common core" is expressed very neatly as "common memory."
As I already mentioned, individual speech doesn't exist without an exchange. There is no sender without a receiver - oh, yes, there is, if the sender is drunk or pathological. As to nonzexteriorized, non-uttered, so-called inner speech, it is only an elliptic and allusive substitute for the more explicit, enunciated speech. Furthermore, dialogue underlies even inner speech, as demonstrated from Peirce to L. S. Vygotskij. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 559)
Oh god, not again. The implication is that personal signs and everything non-social is abnormal. With Peirce it is especially extreme, because his synechism leads to denial of the individual in toto. I see it as a denial of autocommunication and in error, because there are countless occasions when one "sends" without a receiver. In praying, for example, you believe that there is a receiver, but there isn't one, is there? Also, I recall Sage Francis's lyrics in Message Sent: "I've got some letters inside of my drawer that should have been stamped and delivered ... One is addressed to myself but I don't know what personality or hand to give it."
With the customary great interest I read the paper on Idiolect, distributed by my old friend C. F. Hockett. This paper confines the idiolect to a single individual's habits of speaking at a given time, not including his habits of understanding the speech of others. If my Cambridge utterances over a longer period were observed and tape-recorded, one would never hear me use the word "idiolect". Nevertheless now, when speaking to you, I use it because I am adapting myself to my potential opponents, for instance, to Hockett. I use many other terms in the same way. Everyone, when speaking to a new person, tries, deliberately or involuntarily, to hit upon a common vocabulary: either to please or simply to be understood or, finally, to bring him out, he uses the terms of his addressee. there is no such a thing as private property in language: everything is socialized. Verbal exchange, like any form of intercourse, requires at least two communicators, and idiolect proves to be a somewhat perverse fiction. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 559)
But we don't use our idiolects to speak with others; we use a sociolect for that. Roger Wescott or - closer to home - Sergei Chebanov, who were so obviously tormented by the demon of terminological invention, had their own scientific idiolects, which they nevertheless tried to share and make common with others. Were their undertakings perversions? Should we shun Peirce for all his incomprehensible neologisms? I believe there is private property in language and Morris termed it "post-language symbols". Although will have nothing to do with the notion of idiolect, I do believe that there is some uninvestigated heuristic potential in idiokinesics, for example. That is, "idiolect" is as much of a perverse fiction as having personal property, personal taste, unique habits or walking through the woods wherever one pleases instead of going along the path.
The receiver undestands the message thanks to his knowledge of the code. The position of the linguist who decipters a language he doesn't know is different. He tries to deduce the code from the message: thus he is not a decoder; he is what is called a cryptanalyst. The decoder is a virtual addressee of the message. The American cryptanalyst who, during the war, read the Japanese secret messages were not the addressees of these messages. Obviously, the linguist must develop the technique of cryptanalyst; and, naturally, when one deals too long with a technique, one begins to believe that it is the normal procedure. But, as a matter of fact, such a procedure is quite marginal and exeptional in usual communication, and even the task of a linguist is to start with the job of the cryptanalist but to end up as a normal decoder of this language. His ideal is to become like a member of the speech community studied. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 560)
This sounds vaguely familiar. Perhaps it was Lotman who stated that a message (text?) can have an actual and a virtual addresse. With nonverbal behaviour this is more complicated, because virtually all unintrusive observation is "cryptonalysis" in this sense. The difference is that there is no "normal decoder" to speak of and becoming "like" a member of the community is doubtful.
If, however, you dislike the word "meaning" because it is too ambiguous, then let us simply deal with semantic invariants, no less important for linguistic analysis than the phonemic invariants. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 565)
Obviously a reference to Charles Morris. On the same page Jakobson also discusses the division of semantics, syntactics and pragmatics.
When I insist on the intrinsically linguistic character of semantics, is this novel? No, it has been said very clearly; but things that have been said very clearly are very often totally forgotten. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 565)
The statement about forgetting things that have been said very clearly is epigram-worthy. But on the latter statement: How about NO? To insist on the intrinsically linguistic character of semantics is to deny semantics in nonlinguistic signs. Semantics is about the relationship of representamen and object in any sign, not only the linguistic. You imperialist!
...one of the most illuminating of Peirce's theses propounds that the meaning of a sign is the sign it can be translated into. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 566)
The only fault I see with this is that translation implies a "code switch" - a boundary between one system and another, while Peirce's sign-growth and infinite semiosis have no such implications. His "more developed sign" has to be more developed, not "translated into another system".
We used a circumlocution, and we always way: as Peirce incisively defined the main structural principle of language, any sign is translatable itself into another sign in which it is more fully developed. Instead of an intralingual method, we may use an interlingual way of interpretation by translating the word pork into another language. The method would be intersemiotic if we would resort to a non-linguistic, for instance, a pictorial sign. But in all these cases we substitute signs. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 566)
It is allowable, but you still have to keep in mind that this is something that Jakobson brings with him when he discusses Peirce. He begins with the preconception that the sign is primarily a linguistic sign, while in Peirce it is more accomodating. We can here say in accord with Lotman, that Peirce "begins" with a sign, while Jakobson - as a Saussurean - begins with a language. Our own project should be something much grander - we begin with the total space of semiosis, the semiosphere.That is to say, not with a sign or a system of signs, but with a system of systems.
To the very interesting discussion on the problem of pointing in the paper distributed by Z. S. Harris and C. F. Voegelin, may I contribute a few remarks? Suppose I want to explain to a unilingual Indian what Chesterfield is, and I point to a package of cigarettes. What can the Indian conclude? He doesn't know whether I mean this package in particular, or a package in general, one cigarette or many, a certain brand or cigarettes in general, or, still more generally, something to smoke, or, universally, any agreeable thing. He doesn't know, moreover, whether I'm simply showing, giving, selling, or prohibiting the cigarettes to him. He will gather what Chesterfield is, and what it is not, only if he masters a series of other linguistic signs which will serve as interpretant of the sign under discussion. (Jakobson 1971 [1953]: 566-567)
This example is neat (in terms of information and uncertainty), but a bit limited. The example includes only one gesture, pointing, and dismisses every other possible way of demonstrating nonverbally what he intends by referring to the cigarettes. It would be difficult with packs, but he could demonstrate plurals by holding up more than one cigarette; indicate at the brand logo for that particular brand, express joy with a facial expression to signify agreeability, hold the pack up for showing, gesture towards the Indian with the cigarette to signify giving and some gesture for money or exchange for selling, and an angry facial expression for prohibiting. There are countless ways to go about this. Taking the simple act of pointing as proof that nonverbal communication is devoid of information shows a limited understanding and depreciation of nonverbal communication.

Jakobson, Roman 1971 [1959]. On Linguistic Aspects of Translation. In: Selected Writings II: Word and language. The Hague; Paris: Mouton, 260-266.

According to Bertrand Russell, "no one can understand the word 'cheese' unless he has a nonlinguistic acquaintance with cheese". If, however, we follow Russell's fundamental precept and place our "emphasis upon the linguistic aspects of traditional philosophical problems", then we are obliged to state that no one can understand the word cheese unless he has an acquaintance with the meaning assigned to this word in the lexical code of Inglish. (Jakobson 1971 [1959]: 260)
So that's where Austin's cheese example comes from! Russell, Bertrand 1950. Logical Positivism. Revue Internationale de Philosophie, IV, 18. Too bad it's not available on the internet. Austin, in his Sense and Sensibilia, debates the contention that "when the cheese is in front of our noses, we see signs of cheese."
The meaning of the words cheese, apple, nectar, acquaintance, but, mere, and of any word or phrase whatsoever is definitely a linguistic or - to be more precise and less narrow - a semiotic fact. Against those who assign meaning (signatum) not to the sign, but to the thing itself, the simplest and truest argument would be that nobody has ever smelled or tasted the meaning of cheese or of apple. There is no signatum without signum. The meaning of the word "cheese" cannot be inferred from a nonlinguistic acquaintance with cheddar or with camembert without the assistance of a verbal code. An array of linguistic signs is needed to introduce an unfamiliar word. Mere pointing will not toach us whether cheese is the name of the given specimen, or of any box of chamembert, or of camembert in general, or of any cheese, any milk product, any food, any refreshment, or perhaps any box irrespective of contents. (Jakobson 1971 [1959]: 260)
Does he not realize that his argument is circular? "The meaning of the word "cheese" cannot be inferred .... without the assistance of the verbal code." But the "meaning" of cheese can be inferred from a nonlinguistic acquaintance with cheddar or camembert. The confusion is in part due to the vagueness of the notion of "meaning". What, indeed, is the "meaning" of cheese? (not the word "cheese" but the dairy product itself). His argument is circular because he seems to say "to acquire language one must acquire language". Again, Jakobson appears as a linguistic imperialist. "There is no signatum without signum" can be translated as "There are no entities of a category if the category is not named." If this statement is takes seriously, then emotions and facial expressions that don't have signifiers in language ("labels") do not exist. This is Jakobson's version of the famous Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: that the structure of language is the structure of the universe. In the example of facial expression of emotion, we can recognize and respond facial movements as expressions of emotions because we have an inborn neurological "affective program" that is independent of language. To say that emotions and facial expressions that don't have verbal labels don't exist is just inane (silly, foolish, stupid, fatuous, idiotic, ridiculous, ludicrous, absurd, senseless, asinine, frivolous, vapid).
We distinguish three ways of interpreting a verbal sign: it may be translated into other signs of the same language, into another language, or into another, nonverbal system of symbols. These kinds of translation are to be differently labeled:
  1. Intralingual translation or rewording is an interpretation of verbal signs by means of other signs of the same language.
  2. Interlingual translation or translation proper is an interpretation of verbal signs by means of some other language.
  3. Intersemiotic translation or transmutation is an interpretation of verbal signs by means of signs of nonverbal sign systems.
(Jakobson 1971 [1959]: 261)
Here it is extremely relevant that, again, Jokobson begins with a linguistic sign. His three ways to translate a verbal sign to the same language, to another language, and to a nonverbal system are one-way translations. It goes from verbal to nonverbal only, not from nonverbal to verbal, because when it was translated into a nonverbal system it ceased to be a verbal sign and become something completely different. There is no back-translation, because what you would get is, according to Lotman, something new. Thus it seems that The Journal of Intersemiotic Translation (Versejunkies) has made a conceptual error in identifying intersemiotic translation with ekphrasis. This is relevant for my work, because now concourse seems more justified - it is not a case of translation, but of description.
Any comparison of two languages implies an examination of their mutual translatability. (Jakobson 1971 [1959]: 262)
It is not far-fetched, I think, to propose that this is the origin of Lotman's notion of mutual untranslatability.
In the first years of the Russian revolution there were fanatic visionaries who argued in Soviet periodicals for a radical revision of traditional language and particularly for the weeding out of such misleading expressions as "sunrise" or "sunset". (Jakobson 1971 [1959]: 262)
And it is equally possible, that this historical curiosity was the basis for newspeak in Orwell's 1984.
All cognitive experience and its classification is conveyable in any existing language. Whenever there is a deficiency, terminology can be qualified and amplified by loanwords or loan-translations, by neologisms or semantic shifts, and, finally, by circumlocutions. (Jakobson 1971 [1959]: 263)
If this were true then how do we account the relative unsuccess of psychology to convey cognitive experience and it's classification? The history of defining an easily intuitable notion such as "attitude" by itself could fill several volumes of lengthy explication without a resulting consensus. Something like this has actually been done in case of culture (Kluckhohn) and ideology (van Dijk).
...the richer the context of a message, the smaller the loss of information. (Jakobson 1971 [1959]: 264)
This is a statement that can very well be a semiotic "law". Loss of information is also (classically) achieved by the introduction of redundancy, but this reinforces the syntactic dimension. Richness of context achieves loss of information by reinforcing the semantic dimension. An ambiguous or poetic statement such as T.S. Eliot's notorious quote "You are the music while the music lasts" can become less ambiguous and poetic, but truer to its original meaning, when considered in the context of the text it was ripped out of (because of its apparent poetic value).
...the cognitive level of language not only admits but directly requires recoding interpretation, i.e., translation. Any assumption of ineffable or untranslatable cognitive data would be a contradiction in terms. But in just, in dreams, in magic, briefly, in what one would call everyday verbal wythology, and in poetry above all, the grammatical categories carry a high semantic import. Under these conditions, the question of translation becomes much more entangled and controversial. (Jakobson 1971 [1959]: 265)
I'm becoming more and more suspicious of Jakobson's notion of translation, but there is a valuable insight here. For I can indeed concede that language requires "recoding interpretation" - even if in the minimal Bakhtinian sense that "your word" is different from "my word" and in order to understand it, I must translate it into "my word". The important implication here is that nonverbal behaviour admits but does not require "recoding interpretation". This is primarily because we have "loss cognitive" - that is, more primal, affective - response to nonverbal behaviour. Nonverbal communication is more immediate in this sense - it does not have to be recoded in order to be understood, because the fact of its occurrence is oftentimes enough in itself. Once you bring language into play and start pondering "what did s/he mean by that glance?" it ceases to be communication and becomes simply behaviour that seems to embody some information that you can't decode. But when you do decode it, it has also been recoded, because now you're trying to fit "continuous" nonverbal behaviour into "discrete" verbal categories. To put it in short: you do not need to know the word "cheese" to enjoy the taste of that yellow stuff - you can, but need not.
In poetry, verbal equations become a constructive principle of the text. Syntactic and morphological categories, roots, and affixes, phonemes and their components (distinctive features) - in short, any constituents of the verbal code - are confronted, juxtaposed, brought into contiguous relation according to the principle of similarity and contrast and carry their own autonomous signification. Phonemic similarity is sensed as semantic relationship. The put, or to use a more erudite, and perhaps more precise term - paronomasia, reigns over poetic art, and whether its rule is absolute or limited, poetry by definition is untranslatable. Only creative transposition is possible: either intralingual transposition - from one poetic shape into another, or interlingual transposition - from one language into another, or finally intersemiotic transposition - from one system of signs into another, e.g., from verbal art into music, dance, cinema, or painting. (Jakobson 1971 [1959]: 266)
This quote is neat because it brought flashbacks from Pärli's semiotics of literature. Mihhail Lotman has also used this term and the example of Traduttore, traditore on occasion.

Jakobson, Roman 1971 [1960]. Linguistics and Communication Theory. In: Selected Writings II: Word and language. The Hague; Paris: Mouton, 570-579.

Norbert Wiener refuses to admit "any fundamental opposition between the problems of our engineers in measuring communication and the problems of our philologists". (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 570)
It is a neat coincidence that this two-page paper by Norbert Wiener, titled "Speech, Language, and Learning", appeared in the same volume and issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America as Martin Joos's, removed from his by only four pages (the world of early communication theory is small...). I'm going to ask the Paper Fairy for this and a few other articles in that issue. On a more substantial note, Wiener's statement makes sense insofar as it was published in a journal by and for engineers dealing with speech and language problems. Joos, too, probably didn't notice "any fundamental opposition" between these fields, as he was himself a cryptanalyst and later wrote several good papers and a book in philology (medieval German literature, to be specific). Those were the days of polymaths.
The stream of oral speech, physically continuous, originally confronted the mathematical theory of communication with a situation "considerably more involved" than in the case of a finite set of discrete constituents, as presented by written speech. Linguistic analysis, however, came to resolve oral speech into a finite series of elementary informational units. These ultimate discrete units, the so-called "distinctive features", are aligned into simultaneous bundles termed "phonemes", which in turn are concatenated into sequences. Thus form in language has a manifestly granular structure and is subject to a quantal description. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 570)
Here it appears that the distinction between discrete and continuous systems is not as philosophical as it may appear in some interpretations of Juri Lotman's work, but actually a pretty simple distinction between written and oral realization of language. The text is discrete because it is divisible into discrete units - sentences, words, graphemes... While oral speech is more fluid - one sentence may become another without a "full stop" and when several speakers are involved, voices may overlap. From this point of view it makes perfect sense that Lotman should replace the term "message" with "text" - the latter is discrete, while the former can be both discrete and continuous.
The dichotomous principle underlying the whole system of distinctive features in language has gradually been disclosed by linguistics and has found corroboration in the binary digits (or to use the popular portmanteau, bits) employed as a unit of measurement by the communication engineers When they define the selective information of a message as the minimum number of binary decisions which enable the receiver to reconstruct what he needs to elicit from the message on the basis of the data already available to him, this realistic formula is perfectly applicable to the role of distinctive features in verbal communication. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 571)
Here Jakobson seems kind of naive. Or, to put it more kindly, his hopes for linguistics were too far fetched for the mid-twentieth century. Automatic speech recognition has become possible (and even "everyday" for iPhone users) in the current century. On the other hand it's kinda neat that what became the basis of computer systems (binary code) was, for Jakobson, something that had to do with linguistics. I guess we have Jakobson to thank for the "elementary dualism" in Lotman's work and, by proxy, most semiotics in Tartu.
The necessity of a strict distinction between different types of redundancy is now realized in the theory of communication as well as in linguistics, where the concept of redundancy encompasses on the one hand pleonastic means as opposed to explicit conciseness (brevitas in the traditional nomenclature of rhetoric) and on the other hand explicitness in contradistinction to ellipsis. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 571)
define:pleonastic - "repetition of same sense in different words"; define:brevitas - from brevis - "short, little, of small extent". Obviously the etymological antecedent to English "brevity" and then "brief". What is actually interesting is that Wiktionary defines three senses of brevitas: (1) of space - shortness, narrowness; (2) of time - briefness, brevity, shortness; (3) of discourse - conciseness, terseness, brevity. In the last, presumably rhetorical, sense, it becomes synonymous with laconic (using very few words).
The prejudice treating the redundant features as irrelevant and distinctive features as the only relevant ones is vanishing from linguistics, and it is again communication theory, particularly its treatment of transitional probabilities, which helps linguists to overcome their biased attitude toward redundant and distinctive features as irrelevant and relevant respectively. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 572)
This sounds like something that can actually distinguish two distinct orientations in semiotics: one is oriented towards differences and is interested in signs insofar as they are involved with "differences that make a difference" as Gregory Bateson put it; the other is oriented towards sameness and is interested in signs insofar as they are habits of behaviour and sustain stability in communicatian repertoires, social reality, etc. This distinction is not the same as the distinction between Generalizing and Particularizing tendencies and Progressive and Conservative, but they are related to some degree. It could be that one is more akin to structural semiotics and the other to process semiotics, but then this doesn't seem to fit perfectly as well. I'll let it be for now.
The engineer assumes a "filing system" of prefabricated possibilities more or less common to the sender and receiver of a verbal message, and Saussurian linguistics speaks correspondingly about langue, which makes possible an exchange of parole between interlocutors. Such an "ensemble of possibilities already foreseen and provided for" implies a code, conceived by communication theory as "an agreed transformation - usually one-to-one and reversible" - by which one set of information units is converted into another set. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 572)
This may be one of the reasons why so many are suspicious of the notion of code and take other routes than the code semiotics of Eco, for example: codes imply self-consistency, self-closure. While language has history, and it is different for each person, code is invented and same for all who know the code.
Interlocutors belonging to one given speech community may be defined as actual users of one and the same linguistic code encompassing the same legisigns. A common code is their communication tool, which actually underlies and makes possible the exchange of messages. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 573)
Again I must furrow my brows at Jakobson's linguocentrism. Charles Morris came to note the exact same phenomena, but termed it "interpreter-family", thus acqnowledging not only linguistic signs but any kind of signs.
English school, which insists on a clear-cut line of demarcation between the theory of communication and of information. Nevertheless, this delimitation, strange as it seems, is sometimes disregarded by linguists. "The stimuli received from Nature," as Colin Cherry wisely stresses, "are not pictures of reality but are the evidence from which we build our personal models." (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 573)
This line of demarcation seems reasonable, considering the amount of confusion brought about by the conflation of these theories. Especially in my own field of interest it has become a bad habit to talk of nonverbal communication even when the actual phenomena is something akin to nonverbal information. The middle road is to use the neutral "nonverbal behaviour". Colin Cherry's bit about modeling could very well be the source for Tartu school's theory of modelling systems, but then you'd have to go throught the trouble of verifying if Lotman, Ivanov or Uspensky had read Werner Meyer-Eppler's 1959. Grundlagen und Anwendungen der Informationstheorie, and that may be impossible. At best I can learn deutch and read it myself one day, but that's the music of the future.
The set of ye-or-to choices underlying any bundle of these discrete features is not an arbitrary concoction of the linguist, but is actually made by the addressee of the message, insofar as the need for their recognition is not cancelled by the prompting of the verbal or non-verbalized context. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 574)
What does he mean by the "non-verbalized context"?
Language is never monolithic; its overall code includes a set of subcodes, and such questions as that of the rules of transformation of the optimal, explicit kernel code into the various degrees of elliptic subcodes and their comparison as the amount of information requires both a linguistic and an engineering examination. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 574)
I was arguing with Indrek Grigor on this exact point when his slide contained the statement that all languages are monolinguistic. Not ever considerinc creolization, it makes perfect sense that languages have sub-codes: the technical, the poetic, the cosmological, etc. (they don't have to accord with Morris's "types of discourse" but these examples make sense). My aim is to show haw concourse is one such subcode of every language. Even more interesting would be the comparison between the concourse of one language as compared to that of another (Fernando Poyatos urged translators to do something like this).
The communication engineer is right when defending against "some philologist" the absolutely dominant "need to bring the Observer onto the scene" and when holding with Cherry that "the participant-observer's description will be the more complete". The antipode to the participant, the most detached and external onlooker, acts as a cryptanalyst, who is a recipient of messages without being their addressee and without knowledge of their code. He attempts to break the code throught a scrutiny of the messages. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 574-575)
The reference is to Halle, Morris (ed.) 1956. For Roman Jakobson. The Hague: Mouton. It is obvious that Jakobson is discussing Colin Cherry's distinction between object-channel (participant) and meta-channel (observer). The contention that "the participant-observer's description will be the more complete" once again makes sense only insofar as we are studying linguistic material. When it comes to kinesic material we must trust Birdwhistell in that neither are very accurate and the most complete analysis will result from recorded audiovisual material. But, of course, in the 1950s this was not an opportunity for everyone, because equipment was expensive, heavy and difficult to operate. Birdwhistell himself didn't have his own camera - he was permitted to study the materials of the Institute he was working at.
Obviously "the inseparability of the objective content and observing subject", singled out by Niels Bohr as a premise of all well-defined knowledge, must be definitely taken into account also in linguistics, and the position of the observer in relation to the language observed and described must be exactly identified. First, as formulated by Jurgen Ruesch, the information an observer can collect depends upon his location within or outside the system. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 575)
The world of early communication theory is indeed small. This statement by Ruesch is too obvious to warrant any elaboration, but I will note the reference for that possible world in which I will have free access to some Staatsbibliothek: Grinker, Roy R. (ed.) 1956. Toward a Unified Theory of Human Behavior. Oxford: Basic Books. Ruesch also wrote its introduction.
No doubt there is a feedback between speaking and hearing, but the hierarchy of the two processes is opposite for the encoder and decoder. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 576)
My corrugators... They hurt.
MacKay warns against the confusion between the exchange of verbal messages and the exchange of information from the physical world, both abusively unified under the label "communication"; this word has for him an inevitably anthropomorphic connotation "which bedevils discussion". There is a similar danger when interpreting human inter-communication in terms of physical information. Attempts to construct a model of language without any relation either to the speaker or to the hearer, and this to hypostasize a code detached from actual communication, threaten to make a scholastic fiction out of language. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 576)
In the first instance, we have criticism against the "sun communicates warmth" type of statements. In the second instance we have criticism of disembodied linguistics, or the study of what Bakhtin termed "no one's word".
...the phenomenon known in communication theory under the label "semantic noise" and into the theoretically and pedagogically important problem of overcoming it. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 577)
This notion brings back faint memories of my first year in semiotics. But I cannot recall where, when or for what reason this crossed my mind. One internet commentator notes that semantic noise occurs when the channel is perfectly clear but the person at the other end speaks a language you don't understand - in which case it isn't a disturbance in code but a lack of common code. Another example is the notorious hip-hop pun by RUN-DMC: "Not "bad" meaning "bad" but "bad" meaning "good"." In this case it is a matter of slang; just like British slang includes "bollocks" as "bullshit" and "dog's bollocks" as "something great". Another source states very generally that semantic noise is disconnection between the signifier and the signified. I'll leave it at that.
The semiotic definition of a symbol's meaning as its translation into other symbols finds an effectual application in the linguistic testing of intra- and interlinguistic translation, and this approach to semantic information concurs with Shannon's proposal to define information as "that which is invariant under all reversible encoding or translating operations", briefly, as "the equivalence class of all such translations". (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 578)
Wow that is an odd proposal. It presumes that information is only about that which can be translated.
The Russian school of metrics owes some of its internationally echoed achievements to the fact that some forty years afo such students as B. Tomaševskij, expert both in mathematics and in philology, skillfully used Markov chains for the statistical investigation of verse; these data, supplemented by a linguistic analysis of the verse structure, gave in the early twenties a theory of verse based on the calculus of its conditional probabilities and of the tensions between anticipation and unexpectedness as the measurable rhythmical values, and the computation of these tensions, which we have labeled "frustrated expectations", gave surprising clues for descriptive, historical, comparative, and general metrics on a scientific basis. (Jakobson 1971 [1960]: 579)
Jakobson seems to end every paper he writes with something quite interesting. I'll keep this in mind, because it seems to be related to Viktor Shklovsky's deautomatization, and it also makes sense in personal experience - rap music makes extensive use of frustrated expectations. A neat example would be when a rapper performs a well-known song on stage but changes the lyrics unexpectedly.

Jakobson, Roman 1971 [1965]. Quest for the Essence of Language. In: Selected Writings II: Word and language. The Hague; Paris: Mouton, 345-359.

Wilhelm von Humboldt taught that "there is an apparent connection between sound and meaning which, however, only seldom lends itself to an exact elucidation, is often only glimpsed, and most usually remains obscure." This connection and coordination have been an eternal crucial problem in the age-old science of language. (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 375)
Humboldt is still a mystery for me - my intellectual territory is primarily American and concentrated on the mid-twentieth century. He does have a point here, and "an exact elucidation" of linguistic meaning is as difficult as the "formulation of significance" of behaviour in Morris's semiotic.
...with Latinized terms, in particular signum comprising both signans and signatum. Incidentally, their pair of correlative concepts and labels were adopted by Saussure only at the middle of his last course in general linguistics, maybe through the medium of H. Gompelz's Noologie (1908). (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 375)
Another curious reference. It sounds intriguing - mostly because noologie makes sense as "the study of thought". The full reference seems to be: Gomperz, Heinrich 1908. Weltanschauungslehre, Zweiter Band, Noologie. Erste Hälfte. Einleitung und Semasiologie, Jena. I'm not sure it Gomperz is French or Austrian, but this book was republished in in 1964 by Mouton. I'm unable to find anything in English about this.
Perhaps the most inventive and versatile among Americat thinkers was Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), so great that no university found a place for him. (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 346)
Just like Valga is such a great city that it can't fit into only one country. Nah, there were other reasons why Peirce wasn't accepted at no university (looking at you, Mr. Newcomb). Rather, he lectured at the John Hopkins for five years and then was laid off on ambiguous grounds, and never worked at a university ever again (according to Sebeok).
Originally the word symbol was used in a similar sense also by Saussure and his disciples, yet later he objected to this term because it traditionally involves some natural bond between the signans and signatum (e.g., the symbol of justice, a pair of scales), and in his notes the conventional signs pertaining to a conventional system were tentatively labeled seme, while Peirce had selected the term seme for a special, quite different purpose. (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 347)
I believe Saussure's symbol is something other than a pure symbol then. Peirce probably had a term for it - I wouldn't be surprised if it were hyposymbol. And now I'd like to know what seme meant in Peirce's semeiotics and whether this can explain why Eco's talk of semes - especially inchoate semes - is so convoluted.
Among scholars who treated this questions following in the footsteps of Plato's Hermogenes, a significant place belongs to the Yale linguist Dwight Whitney (1827-1894), who exerted a deep influence on European linguistic thought by promoting the thesis of language as a social institution. In his fundamental books of the 1860's and 1870's, language was defined as a system of arbitrary and conventional signs. (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 348)
And more interesting references keep coming in. G'damn. Morris is equally prone to state that language is a social system of signs.
One of the most important features of Peirce's semiotic classification is his shrewd recognition that the difference between the three basic classes of signs is merely a difference in relative hierarchy. (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 349)
Thus the scholar refers to "icons in which the likeness is aided by conventional rules", and one may recollect the diverse techniques of perspective which the spectator must learn in order to apprehend paintings of dissimilar artistic schools; the differences in the size of figures have divergent meanings in the various pictorial codes; in certain medieval traditions of painting, villains are specifically and consistently represented in profile, and in ancient Egyptian art only en face. (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 349)
This may become useful in the semiotics of art. At desperate times, when Gleb is teaching us some hodgepodge of god-knows-what, even terms like "meaning" and "code" can help us, although I am still inclined to doubt these terms from the standpoint of behavioristic semiotic. That is, if two pictures of garlic are almost exactly the same except one has more grainy texture (GIMP "Canvas" effect), then they both still call forth the same interpretant, the same signification, etc. There is no divergent meaning unless you can prove that there is divergent meaning (and Gleb didn't do that).
Peirce's concern with the different ranks of coassistance of the three functions in all three types of signs, and in particular his scrupulous attention to the indexical and iconic components of verbal symbols, is intimately linked with his thesis that "the most perfect signs" are those in which the iconic, indexical, and symbolic characters "are blended as equally as possible". (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 349)
This makes much more sense than forced talk of hierarchies.
Peirce vividly conceived that "the arrangement of the words in the sentence, for instance, must serve as icons, in order that the sentence may be understood." (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 350)
Could it be that he was talking about what we call mental imagery?
If almost everywhere, again according to Greenberg's data, the only, or at least the predominant, basic order in declarative sentences with nominal subject and object is one in which the former precedes the latter, this grammatical process obviously reflects the hierarchy of the grammatical concepts. The subject on which the action is predicated is, in Edward Sapir's terms, "conceived of as the starting point, the 'doer' of the action" in contradistinction to "the end point, the 'object' of the action." (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 351)
In "Tom frowned his displeasure" Tom is the doer of the acton and expressing/communicating his displeasure is the end point or object of the action. Also, in Martin Joos's parlance, these are related to actor-expressions and action-expressions, but I'm not sure how exactly.
The investigation of diagrams has found further development in modern graph theory. When reading the stimulating book Structural Models (1965) by Fp Harary, R. Z. Norman, and D. Cartwright, with its thorough description of manifold directed graphs, the linguist is struck by their conspicuous analogies with the grammatical patterns. The isomorphic composition of the signans and signatum displays in both semiotic fields very similar devices which facilitate an exact transposition of grammatical, especially syntactic, structures into graphs. (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 351)
If only I were better versed in modelling systems theory... I can only take away from this that "isomorphism" was related to "similar devices" (or, probably, "mechanisms") for Jakobson [revelant for abstracting isology].
A partial similarity of twe signata may be represented by a partial similarity of signantia, as in the instances discussed above, or by a total identity of signantia, as in the case of lexical tropes. Star means either a celestial body or a person - both of preeminent brightness. A hierarchy of two meanings - one primary, central, propel, context-free; and the other secondary, marginal, figurative, transferred, contextual - is a characteristic feature of such asymmetrical couples. The metaphor (or metonymy) is an assignment of a signans to a secondary signatum associated by similarity (or contiguity) with the primary signatum. (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 355)
And here we have Jakobson imputing hierarchy on denotation and connotation.
The Metalogicus by John of Salisbury supplied Peirce with his favorite quotation: "Nominantur singularia, sed universalia significantur." How many futile and trivial polemics could have been avoided among students of language if they had mastered Peirce's Speculative Grammar, and particularly its thesis that "a genuine symbol is a symbol that has a general meaning" and that this meaning in turn "can only be a symbol", since "omne symbolum de symbolo". A symbol is not only incapable of indicating any particular thing and necessarrily "denotes a kind of thing", but "it is itself a kind and not a single thing." A symbol, for instance a word, is a "general rule" which signifies only through the different instances of its application, namely the pronounced or written - thinglike - replicas. However varied these embodiments of the word, it remains in all these occurrences "one and the same word". (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 358)
This insistence of generality in symbols is one of the best parts about Jakobson's interpretation of Peirce. Morris, for example, lays no emphasis on this aspect. But then again he's not very much concerned with the specifics of language signs. It may even be that this is the reason why Morris dismisses the factor of infinite semiosis in Peirce's definition of the sign (and, I've been told by Tyler that Peirce did the same in 1908). This is a very general statement, but Morris was more interested in "signs" than in "symbols". I suspect that there is nothing like omne signalis de signalis.
One of Charles Peirce's posthumous works, the book Existential Graphs with its eloquent subtitle "My chef d'œuvre", concludes the analysis and classification of signs with a succinct outlook toward the creative power (ἐνέργεια) of language: "This the mode of being of the symbol is different from that of the icon and from that of the index. An icon has such being as belongs to past experience. It exists only as an image in the mind. An index has the being of present experience. The being of a symbol consists in the real fact that something surely will be experienced if certain conditions be satisfied. Namely, it will influence the thought and conduct of its interpreter. Every word is a symbol. Every sentence is a symbol. Every book is a symbol. (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 358)
This is extremely good, especially the bit about icons existing as images in the mind, because it is related to mental imagery. Morris reaches a similar conclusion about thethe other types thorough Susanne K. Langer's work and states that signals "announce" their objects, while symbols lead their interpreters to "conceive" of their object. Icons, in this sense, lead us to "remember" their objects.
The value of a symbol is that it serves to make thought and conduct rational and enables us to preduct the future." This idea was repeatedly breached by the philosopher: to the indexical hic et nunc he persistently opposed the "general law" which underlies any symbol: "Whatever is truly general refers to the indefinitie future, for the past contains only a certain collection of such cases that have occurred. The past is actual fact. But a general law cannot be fully realized. It is a potentiality; and its mode of being is esse in futuro." Here the thought of the American logician crosses paths with the vision of Velimir Xlebnikov, the most original poet of our century, in whose commentary of 1919 to his own works one reads: "I have realized that the homeland of creation lies in the future; thence wafts the wind from the gods of the word." (Jakobson 1971 [1965]: 358-359)
And the future must remain indefinite, otherwise it would not be the future. And again he ends his paper with something quite interesting. In this case the poet's statement resembles Bakhtin's beautiful saying that "every meaning has its homecoming festival". It is even possible that Bakhtin was directly or indirectly influenced by this poet, but I cannot know that.


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