Dominant and sign systems

Jakobson, Roman 1987[1935]. The Dominant. In: Krystyna Pomorska & Stephen Rudy (eds.), Language in Literature. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 41-46.

The dominant specifies the work. The specific trait of bound language is obviously its prosodic pattern, its verse form. It might seem that this is simply a tautology: verse is verse. However, we must constantly bear in mind that the element which specifies a given variety of language dominates the entire structure and thus acts as its mandatory and inalienable constituent, dominating all the remaining elements and exerting direct influence upon them. Verse in turn is not a simple concept and not an indivisible unit. Verse itself is a system of values; as with any value system, it possesses its own hierarchy of superior and inferior values and one leading value, the dominant, without which (within the framework of a given literary period and a given artistic trend) verse cannot be conceived and evaluated as verse. For example, in Czech poetry of the fourteenth century the inalienable mark of verse was not the syllabic scheme but rhyme, since there existed poems with unequal numbers of syllables per line (termed "measureless" verses) which nevertheless were conceived as verses, whereas unrhymed verses were not tolerated during that period. On the other hand, in Czech Realist poetry of the second haly of the nineteenth century, rhyme was a dispensable component, without which verse was not verse was not verse; from the point of view of that school, free verse was judged as unacceptable arrhythmia. (Jakobson 1987 [1935]: 41-42)
Dominant in this sense is very apparent in rap music, wherein you can differentiate golden-age hip-hop that stuck to a definite structure, alternative or abstract rap that focused on the poetics of the rapping, and even forms of hip-hop wherein rapping is secondary to the beat and even wholly irrelevant when it comes to listening experience.
We may seek a dominant not only in the poetic work of an individual artist and not in the poetic canon, the set of norms of a given poetic school, but also in the art of a given epoch, viewed as a particular whole. (Jakobson 1987 [1935]: 42)
I see this in the literary genre of dystopia. The first and most influential dystopic works (like We, Brave New World, and Nineteen Eighty-Four) focused on the "Big Brother" motive, total(itarian) control and forced collectivism - in other words, on lack of freedom/choice and oppressive government, while newer dystopias use these as a kind of backdrop and focus more on biological/reproductive issues, post-apocalypse possibilities and romance. In short, the dystopias have moved from the genre of science fiction to the "young adult" section.
However, this equation is unquestionably erroneous: a poetic work is not confined to aesthetic function alone, but has in addition many other functions. Actually, the intentions of a poetic work are often closely related to philosophy, social didactics, and so on. Just as a poetic work is not exhausted by its aesthetic function, similarly the aesthetic function is not limited to poetic works; an orator's address, everyday conversation, newspaper articles, advertisements, a scientific treatise - all may employ aesthetic considerations, give expression to the aesthetic function, and often use words in and for themselves, not merely as a referential device. (Jakobson 1987 [1935]: 43)
Relevant for understanding the poetic function in Jakobson's model.
From this point of view, a poetic work cannot be defined as a work fulfilling neither an exclusively aesthetic function nor an aesthetic function along with other functions; rather, a poetic work is defined as a verbal message whose aesthetic function is its dominant. Of course, the marks disclosing the implementation of the aesthetic function are not unchangeable or always uniform. Each concrete poetic canon, every set of temporal poetic norms, however, comprises indispensable, distinctive elements without which the work cannot be identified as poetic. (Jakobson 1987 [1935]: 43)
In other words, there is a variety of ways in which a work of verbal art announces itself as such, that is, in this case, as a poem.
In comparison with referential language, emotive langnuage, which primarily fulfills an expressive function, is as a rule closer to poetic language (which is directed precisely toward the sign as such). Poetic language and emotive language often overlap each other, and therefore these two varieties of language are often quite erroneously identified. If the aesthetic function is the dominant in a verbal message, then this message may certainly use many devices of expressive language; but these components are then subject to the decisive function of the work, and they are transformed by its dominant. (Jakobson 1987 [1935]: 44)
Relevant for thinking about the emotive function and how it exactly functions in relation with the poetic function.
However, the problems of evolution are not limited to literary history. Questions concerning changes in the mutual relationship between the individual arts also arise, and here the scrutiny of transitional regions is particularly fruitful; for example, an analysis of a transitional region between painting and poetry, such as illustration, or an analysis of a border region between music and poetry, such as the romance. (Jakobson 1987 [1935]: 45)
Relevant for intersemiotic translation and syncreticism. Illustration, by the way, seems to be the prima facie form of intersemiotic translation.

Jakobson, Roman 1987[1959]. Sign and System of Language: A Reassessment of Saussure's Doctrine. In: Krystyna Pomorska & Stephen Rudy (eds.), Language in Literature. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 28-33.

This question was dealt with much better by the Polish linguist M. Kruszewski, a contemporary of Saussure (and highly estimated by the latter), as early as the beginning of the 1880s. Kruszewski made a distinction between two basic factors in the life of a language, two associations: similarity and contiguity. The relation between a signans and a signatum, which Saussure arbitrarily described as arbitrary, is in reality a habitual, learned contiguity, which is obligatory for all members of a given language community. But along with this contiguity the principle of similarity, la ressemblance, asserts itself. As was mentioned here, and as Kruszewski already realized, this principle plays an enormous role in the area of derivations and in the area of word families, where similarity between words of one root is decisive, and where it becomes impossible to speak about arbitrariness. (Jakobson 1987[1959]: 28-29)
Alas, the origin of the similarity/contiguity distinction. And the argument against arbitrariness seems very similar to Peirce's notion of how symbols grow. That is, verbal symbols are not entirely arbitrary but grow on the basis of icons/images and other, previously existing, symbols.
A purely linguistic semantics can and must be constructed, if we agree with Peirce that the basic property of any verbal sign lies in its capability of being translated into another verbal sign, either a more developed, explicit sign, or, on the contrary, a more elliptical sign, of the same language system or of a different one. This translatibility lays bare that semantic invariant for which we are searching in the signatum. In such a way it becomes possible to submit semantic problems of language to distributional analysis. Metalinguistic identifying sentences, such as "A rooster is a male hen" belong to the text inventory of the English language community; the reversibility of both expressions - "A male hen is a rooster" - demonstrates how the meaning of words become a real linguistic problem through a distributive analysis of such common metalingual utterances. (Jakobson 1987[1959]: 30)
Metalingual function laid bare in metalingual utterances. This raises the question if a verbal utterance about a nonverbal behaviour is "merely an utterance" or is it justified to call it something like a concursive utterance.
In actual reality synchrony is not at all static; changes are always emerging and are a part of synchrony. Actual synchrony is dynamic. Static synchrony is an abstraction, which amy be useful to the investigation of language for specific purposes; however, an exhaustive true-to-the-facts synchronic description of language must consistently consider the dynamics of language. Both elements, the point of origin and the final phase of any change, exist for some time simultaneously within one language community. They coexist as stylistic variants. When taking this important fact into consideration, we realize that the image of language as a uniform and monolithic system is oversimplified. Language is a system of systems, an overall code which includes various subcodes. These variegated language styles do not make an accidental, mechanical [...]regation, but rather a rule-governed hierarchy of subcodes. (Jakobson 1987[1959]: 30)
An explanation of "permanent dynamic synchrony" and it's relation to the subcode-definition of language.
I believe that today our chief task should be to become realists, to build a realistic study of language and combat any fictionalism in linguistics. We must ask ourselves: what is the real linguistic convention that enables exchange of speech in a given language community and serves effectively the various tasks of communication? (Jakobson 1987[1959]: 31)
I am actually calling for a similar move in terms nonverbal communication. The main fictionalism that I'm fighting against is the notion of "body language".
Indices, which the physicist extracts from the external world, are not reversible. He transforms these indices given in nature into his own system of scientific symbols. In the science of language the situation is cardinally different. The symbols exist immediately in language. Instead of the scientist. who extracts certain indices from the external world and reshapes them into symbols, here an exchange of symbols occurs between the participants of a communication. Here the roles of addresser and addressee are interchangeable. Hence the task of the science of language is quite different. We are simply trying to translate into metalanguage this subcode, which is objectively given in the language community. For the natural scientist symbols are a scientific tool, whereas for the linguist the y are more than that, and above all, the true object of his research. (Jakobson 1987[1959]: 31)
So this is what is meant by reversability (in Thorpe 1974, for example). This is relevant for delineating behaviour and communication in the domain of the nonverbal, the first according more to natural indices that are reshaped into symbols, and the second class has its own "objective" life in society.


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