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Social Attitudes and Nonsymbolic Interaction


Blumer, Herbert 1936. Social Attitudes and Nonsymbolic Interaction. The Journal of Educational Sociology 9(9): 515-523.

My chief interest in this paper is to treat in a more conspicuous fashion one phase of social attitudes and of their development that is usually ignored or given but minor consideration. I refer to their affective nature as set apart from their ideational content or symbolic character. In the usual discussions where some attempt is made to analyze the nature and, so to speak, to describe the structure of social attitudes, attention is given primarily to the symbolic character. (Blumer 1936: 515)
The affective structure of social attitudes.
In regarding the attitude as an orientation on the part of the individual, as a "set" of his musculature, as a tendency to act in a given way, or as an incipient preparation to a scheme of conduct, there is usually an implied emphasis on the meaning of the object or situation to which the orientation is had. It does not matter where the "meaning" is lodged in the structure of nerve and muscle, as the physiologically minded incline to believe, or in a set of images or mental constructions, or in the object. The point is that the attitude as usually depicted represents a plan of action dependent upon the meaningful character of the object or situation toward which it is directed. (Blumer 1936: 515)
As in older rationalist psychology, the semiotic "disposition to respond" (with a sign, to a sign) is dependent on the nebulous "object", a part of the three-pronged Peircean sign.
As such the "symbolical" character of the object incorporated in the attitude as a plan of action receives the stress; the affective nature of the attitude is ignored or given minimal attention. (Blumer 1936: 515)
Replace "symbolical" with "semiotic" and you have a rather common statement about sign theory. "The affective nature of the attitude" on the other hand, seems as paradoxical as "the passionate nature of the desire", that is, two terms of Firstness are counterposed. From Day's (1876) definition of affection, it would seem that the affective nature of the attitude concerns the love/hate relationship towards the object of an attitude.
This point stands out more clearly in the treatment given to the way in which the social milieu enters into the formation of an attitude to give it its social character. This treatment usually is expressed in the declaration that the social milieu "defines" the relatively unformed activity of the individual. The responses of others to one's own activity are regarded as signifying the line along which that activity may go. Here the thought is that these responses of others give the individual primarily a "realization," "interpretation," or "meaning" which represents the way in which the object of his act is socially interpreted and the way in which that object is likely to be construed on subsequent occasions. Hence the individual's attitude or approach to that object becomes organized on the basis of the symbolic character of the object as that has been outlined by the acts of others. To view the formation of attitudes in this way is not, in my judgment, intrinsically wrong, but it does tend, as remarked above, to emphasize the symbolic feature and to minimize the element of feeling. (Blumer 1936: 515-516)
The social construction of attitudes. Basically this touches the way signs grow in the community - Peirce described it quite poetically. An example of "the way in which the object of [someone's] act is socially interpreted" is the way Aaron Swart's downloading of JSTOR's database content could be interpreted either as an act of felony (intellectual content theft), liberation (data belonging to the public domain should be publicly accessible), or research (the scientific data hosted by JSTOR could potentially illuminate the relations between corporations, scientific work, and global climate change). The critique here essentially pertains to viewing attitudinal semiosis either as a public or personal matter - when it is viewed in terms of how "the acts of others" organize the individual's attitude towards objects, or in terms of how intimate feelings, i.e. affect, contribute to the formation of attitudes. This distinction is quite relevant in discourse on racism, and whether it's a matter of sociocultural conditioning (mediated, discursive influence) or personal experience (unmediated, intuitive influence). (The distinction between intuitive and discursive is Peirce's.)
It is this feeling side of the attitude that I wish to single out for consideration. I regard feeling as being intrinsic to every social attitude, and, as such, as differentiating attitudes from other types of orientation which in terms of definition would be regarded as attitudes by many writers. Common usage seems to me to carry an implicit recognition of the affective element. Thus we speak of attitudes toward such objects as parents, country, races, group, and professions. Sentiments and feelings are involved in the relations to such objects. Contrariwise, we do not speak ordinarily of an attitude to such things as, let us say, pencils, chairs, or doorknobs. Certainly, to such objects people in our culture have defined ways of acting represented by tendencies, muscular sets, or orientations. But in common parlance such sets or tendencies are spoken of as attitudes only when they are marked by some feeling. Thus a person may dislike to use pencils, or an Oriental may have an aversion to chairs which he finds it torturesome to sit in. In these instances, one would, I think, immediately speak of attitudes. An affective element has entered in. It is the presence of this element which seems to justify one in speaking of a given orientation or activity tendency as an attitude. (Blumer 1936: 516)
In this, Blumer is extending the Humean (was it Hume?) connection between cognition of emotion (namely, that cognition is not free from emotion but always even in some minimal influencing it). The way he defines attitudes likens it to what we commonly qualify as "social attitudes". Gustav Jahoda's (2007) paper about the attitudes towards the New Guinea natives in the diaries of Malinowski and Thurnwald immediate comes to mind. A similarly minded study of social attitudes in scholars has been conducted by Wolfgang Drechsler (2009) on Cassirer, Jung, and Uexküll from the perspective of political semiotics. Much like Peirce's definition of the sign, Clay's definition of consciousness, and Day's definition of the affections, attitude is (here) defined as a type of relation to an object, characterized by a type of orientation towards, or element of, feeling. At the end of the day they're all constructing rational - in some loose sense, phenomenological - classifications of experience, and doing so in philosophical terms that have an extensive history (the "object" reaches back to Ancient Mediterranean philosophy, even - if I'm not mistaken - to very Ancient South- and East-Asian philosophy and theories of mind). "Dislike" and "aversion" are emphasized because they belong to the category of affect, that is, love and hate. In this particular example, when a peoples is forced to acculturate with unaccustomed cultural practices, they may come to resent these practices as a mediated feeling towards the "overlord". The resting practices are a limited case, but the illustration of sitting in chairs for early 20th Century Chinese, one could add the anthropological study of squatting, which is "un-learned" during growing up by nearly every cultural group except the Slavs and Sudanese. Due to sitting in chairs, the natural resting position of squatting is lost by way of muscle atrophy. The original author of that study (Hewes 1957) noted that it had a component of social attitudes: the squat was (and perhaps still is) viewed as "barbaric", common to "thugs", for example, at least in groups in cultural contact with Russians.
In the theoretical discussions of the nature of attitudes there is, of course, plenty of declaration that attitudes may be marked by strong feelings, and most of the testing devices, as I am familiar with them, proceed on the assumption of the presence of this character. Yet the general tendency is to think of feeling as an ex parte element which may be added to certain attitudes but which is absent from others; the essential part of the attitude is held to consist in its orientation, in the implied symbolic content determining its direction. Such a view I believe to be wrong. Feeling is intrinsic to every social attitude - it is not to be treated as an additional element fused into some symbolic structure which is to be regarded as central to, or as the corpus of, the attitude. (Blumer 1936: 517)
This is an alternative route to argument that feeling is First, along with sensations, emotions, affections, desires, sentiments, and passions (Day 1876: 55).
I am not concerned here with any serious effort to consider the peculiar role or function of the feeling or affective side of the attitude. I believe, however, that this role is quite important. It seems that it is the affective element which ensures the attitude of its vigor, sustains it in the face of attack, and preserves it from change. Common usage seems to have caught this recognition and given it expression in the popular realization that no change a person's attitudes one must change his feelings. (Blumer 1936: 517)
While Day finds the function of feeling important in general, or in relation to social attitudes and altering them, others found this function not only "peculiar" but particular, as in the sign-process (Peirce), or even more particularly in the functioning of the linguistic sign (Ogden & Richards, Bühler, Jakobson). The general idea expressed in this paragraph pertains to something germane to cognitive dissonance research, and its finding that rationalization impedes resolution of dissonance, as beliefs and conceptions have an emotional component, outside of the immediate control of the conscious mind.
My purpose, then, is to call attention to two phases of attitudes: (1) a symbolic aspect represented in the specific direction of the tendency, and (2) an affective aspect assuring the attitude its liveliness, its movement, its vigor, and its tenacity. (Blumer 1936: 517)
At this time it was common in America to consider the referential and emotive functions in tandem and with synonyms like symbolic representation and affective assurance. In some quarters (i.e. Susanne Langer, Charles Morris, etc.) this is embodied in the distinction between "signs" and "symbols".
This affective aspect of the attitude is not only slighted in definition - it has not been given due consideration in the discussions of the process of interaction out of which attitudes arise. Here again the treatment has been weighted heavily on the side of the symbolic content, stressing the formation of the attitude on the level of communication; i.e., in terms of definition or of the conveying of a meaning. Such treatment has not given proper recognition to the fullness and diversity of what takes place in interaction, and so has yielded, in my judgment, only a partial statement of what is involved in the formation of attitudes. (Blumer 1936: 517-518)
The interactionist of course stresses the interaction process. By the "nonsymbolic interaction" in the title of this paper, Blumer must mean the "insignificant" communication gestures that constitute the Conversation of Attitudes in Mead's parlance, and Communization in Morris's. In effect, the argument is one familiar from later contributions of the Chicago school in sociology, which culminated in the study of nonverbal communication.
While we have only limited knowledge of what occurs in the interaction between human beings, I think one can recognize that the process has at least two levels, levels which perhaps represent extremes, with different admixtures of the two in between. I prefer to call the two levels the symbolic and the nonsymbolic. Little need be said here of symbolic interaction, since this is the one phase of interaction which has been given a great deal of treatment in the literature, although with results that are none too convincing. (Blumer 1936: 518)
This limited knowledge pertains to the "subliminal" in Wake's diagram. While Blumer distinguishes two levels, Bühler distnguishes three, Malinowski four, and Jakobson six. The symbolic and the non-symbolic roughly correspond to Langer's discursive and non-discursive, and Peirce's discursive and intuitive, though "intuition" he had to restore to an earlier meaning.
It is usually what is considered under the rubric of communication where that term is used carefully and with circumspection. Suffice it to say that on this level individuals respond to the meaning or significance of one another's actions. The gesture of the other is subject to interpretation which provides the basis for one's own response. We may say, roughly, that at this level of interaction the stimulus-response couplet has inserted a middle term in the form of interpretation which implies some checking of immediate reaction, and leads, as suggested, to directed response upon the basis of the meaning assigned to the gesture. (Blumer 1936: 518)
This is, indeed, early communication theory, though much from the 1930s has been largely forgotten. In essence, Blumer attempts here to slip "interpretation" into the stimulus-response sequence, much like Jakob von Uexküll, and "central processing" in cybernetic communication theory (Jurgen Ruesch). This is broadlly Peircean, as the interpretant, interpreter, or interpretation is placed between the subject and object.
Interaction on its nonsymbolic level operates, in my judgment, in an intrinsically different way. It is marked by spontaneous and direct response to the gestures and actions of the other individual, without the intermediation of any interpretation. That there is involved a lively process of interaction of this sort when people meet is, I think, undeniable, although it is difficult to detect. People are unaware of this kind of response just because it occurs spontaneously, without a conscious or reflective fixing of attention upon those gestures of the other to which one is responding. (Blumer 1936: 518)
By "spontaneous and direct" he comes close to intuitive. In essence, he is saying that nonverbal communication is unthinking action, where the conscious processing of signification is a secondary aspect, a parallel process on another level. As later researchers verified, not only is it difficult to detect, it is difficult to formalize, structure, and treat in a precise manner. The lack of conscious or reflective fixing of attention upon one's own responses to another's actions is treated by Clay in terms of "unconscious equivalents of interpretations" (1882: 311), and - especially with regard to conscious attention - by vice-judgments (1882: 47).
It is this nonsymbolic phase of interaction that should be considered with reference to the formation of the affective element of social attitudes. It is from this type of interaction chiefly that come the feelings that enter into social and collective attitudes. (Blumer 1936: 518-519)
Notice that now nonsymbolic interaction is a "phase", meaning a passing period of time. Before it was a level. It seems multidimensional. The "formation" here leads us to social constructivism, particularly the formation of social attitudes. In other words, communication reifies beliefs and gives them a shared emotional ground. We're dealing here with what Malinowski meant by "social sentiments". Henry Day is an invaluable resource in this regard, as he defines sentiments as "feelings which are characterized either by intelligence or endeavor" (1876: 94).
They arise from the unwitting, unconscious responses that one makes to the gestures of others. To state this point is one thing; to prove it, another. However, I believe a good case can be made for the assertion, and an appreciation of its validity can be given, by considering the phenomenon of impression, especially the formation of first impressions. It is a familiar experience in meeting people for the first time to discover in oneself immediate likes or dislikes, without any clear understanding of the basis of these feelings. Something in the form of a spontaneous and undirected response has taken place, establishing a feeling and providing a basis for one's judgment. (Blumer 1936: 519)
E. R. Clay treats this subject extensively, as it regards the vicarious nature of consciousness: that there are subliminal processes, especially in the species of experience he calls Emotive Perception and Latent Experience (Clay 1882: 188). His account is accusatory: there are mental representations that appear to be conscious, rational, argued, known, but in fact are counterfeits of attention (Clay 1882: 3) such as advertising and propaganda which stick to mind despite will to put it out of mind, counterfeits of remembrance (Clay 1882: 75) which are not true memories but inferences from retrospection, counterfeits of observation (Clay 1882: 135) borne from introspection, counterfeits of selective deliberation (Clay 1882: 207) pertaining to ideology, and counterfeits of purpose (Clay 1882: 214) that pretend to be true and deliberated intentions. counterfeits of charity (Clay 1882: 352) known in Christian "superior" morality despite mediocre altruistic behaviour, and finally counterfeits of argument (Clay 1882: 384) by which he means a logical fallacies and false equivalences in particular. While Blumer's point is that judgments have an unconscious component, a beginning in Firstness, he's merely emphasizing the role of feelings. Clay seems to go much further than that, actually devling on different aspects of how our judgments form, and whether they have an internal origin in feeling or if they're substitutes for feelings that have pervaded our becoming, infecting us from without and giving us the false impression that they're our own making.
Even when one can give some explanation of his feelings in terms of traits of the others, most frequently the designation of the traits follows the having of the feeling. Seldom, I think, in the give and take of social intercourse, is the having of impressions dependent upon a prior analysis of the symbolic value of the other's traits. An individual who approached all his social relations solely on the premise of such a preliminary analysis would, I think, be exceedingly awkward in making adjustments, assuming that he could get along at all. The very nature of the impressions seems to me to point to their immediacy. (Blumer 1936: 519)
First impressions are fast unconscious evaluations of the others' character, and they cannot be explained with great precision because this type of understanding requires prior intuitive experience. Some emotions (especially blended ones) cannot be described well, and if one tried to approach others with a descriptivist method it might - as many, from Sapir to the ethnomethodologists, have pointed out - exhaust conscious energy (Henry Spencer) and lead one to stumble. (Frequent and/or continuous object- and meta-level concurrence or intervention is consuming and fatigueing.) In terms of "adjustment", Blumer precedes the integrationists.
There is presupposed here a direct and spontaneous response to others which analysis can show more easily to be unwitting than to be conscious. Such impressions, it should be remarked, are not trivial. That they provide the immediate bases for the direction of conduct is clear; that they are less readily changed than formed I think will also be found to be true. Their consideration suggests that it is probably the organization set up by unwitting response which is the foundation of social attitudes; it is such organization that has to be changed if any significant alteration is to be made in these attitudes. (Blumer 1936: 519)
Impression formation is indeed a playground of immediate interpretants. Though the people who reviewed first impression literature in the 1970s found that first impressions are indeed readily changed with more communicative contact and more dynamic consequent impressions. The organization of immediate impressions is the foundation of social attitudes.
This suggested relation of the affective aspect of social attitudes to nonsymbolic interaction invites further analysis. On its stimulus side nonsymbolic interaction is constituted, I believe, by expressive behavior; i.e., a release of feeling and tension, to be distinguished as different from indication of intellectual intention, which properly comes on the symbolic level. Expressive behavior is presented through such features as quality of the voice - tone, pitch, volume - in facial set and movement, in the look of the eyes, in the rhythm, vigor, agitation of muscular movements, and in posture. These form the channels for the disclosure of feeling. It is through these that the individual, as we say, reveals himself as apart from what he says or does. Expressive behavior is primarily a form of release, implying a background of tension. It tends to be spontaneous and unwitting; as such, it usually appears as an accompaniment of intentional and consciously directed conduct. (Blumer 1936: 520)
This parallel occurred to me when thinking about placing "meaning" or "interpretation" between the stimulus and response in the functional cycle (Uexküll). Namely, that stimulus palallels expression because they're both on the level of Firstness, but in "indication of intellectual intention" Blumer seems to be writing lyric poetry and in the process conflating Secondness and Thirdness. This probably makes it one of Peirce's degenerate categories? Blumer uses "channel" in the very technical sense, in what today would probably amount to "modality", i.e. sensory channel distinguished via perception/input and action/output "organs" or "devices". With the "background of tension" he seems to be perpetuating the psychohydraulic model of emotions, mixing the energetic aspect of behavior with the internal tension (or intensity) of emotions.
There is, I think, common recognition that expressive gestures are especially effective in catching attention and creating impression. Stripped of expressive features, the act of the other person is not likely to incite or inspire, is missing in dramatic qualities, and requires some coercion of attention in order to be held before one. All of us have had experience with discourse whose symbolic content may have been of intrinsic merit but which failed to gain attention and failed to make an impression. Likewise, to take a contrary example, we are all familiar with the speaker, orator, or lecturer whose display of interest and enthusiasm, whose use of dramatic utterance, and whose lively play of expressive gesture all combine to overshadow a meager symbolic statement. It is the overtone of expressive gesture which makes the situation fascinating and effective. (Blumer 1936: 520)
An aspect of why the emotive and phatic functions are conflated as easily as the conative and referential functions. This is Wake's vortex (a watex?) in operation: consciousness is intentional, and emotions spring from and tend towards latent experiences. Blumer's "overtone" is comparable, compatible, and combinable with Richalds' "tone", resulting in the notion that what makes someone's expressions stimulating, fascinating ad effective is the relation we have with them. This could be further developed in the direction of generalized social attitude in regard to phaticity: there are those for whom greetings, small talk and gregariousness are perfunctory obligations, and those who delight in the ritual and enjoy the pullulation of behaviour patterns. The plus and minus poles in this instance varies with the nature of the interpersonal relation.
Expressive gestures seem to enjoy a special uniqueness in gaining ready and immediate responsiveness. Speaking metaphorically, one might declare that human beings are delicately attuned to one another on the level of expressive behavior. They seem to be especially sensitive to such display on the part of others. Expressive behavior exerts a claim on one's attention; to ignore it usually requires some act of decision, some justification to oneself as to why one does not attend to it. (Blumer 1936: 520-521)
What is emotional communication or emotional contagion? What is empathy or sembling? Or communization, or a conversation of attitudes. It's where intuition connects Jakobson's emotive and phatic functions in non- and paralinguistic mediums.
The peculiarity of nonsymbolic interaction, then, is that on the side of both stimulus and response it is spontaneous, direct, and unwitting, and that it operates between the parties as a rapid and especially facile channel peculiarly congenial to human beings. Because it is expressive on one side, it is likely to impressive on the other. The disclosure of affective states on the one side seems to arouse and influence feelings on the other side. (Blumer 1936: 521)
We're dealing with hypersemiotic communication (Fiordo 1989). That it "arouses and influences" is congenial with Ruesch & Bateson's terminology, i.e. mutual awareness and influence.
It is my belief that it is just this nonsymbolic phase of interaction which has been ignored in the usual theoretical discussions of how attitudes are formed inside of a social milieu. The treatment, as suggested above, in so far as it has risen above the mere statement that there are action and reaction, has tended to treat this formation on the symbolic level in terms of the defining activities of others, or the conveying of a meaning to the individual, which gives direction to his act. And most sophisticated attempts to change or transform attitudes have followed this theoretical lead by placing reliance on a symbolic content which conceivably might yield the individual a new picture of the object in question. Yet it is my feeling that both this theoretical interpretation and the practical efforts based on it seriously ignore the affective aspects of attitudes. The feeling element is a basic part of the attitude and has to be changed in order to have guarantees of a genuine transformation. (Blumer 1936: 521)
The implication is that affect is a transformative, rather than stabilizing, force. Blumer feels that the affective aspect has been ignored, and proceeds with an attempt to direct or inspire the transformation of the situation. What are feelings without emotions? asks La Roux.
I think this change is likely to be made effectively on the nonsymbolic level and not merely seeking to convey a new interpretation of the object. We are familiar with the frequent futility of trying to change a person's attitude through some form of intellectual conversation. One may convince him in argument, yet his feelings remain untouched. He retains, even though in a pertubed form, his previous attitude, with the original orientation to action which it stood for. However, the disclosure of feeling through some form of expressive behavior readily touches affective states - awakening, setting, disturbing, or modifying them. (Blumer 1936: 521-522)
In cognitive dissonance theory terms, he is describing the phenomenon of trivialization. The term "modifying" should be doubly emphasized, because "modification" comes up in the discussion of feelings by Henry Day, and attitudes by Charles Morris.
These remarks concerning nonsymbolic interaction are tantamount to declaring that in group life there is a collective interplay of feeling which constitutes a milieu for the affective life of each one of us, and so for the development of our social attitudes. It is inside of such a texture of expressive behavior that our social feelings are nurtured - its absence leads to their impoverishment or decay. Our attitudes, or their affective side, are sustained through the reinforcement we receive from the disclosures of feeling in the expressive conduct of others. (Blumer 1936: 522)
Recent White House Office request for information on artificial intelligence contained the idea (from Respondent 31) that "Humans update their memory with every interaction" - thus highlighting the fact that "common memory" is an important (though frequently ignored) component of human communication, and that human-computer interactions are lacking common memory because our "conversations" with technology are not between mutually comprehending intelligences but that between a master and an unthinking slave. Respondent 31 is emphasizing the dynamic quality of human-computer relations, where much is to be wished for. Likewise, Blumer is here putting forth the idea that the affective side of our attitudes are socially updated through nonsymbolic interactions. There's clearly a pullulation of similar thinking here. But where the excrement figuratively contacts the ventilation is the "nonsymbolic" part of this formulation. While some emphasize the technology's ability to understand human motives, plans, and actions, others are working on deep learning application on multimodal media, which must - if mutually intelligible dialogues between us is to become natural - include our nonsymbolic interactions, bringing up the paradox of how to codify something so dynamic that uncodifyability is part of its logic. This would include not only human emotional communication, but also our aesthetic inclinations and semiotic creativity.
To refer to the expressive behavior of others as forming a collective texture is not to speak in idle metaphor. I should like to point out that expressive behavior is regularized by social codes much as is language or conduct. There seems to be as much justification and validity to speak of an affective structure or ritual in society as of a language structure or pattern of meanings. Almost every stabilized social situation in the life of a group imposes some scheme of affective conduct on individuals, whose conformity to it is expected. (Blumer 1936: 522)
Social Text is an actual journal title. The problem of codifying expressive behaviour is dynamic in this particular casue due to its multiple sources of influence: it can be regularized by linguistic traditions and innovations, everyday behaviour, cultural material, memes, and any of the thousands of channels through which "the objects of our minds" travel. The problem is partly social, in intergroup variety, but partly inexplicably reflexive and enigmatic.
At a funeral, in a church, in the convivial group, in the polite assemblage, in the doctor's office, in the theater, at the dinner table, to mention a few instances, narrow limits are set for the play of expressive conduct and affective norms are imposed. In large measure, living with others places a premium on skill in observing the affective demands of social relations; similarly, the socialization of the child and his incorporation into the group involves an education into the niceties of expressive conduct. These affective rules, demands, and expectations form a code, etiquette, or ritual which, as suggested above, is just as much a complex, interdependent structure as is the language of the group or its tradition. (Blumer 1936: 522-523)
Emotional expressions are regulated. Social relations impose affective demands. Socialization involves learning to express emotions in a socially regulated way.
The view which I am suggesting in this discussion is that social life in human groups can be viewed in one of its aspects as a network of affective relations, operating in the form of expressive stimulation and impressive response. It is this nonsymbolic interaction which seems to form the setting for the formation of the feelings which are intrinsic to and basic to social attitudes. My foregoing remarks are chiefly as a series of conjectures, but they will suffice, I think, to call attention to a primary phase of social attitudes which seems to be unduly ignored in current theoretical discussions. (Blumer 1936: 523)
Affective networks? This paper is 80 years removed from present, yet some parts of it read like something first published this year.

Vortex Philosophy


Wake, Charles Staniland 1907. Vortex Philosophy: Or, The Geometry Of Science Diagrammatically Illustrated. Chicago: C. S. Wake.

Some explanation should be given of the origin and form of the present work. In the year 1892, I was introduced to a gentleman, Mr. J. J. Van Nostrand, a member of the Chicago Board of Trade, whose bent of mind had led him to study the nature of "speculation." He was greatly interested in this subject, and after some years of inquiry and consideration there was formulated in his mind a system of philosophy, formulæ of which he published from time to time. In its latest form, it appears in 1903, under the title of "An Explanation of a Mechanical Philosophy," its illustrative diagram being headed "Sematology, a Natural Logic." (Wake 1907: 3)
More unacknowledged early Peirceanism? Sematology is the study of signs, just like semiotics, semiology, semasiology, semantology, and semantics.
It is difficult to say how far I have been indebted for the contents of these propositions to the writings of Spencer, Hegel and other philosophers. In my discussions with Mr. Van Nostrand, he covered pretty nearly the whole ground of philosophic speculation, and probably I am indebted, directly, more to him than to any single author. A certain similarity in matter, form and method between this work and his "Mechanical Philosophy" will thus be accounted for. But the two are quite independent, and so far as I can judge from personal explanations I have had the privilege of receiving from Mr. Van Nostrand, the system for which he is responsible belongs to a category of its own, dealing with the world of signs and being purely "logical," in the sense of being concerned only with thoughts and their verbal and other symbols as embodiments and expressions of troth; and being, therefore, so far as I can judge, supplementary to the systemization of physical and organic phenomena I have endeavored to make and to illustrate diagrammatically. Unless it may be regarded, in accordance with M. Ribot's views, as a representation of the organized knowledge of the subconscious factor of the mental constitution. (Wake 1907: 4-5)
Logic and semiotic are synonymous, as Peirce held.
Evolution, which is a general term implying a dual operation, is a process of constant "refination," a process by which things, in whole or part, are not only made smaller, but are made less gross or material. This is effected in the living organism by the breaking down of old material and its rebuilding with finer material. The smaller the particle the greater its vibration, or the smaller the wave the more rapid its undulatory motion. (Wake 1907: 7)
How does this compare to Clay's orderly concurrence of aptitudes?
taking the primal substance to have been ethereal, and assuming that only a portion of the substance was used in the formation of the elements, these probably took up or "occluded" in the course of their formation a certain proportion of free ether; which would thus not only form the basis of matter, but would also take an active part in the changes it would have to undergo through further segmentation and integration. In fact, all motory factors, such as the several "modes of motion," are combined with etheral activity, which is the real source and active agent in "evolution," as its material conjunct is the subject of the accompanying process of "involution." (Wake 1907: 7-8)
It's like finding out that the opposite of information, i.e. what gets occluded from formation, is exformation.
The living human organism and, therefore, every organism which has appeared from time to time in the process of terrestial evolution, is a seat of vortical activity. Vital action lies at the root of mental activity of all kinds, and this also must be regarded as vortical, the mind constituting a vortex on the psychical plane. This is equally true of the logical mind or faculty, to whose operation man owes his superiority over the animal world, all its processes being those of true vortex activity; the result in every stage of the process of evolution being the "refination" in which real progress consists. This refination has proceeded so far in mental operations that pure symbolism has taken the place of images as instruments of thought; supported, however, as pointed out by M. Ribot, by the "latent, potential, organized knowledge" of the subconscious. (Wake 1907: 8)
Fancy stuff.
The totality of nature is a vast vortex, each solar system within it being a sub-vortex; and everything in nature is vortical in operation, or partakes of vortical activity. (Wake 1907: 11)
Everything is either a system or an element within a system.
Diagrams I and II (see Frontispiece) represent the two complementary halves of a sphere of nebulous matter, the centers of the figures corresponding to the poles, which form the terminations of an axis passing through the center of the sphere; the figure in diagram I being the hemisphere in which energy, that is radiative differentiation (segmentation) is predominant, and the figure in diagram II the hemisphere in which force, that is concentrative intefration is predominant. (Wake 1907: 11)
Centripetal and -fugal.
An analogy subsists between the notes of the diatonic scale, which form a group or socius of musical tones (sound), and the color rays of the solar spectrum, which form, as a beam of light, a luminous socius; except that C, which is the opening note of the scale, answers to the invisible rays which exist between the red and the violet ends of the spectrum, and therefore should be represented by the mixed color gray. (Wake 1907: 14)
The etymology of socius is "companion" and "to follow", the analogy with notes makes sense. The space between the red and violet is The Grey Space.
Cubic Philosophy. The Cube is best figured for the present purpose by an isomeric projection, in which the three faces enclosed by the black lines represent the three visible sides of a cube, and the three faces enclosed by the dotted lines represent the three unseen sides of the cube; the projection may thus be regarded as a conmbination of two equal-sided figures. (Wake 1907: 16)
Likewise, the linguistic functions can be represented by a cubic projection with the three universal functions visible/distinct and the three particular metafunctions invisible/indistinct.
Although the six provinces of nature [elemental, physical, logical, physiological, psychological, and formal] form, as exhibited in diagram VIII, an organized whole, yet they may be arranged in two series of three provinces each, these being specially related among themselves, and the two series standing towards each other in much the same complementary relation as force and energy; each of which (as stated in Proposition 12) has a threefold manifestation, that is, as atomic, molecular and molar. (Wake 1907: 16)
Much like the three primary linguistic functions constitute an organic whole, and the para-linguistic [poetic], meta-linguistic [metalingual], and post-linguistic [phatic] functions constitute a series reflexive to the first (emotive/poetic; conative/phatic; referential/metalingual].
The relations between the several modes of motion are further exhibited in diagram XIII, which consists of four equilateral triangres, so arranged that the two center triangles form a parallelogram, of which the upper line is the line of atomicity, having teat at one extremity and chemism at the other extremity; and the lower line is the line of molecularity, having electricity at one extremity and the magnetism at the other extremity. (Wake 1907: 23)
Rööpkülik.
In the organic world the female is the special embodiment of the internal activity force, and the male is the special embodiment of the external activity energy. Hence, in the human species, woman represents the material form of the organism and man, as motory, represents its functional activity. But as matter and motion are inseparable, exhibiting themselves as force and energy throughout all the provinces of nature, both man and woman must embody both force and energy and therefore possess both male and female factors in some degree, although in man the former principle predominates and in woman the latter principle is dominant. (Wake 1907: 30-31)
That's a very eloquent way to express the sexist sentiment that women are and men do.
The psychical province, the representation of which forms part of the figure given in diagram VIII, is reproduced i diagram XV, consideration of the radiative factors in which shows that the chief psychical characteristic of man is doubt, the reality of which is investigation and its dynamic aspect discrimination; doubt being represented in the atomic field by pain, that is discomposition, whose dynamic aspect is difference, and in the molecular field by subjection, that is individuation, whose dynamic aspect is egoism. Woman, on the other hand, is characterized by belief, the reality of which is unity and its dynamic aspect assimilation; belief being represented in the atomic field by pleasure, that is association, the dynamic aspect of which is similarity, and in the molecular field by freedom, the reality of which is socialization and its dynamic aspect altruism. According to this summary, woman might be regarded as being more advanced psychically than man, socialization with altruistic harmony being the highest ethical aim of human life. But such is not the case; as man also reaches this ethical result and the more certainly than woman, seeing that his conclusions are arrived at as the outcome of intellectual investigation, and not through simple assimilation of what appeals to inclination, which is the usual source of woman's belief. Language as a method of organic expression belongs particularly to woman, but as an instrument of analysis belongs more especially to man.. The mental difference between man and woman is summed up in the fact, that while the former is essentially analytic in his mental action, induction being his chief distinctive logical faculty, the latter is essentially synthetic, her chief distinctive logical faculty being deduction; these being the opposing complementary expressions, in the ethical field, of the thought conception which man and woman possess in common. (Wake 1907: 32-33)
The saddest thing about all this is how much sense it all makes. Doubt → pain → discomposition → difference is reminiscent of Elaine Scarry's book. Subjection → individuation → egoism is a map to the formation of self-consciousness (sensu Mead). The most frightful series is of course pleasure (social pleasure and self-enhancement in phatic communion) → association (the bonds of union and ties of fellowship formed in phatic communion) → similarity (the outcome of phatic communion, i.e. communization). When Wake says that language is "a method of organic expression" for women, he is reflecting the neurological connection between the amygdala and speech areas in neurotypical women, and similar functionally asymmetrical inclination towards the motor cortex in men. The sexist theme in Wake's distinction between belief and doubt is women feel and men think. In this line of thinking, the "feminine" tends towards expression, beauty and relationships, and the "male" tends towards thinking, thinking about action, and acting.
The combination of the two sides of the woman's triangle reaching that of man shows, however, that she is capable under special conditions of attaining to mental equality with man; who sometimes, however, as shown by the extension of the sides of his triangle beyond the ordinary human plane, attains to special prominence. Similarly, on the lower organic planes, advance may, under special conditions, be made beyond the ordinary development of particulary races or individuals, a fact which is denoted in the diagram by the upward extension of the legs of the several triangles. (Wake 1907: 33)
I can't really make out what is said about the sexes in this sexist geometry: whether he means that women can be mentally equal with men and his diagrams go to show that sex, race and nationality are not significant to cognitive abilities, or that women can only rarely become mentally equal with men and and different groups have "evolved" varying degrees of intelligence. I really can't make it out, this English is as of yet too archaic for my full comprehension; reading these old books will hopefully improve my ability to understand late 19-th and early 20-th century discourse.
Gradually neuricity supersedes muscularity as the controlling organic factor, and functionally, therefore, man becomes creative rather than procreative, which is the chief function of animal life. (Wake 1907: 34)
Encapsulating the super-ideological overtone of MGTOW: while women are group-consensus oriented empathetic creatures who use language to connect with those around her, men are goal-oriented, active and outgoing, exploring, fighting, dying. In special conditions men can become hyperintelligent in ways not interesting or achievable to even most intelligent women. That real-world statistics support this rather sexist observation is indeed self-doubt-inducing.
Hence, refination, which is the mark of progress, is the first and last word in evolution. It depends, however, on the rhythmic operation of the principle of ratio, which finally exhibits itself as ratio-cination or logical reasoning. Evolution, thus, is refination, under the guidance of rationality, and its highest aspect is spirituality, which is the ethical outcome of human progress, exhibiting itself as altruistic freedom on the human plane and as religious aspiration on the cosmic plane. (Wake 1907: 23)
"Refination" is currently not in any online dictionary.
Mankind, coming last in the phenomenal procession of organic nature, takes the lead in the return to the primal source of power, in which the physical, organic and mental activities originated, and of which phenomenal nature is the projection. Here cosmic being realizes itself, finally becoming self-conscious through man and thus fulfilling the aim of evolution. Out of the formless, unconscious individuality of nature has been developed, perhaps through many eons of evolution, the formal, conscious personality to which the term "God" is applied; clothed with the etheral garment women throughout the ages by the experiences of all organic existences, and transformed by the mental, moral and spiritual activity of mankind, whose reason as the intelligence of radiative thought has become the concentrated intelligence of cosmic intuition. (Wake 1907: 34-35)
How does he know the goal of evolution? How does he know the mind of a cosmic being? I bet he thinks that's what he is.
(Tables A and B in Wake 1907)
These tables would be more useful if the accompanying discourse presented argumentation for such groupings, but I guess it's a puzzle to be solved. Only a minority of it makes sense to me at the moment.
(Diagram XVI in Wake 1907)
The final contribution of this book is something extremely valuable for my research in the history of phatics. Compared to the triangles of Ogden and Richards, and Bühler, this one is more complete in that it includes the gender-orientation I've only recently begun pondering. That the female synthetic force originates from the subliminal feeling (Esthetics), and the male analytic energy originates from subliminal will (Ethics). The real crux of the scheme is lower corner of the chombus, the subliminal origin of thoughts mediates between feeling and will. I would designate the lower quarter as Phatic, but this is because I cannot escape Jakobsonianism. For me, the left corner is Emotive, the right corner Conative, the upper corner Cognitive. While for Jakobson the Phatic function was sixth and rather irrelevant, for Malinowski and Richards it was Social. The implication of this scheme in this regard is that Thought (Psychics) originates from the Social (Phatic). There is ample discourse on this matter in the humanities and social sciences, especially in the sociologies of knowledge. In Jakobsonian light even the analytic and synthetic distinctions are sensible if you view Female (Force) Synthetic as the aesthetic function, originating from the crux of Social Feeling, and Male (Energy) Analytic as the metalingual function, originating from the crux of Social Ethics (i.e. mores, habits, cultural patterns and traditions, instructions; including technical language). These heretofore undesignated points on Wake's Diagram XVI basically amount to complement the Meadian triad hidden in the corners of the quarters. For example, the left corner of the general rhombus is the final self (the subject(ivity) itself, or La Barre's "hard-bitten but reality-taught conscious mind"), which acts as an arbiter between the immediate self (the self as expressed, or La Barre's social "person") and the dynamic self (the subliminal self, or La Barre's organic "person"). There is much to be written about Wake's diagram and how it can be meshed with other models.

cф 1880-1940


Spinning/Dancing
Waving/Drowning


The making of a shelf.

  1. Wake, C. Staniland 1907. Vortex Philosophy: Or, The Geometry Of Science Diagrammatically Illustrated. Chicago: C. S. Wake.
  2. Butler, Nicholas Murray 1911. Philosophy: A Lecture Delivered at Columbia University in the Series on Science, Philosophy, and Art. New York: The Columbia University Press.
  3. Carus, Paul 1902. Chinese Philosophy: Exposition of the Main Characteristic Features of Chinese Thought. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company.

last updated: 2016-07-16

Cultural accent


Jakobson, Roman 1980a. On Poetic Intentions and Linguistic Devices in Poetry: A Discussion with Professors and Students at the University of Cologne. Poetics Today 2(1a): 87-96.

Kasack: [...] You raised the rather difficult question to what extent we, as scholars of literature, may ask ourselves the question whether certain devices deviating from a rule or conforming to a rule - you clarified this very well yesterday - are used consciously or unconsciously. [...]
Jakobson: Thank you for this very important question. I should say - I believe I indicated this yesterday - that there are three possibilities - chance, a sobconscious activity and a conscious activity. I exclude chance here in this case. (Jakobson 1980a: 87)
At first sight these distinctions remind me of the tirad of similarity, contiguity, and continuity, but I don't think they're comparable categories (chance may pertain to similarity, but contiguity and continuity are more difficult).
Once a well-known French scholar of Slavic literature, Vaillant, said to me: "How can you imagine that the forms are really so complicated, if the people do not even realize what these forms are." "Yes," I said, "and what about those Caucasian languages in which there are eighteen grammatical cases?" The natives use these quite accurately, much more so than the scholars, who understand their meaning. At the same time, it is absolutely subliminal. I do believe we cannot exclude the subliminal. (Jakobson 1980a: 88-89)
The distinction between "descriptive" and "prescriptive" (or even "emic" and "etic") is relevant here. Estonians have 14 grammatical cases and I can't even name all of them, but I know how to use them correctly.
There are not only translations, but also transpositions into another art. This poem could be transposed into a painting - perhaps an abstract painting or, on the contrary, a painting in which you can actually see the young girl celebrated by Yeats as well as the heroes of the Iliad and Odyssey who serve as associative links behind the poem. However, something quite different will come out because the semiotic structure is different. It will be an intersemiotic fact. Transposition is permissible. A beautiful picture may even come of it. (Jakobson 1980a: 90)
"Associative links" may be Jakobson's term for literary allusions. (This concerns the referential function.)
I consider Blake's illustration of Dante very beautiful; however, it is not Dante, but something quite different. On the other hand, Yeats' poem could also be put into music or could be filmed. All these transpositions show that there is a common element in all these art forms. Something remains. Most of it is gone, though; I would not say it's lost, but it is altogether transformed. Thus, instead of "substance" I would rather speak of "the semiotic factor," something not exactly corresponding to a sign system, but, as it were, expressible in the most varied sign forms. This does exist. (Jakobson 1980a: 90)
Is it the kind of factor we could add to the scheme of factors?
But what we have got here is, I suppose, one of Sievers's brilliant ideas. It is the whole problem of the innate curves, these Becking curves, as he called them. These are physiognomical qualities to be found in rhythm, melody, in the most varied - one might say biological elements of language, of dialogue as well as of poetry. I am unable to understand why no further research in Germany proceeds in this direction. (Jakobson 1980a: 91)
The animality of speech. Compare to La Barre.
As far as the problem of "oppositions" is concerned, we are dealing here with a true binary phenomenon - the opposition of types corresponding with each other and types excluding each other; and these are matters of importance for the individual as well as for the social life - attraction and repulsion. (Jakobson 1980a: 92)
Approach and avoidance.
I suppose poets want to see something of the mechanism of their own works, and they learn a great deal in this way. Quite a few poets have testified to this. However, it goes without saying that no research into man creates a new human being. No research into poetry creates a new Yeats. (Jakobson 1980a: 93)
Concerning the connection between science and society/culture, as mentioned in the Cultural Semiotic Theses.
A poet's membership of a party is a subject that may be studied; I don't know whether this is one of the most interesting subjects, but I only deal with what is relevant for poetics; and this question is irrelevant for poetics. (Jakobson 1980a: 95)
This point seems to be missed so heavily by so many who have taken up Jakobson's scheme of linguistic functions. They're not communication functions, they're linguistic functions that pertain to language in poetry.
I have here still a few questions to which I ought to reply, if only briefly. I distinguish six essential functions of language according to the six elements of every speech act. The question then arises whether, in that case, I am right in referring to the inner logic of linguistic structures on which the hypothesis of the systematic character of language is based - this in view of the heterogeneity of the functions. I am much obliged to Mr. Lehmann for this question. The idea of the uniform system of language seems odd. Whether we assert anything about society or about language, a system is, as it were, a complex and manifold structure. When I examine the linguistic code, I use the adjective "convertible" in English, a term employed for cars (though there is no corresponding technical expression in German). If it is raining, a "convertible" is equipped with a roof and if the weather is fair, the roof can be taken off. This may also, similarly, apply to the linguistic system. Each linguistic function can become the dominant one. For example, the poetic function may appear as the dominant one, and then the utterance becomes imaginative literature. But the same function can operate together with another one that is dominant. When, for instance, an American foundation sent me a questionnaire requesting me to give my opinion of an applicant for a scholarship, the secretary asked me to express "my candid opinion" about the candidate. Most probably, the pun lay below the treshold of consciousness, and the secretary was not aware of the fact that "candid" and "candidate" are different forms of the same word. Many analogous examples may be quoted. The poetic function plays some part whenever we speak, but it is important whether it is a dominant part or not. And there is no simple accumulation of the six functions. These six functions, interconnected, form a very coherent synthetic whole which should be analyzed in every single case. (Jakobson 1980a: 95-96)
Thus, it would appear that most semioticians have put the cart before the horse. Jakobson emphasizes here that an utterance should be analyzed in terms of every single function and determine the function on the basis of empirical material. What semioticians do, on the other hand, is they begin with the scheme of functions and invent theoretical objects that these functions pertain to.

Jakobson, Roman 1980b. Sign and System of Language: A Reassessment of Saussure's Doctrine. Poetics Today 2(1a): 87-96.

I believe that one may conclude from the whole discussion on "arbitrariness" and "unmotivated" signs, that l'arbitraire was most unfortunate choice of term. 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 in the beginning of the 1880s. Kruszewski made a distinction between two basic factors in the life of a language, two associations: by similarity and by 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. (Jakobson 1980b: 33)
Not arbitrary but obligatory, got it. But what does it say about linguistic communities in general?
Actually we encounter two-dimensional units not only on the level of the signatum, as demonstrated by Ch. Bally, but also in the field of the signans. If we recognize that the phoneme is not the ultimate unit of language, but can be decomposed into distinctive features, then it becomes self-evident that we may speak in phonology too about two dimensions, (as we have accords in music), the dimensions of successivity and of simultaneity. (Jakobson 1980b: 34)
Just yesterday I thought about how I could elaborate Clay's theory of (in)distinctiveness. Jakobson's "distinctive features" might be a good starting point. One only needs to apply it on more general signs (than language signs).
This translatability 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 of a hen" belong to the text inventory of the English language community; the reversibliity of both expressions - "A male of a hen is a rooster" - demonstrates how the meaning of words becomes a real linguistic problem through a distributive analysis of such common metalingual utterances. (Jakobson 1980b: 35)
An addition to my metalanguage. When various authors attempt to define the phatic function, they are in effect constructing "metalinguistic identifying sentences" for identifying phaticity with some perceptible phenomenon.
Saussure's identification of the contrast between synchrony and diachrony with the contrast between statistics and dynamics turned out to be misleading. 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 may be useful to the investigation of language for specific purposes; however, an exhaustive true-to-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. (Jakobson 1980b: 35)
Permanent dynamic synchrony, one of his favorite topics.
Language is a system of systems, an overall code which includes various subcodes. These variagated language styles do not make an accidental, mechanical aggregation, but rather a rule-governed hierarchy of subcodes. Though we can tell which of the subcodes is the basic code, it is nevertheless a dangerous simplification to exclude the discussion of the other subcodes. If we consider langue as a totality of the conventions of a language, then we must be very careful not to be reseaching fictions. (Jakobson 1980b: 35)
It sometimes feels like phaticity is a research fiction. Is it a style of language? Does it involve a distinct subcode of language?
In the London school of mathematical information theory the cardinal difference was clearly recognized and the problem of communication was separated from other aspects of information. First of all, one must distinguish between two classes of signs - indices and symbols, as Peirce called them. 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. (Jakobson 1980b: 36)
That is, extracting indices (indexical signs) from the physical world is a form of "unilateral semiotization".
One should also take into account the considerable process of "recoding": in this case one language is interpreted in the light of another language, or one style of speech in the light of another one; one code or subcode is translated into another code or subcode. (Jakobson 1980b: 37-38)
Thus, recoding occurs also when the function of a sign/utterance is subversed.

Thomas, A. P.; Peter Bull and Derek Roger 1982. Conversational exchange analysis. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 1(2): 141-156.

Bales' IPA allows one to distinguish between the types of information that can be asked for and given, but does not allow the distinction between the types of information accepted and rejected. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 142)
Approach and avoidance.
In developing a set of descriptors by which speech is subsequently classified, there is always an implicit or explicit decision as to the size of the unit of communication to be categorized (Guetzkow, 1950). Making the decisions explicit through a set of rules ensures objectivity and enhances system reliability. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 143)
My own concern lies with the size of the communication system, i.e. level of abstraction.
The minimal unit of speech conveying a single thought or idea has been variously defined by a number of authors. For example, Wilson (1974) suggests a passage of speech with specific function, Longabaugh et al (1966) a smallest bit of action, Holsti (1969) a theme, or a single assertion about a subject, Penman (1980) a connected flow of behaviour with a single intent of illocutionary form, and Bales (1950) and Fries (1952) a simple sentence. However, in each case the method of extracting a single theme, or isolating a simple sentence in conversational speech is left unspecified. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 144)
Similar question about units should be posed for so-called "phatic utterances".
Conversational speech is coded in three distinct conceptual levels in CEA. These are: 1) Activity, which refers to how information is made salient in the interaction, such as, is the information asked for, or given, etc.; 2) Type, which refers to the sort of information exchanged, such as beliefs, past experiences, etc.; and 3) Focus, which refers to the referent of the information. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 146)
In case of so-called phatic utterances, 1) the information is not salient, 2) type is not restricted because one can "chit-chat" about basically anything, and 3) I don't even know yet.
The lack of fit apparent here between grammar and discourse can be handled by what Sinclair & Coulthard call the 'situation', where situation refers to the environment, social conventions, shared knowledge of the participants, etc. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 147)
The physical situation, social situation, and epistemic situation.
The Modify category is a specialised form of the Consent and Dissent category, when neither are particularly appropriate. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 147)
Approach and avoidance.
Phatic refers to acts that are similar to Offers in that it refers to speech that initiates conversation, but it does so by introducing information that is conventional and ritualised, such as 'hello', 'how are you?', etc. (Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 148)
Some authors are really bent on the conventionalization aspect.
A review of the literature, and the work of Bugental (1948), Danziger & Greenglass (1970), and Morley & Stephenson (1977) in particular, suggests that a third level of analysis is required, by which the referent of the communication could be classified. [...] Simmary of CEA Subject/Object Focus Categories:
  1. No focus is used when no explicit focus is mentioned in the speech unit.
  2. Self refers to when a person explicitly mentions his/her own attitudes, behaviours, etc.
  3. Partner is used when the speaker explicitly describes his/her partner's attitudes, etc.
  4. Both refers to when a person explicitly describes the attitudes, etc., of both him-herself and his/her partner.
  5. Other is used when the attitudes, etc., of another person or institution, not involved in the conversation, are explicitly described, e.g. the government, trade union policy, etc.
  6. Hypothetical refers to speech that explicitly describes the attitudes, etc., of a hypothetical person or group, and is typically characterised by the use of the referents 'one', 'people', and 'they', in the sense 'One shouldn't do that'.
(Thomas, Bull & Roger 1982: 151)
Wow. This is much more comprehensive than the classical I-You-It.

Mutt, Oleg 1982. Some peripheral (and mostly neglected) areas in the teaching of English conversation at the advanced level. Methodica: Acta et commentationes Universitatis Tartuensis 11: 79-83.

Since the 1950s the realization has gradually spread also among foreign language teachers that conversation is not merely the exchange of information by means of speech, but involves a variety of channels of communication that may be verbal or non-verbal, the latter both vocal nad non-vocal (Mutt, O., 1967, p. 460 ff.). In recent years an increasing amount of attention is being paid to such communicative actions as phatic communion, gestures and posture, facial expressions, eye-contacts, manipulation of proximity and physical contacts between participants in conversation, manipulation of voice quality, etc. (Mutt 1982: 79)
I'd say that this realization took ground in the early 1900s (e.g. Cooley) and sproad on from there, but I could be mistaken because I'm not all that familiar with 19th century literature. Though even Clay discusses nonverbal communication.
In this connection, one thinks immediately of relevant works by G. Kolshanski, T. Nikolaeva, M.L. Rutkauskaite-Drasdauskene, L. Jamanadze and others in the Soviet Union, and F. Papp, D. Abercrombie, M. West, W.J. Ball, R. Saitz, R. Quirk, D. Crystal and many others abroad. (Mutt 1982: 79)
The only ones I' know are David Abercrombie and Marija Liudvika Drazdauskiene.
Of course, there is no particular need for the foreign learner to replace his native vocalizations with those of English when speaking that language. It should be borne in mind, however, that the use of, e.g. ai-ai instead of ouch to express pain or discomfort has a strong "cultural accent" about it. (Mutt 1982: 81)
Heh. Yak (a Latvian Nex player) recently asked me if ai-ai means ouch in Estonian. I wouldn't have thought that Latvians say something different.
Another and more important feature of normal English conversation is the very common use of various so-called conversation sustainers (also known as conversational tags, tics, conversational lubricants, etc.). i.e. of words and phrases such as, well, you know, you see, actually, of course, in fact, I mean, etc. (Mutt 1982: 81)
Some would call these phatic utterances, others pragmatic markers.
M. West dealt with conversational sustainers (he called them conversational tags) in a humorous vein some years ago and offered the following definition of them: "Conversational tags are words used when one wishes to speak without saying anything" (1963, pp. 164-167). (Mutt 1982: 81)
Citation is missing, but this is: West, Michael 1963. Conversational Tags. ETC Journal 17(4): 164-167.
The present writer believes that the most important function of English conversation sustainers from the Estonian learner's point of view is that of filling in what are often awkward pauses. A recent contrastive study of the speech rate and pauses in the spoken English of Finns, Swedish-speaking Finns and Swedes has shown that there are considerably longer pauses in the English of Finns than of Swedes or of native speakers of English (expressed in percentage as 58%, 48% ad 40%, respectively, of the total duration of speech). This is largely due to the fact that Finnish students tend to be silent when other students used silence fillers like well, well now, let me see, just a moment, ah yes, etc. (Lehtonen, J. 1979; see also Pikver, A. 1981, p. 93). According to this piece of research one reason for the longer pause is that in Finnish speech on the whole there occur longer pauses than in most other European languages. Although there is no pertinent material at hand concerning Estonian learners of English, it is the present writer's subjective impression that most Estonians speak English with frequent unduly long pauses between words and sentences, and that this may have an irritating effect on the listener. (Mutt 1982: 82)
This came up in a thread about Finnish proxemics (there was a picture of a Finnish bus pavilion and how people were in an equidistant line), and some were actually surprised that Finns and Estonians don't interrupt each other as much (don't speak over each other) and have longer pauses between utterances. This may explain why ethnic Russians view Estonians as "slow".

Mutt, Oleg 1983. Some remarks about spoken English and the improvement of conversational skills at the tertiary level. Methodica: Acta et commentationes Universitatis Tartuensis 12: 53-60.

Conversation is the most frequent and most widespread manifestation of spoken language and it can, of course, take the most diverse forms: it may be between strangers, between acquaintances of various degrees or between intimates, it may involve the exchange of information, "passing the time of day", or simply be a form of phatic communion, i.e. the introductory, "ice-breaking" use of language (Quirk, R., 1962, p. 57 ff.). (Mutt 1983: 53)
Randolph Quirk's The Use of English is inaccessible at the moment. He seems to have a few pages about the topic.
Apparently meaningless words and phrases are constantly met with in conversation. They include such items as well; kind of; you see; you know; what I call; vocalizations like mm, er, whose function is to make the hearer feel at ease, to enable one to keep talking while one thinks of what to say next (the "word-searching" function). Such linguistic and vocal paralinguistic items are variously known as intimacy signals, silence fillers, etc. (Mutt 1983: 54)
Conversational tags, pragmatic markers, phatic utterances.
It cannot be denied that learning to conduct natural and spontaneous conversation in a foreign language is not an easy matter. Even with faultless grammar, pronunciation and a rich vocabulary a certain amount of "non-nativeness" remains. This non-nativeness is a kind of "cultural accent" which usually makes itself felt to the discerning (native) listener as occasional bookishness and/or over-colloquiality. (Mutt 1983: 55-56)
I experience this when conversing with Joe. No matter how flawless my writing and knowledge of English language, my English text will always have "something off" about it.
IN this context one should also mention the fairly widespread trouble our learners have with what might be called "openers" or conversational gambits, i.e. phrases used to get attention and to begin an utterance: Well, I'd just like to point out that...; It's my personal opinion that...; Well, as I see it...; Now, to my mind...; etc. (Mutt 1983: 57)
Phatic in the Jakobsonian sense.

Phatic TÜ


Lehiste, Kätlin 2013. Representation of gender in the dialogues of the textbooks English Step by Step 5 and I Love English 5. Masters thesis supervised by Raili Marling. Department of English language and literature, University of Tartu.

The qualitative analysis focuses on the social roles and settings the characters are presented in, the language used to present them and the language the characters use to address each other or talk about other people, which language functions - informative, phatic, directive or expressive - do the characters use, and which examples of polite language use can be found in their speech. (Lehiste 2013: 2)
These are in effect referential, phatic, conative, and emotive.
The number of utterances/components spoken by female, male and gender-neutral characters (such as, greetings, expressions of thanking and their acknowledgements, standardised expressions required for maintaining social relations (for example, 'Welcome'); language that accompanies and describes an act without carrying any information (for example, 'Let me show you to your room'); expressions complying to or rejecting directives (for example, 'Yes, sir')). (Lehiste 2013: 29)
This seems to go against phaticism 2.2 in Malinowski, e.g. "not in this case to connect people in action", but does reinforce 1.4, that "The meaning of any utterance cannot be connected with the speaker's or hearer's behaviour, with the purpose of what they are doing." The illustration of "Let me show you to your room" parallels the phatics of Anomalisa perfectly (I think the phrase is actually used in the movie).
The distinction between utterance and component is given above for the reason as described by Poulou (1997: 69) that one utterance could consist of many components, each of which may have a different function. For instance, the utterance: "Hello, can I help you?" (Kurm and Jõul 2008: 80) is made up of two components: 'Hello' and 'can I help you'. The first can be counted as phatic and the second as informational. (Lehiste 2013: 30)
So that's what "component" means. Basically a part of speech. This may help to reconciliate Reiss's (1981) contention that there aren't any "phatic" parts of speech. Several authors seem to think, on the other hand, that greetings and other such stuff constitute phatic language.
As can be seen from Table 7, informational utterances/components make up 171 (59%) of those counted in ESBS and they involve the lengthiest part of whole text (1615 words, 79%). They are followed by phatics with 48 (16%), expressives with 41 (14%) and directives with 32 (11%). (Lehiste 2013: 47)
Proof that Estonians are inclined to the backformation "phatics" because in Estonian, faatika sounds good.
Additionally, the teacher's use of phatic language (7) and a slightly more frequent use of directives (9) relate to her social role, which can also be a reason for why her use of expressive language is quite small (4). (Lehiste 2013: 49)
She, too, holds that there is such a thing as phatic language (or at least a subcode of language that predominantly fulfils a phatic function).
Considering social roles and settings, female and gender-neutral non-experts make a relatively large number of requests as customers in a pub, cafe or shop, and in such situations theyare also more likely to use phatic language in order to keep to certain social standards of public communication. (Lehiste 2013: 52)
Social upkeep. It's easy to see why some would generalize that "female speech is phatic".

Magnus, Riin 2015. The Semiotic Grounds of Animal Assistance: Sign Use of Guide Dogs and Their Visually Impaired Handlers. Tartu: University of Tartu Press.

Jakobson's classical functions of language encompass the following functions: expressive (directed to the sender), conative (directed to the receiver), referential (directed to the context), phatic (directed to contact), metalinguistic (directed to the code of the message) and poetic (directed to the form of the message) (Jakobson 1960: 353-357). (Magnus 2015: 22)
Here Jakobson's ambiguous "set for" or "Einstellung" is re-translated from the Estonian suunatud (directed towards <something>). It's pretty much the simplest, clearest equivalent. In the details it's actually a pretty murky business. For example, some Estonian semioticians like ta translate "set" as "setting" (sättumus, which doesn't have a good equivalent in English but amounts to something like a disposition towards something). The main problem being that "set" is actually the most ambiguous word in the English language - there are reportedly over 500 meanings for it. The precise combination used by Jakobson, "set for" is actually symptomatic, because it may play on the idiomatic be set for sth (millekski sobima), which would mean that the phatic function "suits for" contact. Or, he may just mean that the illustrations Jakobson brings (e.g. "Hello, do you hear me?") constitute a set of messages for contact (though it would be grammatically correct to say "a set of messages set for contact", which would make it redundant). I'm not even going to go into the whole Einstellung ordeal - I once saw someone write a whole paper philosophising about this concept in Jakobson's work.
If referential communication is, per definition, important for the guide dog team's movement - one needs to inform the other about the objects on the path and about their meaning - then the significance of phatic communication is less obvious and a question may be raised: why does the team need to pay special attention to this function? In terms of the reasons of the use of phatic communication, this is related to the specifics of guide dog work (the need for concentration, special tasks), but in terms of the origins of the function, this stems from the ability of dogs to make use of human like social skills. In principle, this is an instance of the partial adoption of an intraspecific communication system for the purpose of interspecific communication. In the past decades, several ethological studies have focused on the ability of dogs to attend to the communicative behaviour of humans (e.g. Hare, Tomasello 2005; Cooper et al. 2003). (Magnus 2015: 23)
By "in terms of the origins of the function" I presume she means Malinowski's phatic communion. Not only because Magnus uses the combination, phatic communication, but also because it could actually have elaborated the emotional connection between the dog and its owner, I think she could have adduced some value from Weston La Barre's treatment of phatic communication.
Phatic communication appears to be important to make the other responsive to referential communication in the first place. (Magnus 2015: 24)
Yup, it creates the groundwork for communication, opens the channel and enables a transmission of messages by invoking "willingness to communicate". This aspect could probably be elaborated by considering the two sides of the issue that Ruesch and Bateson bring out: mutual awareness and influence.
The presence of multi-layered umwelten brings along the need for the receiver to pay attention to the signs that indicate the context of the sender's sign use. As at one and the same time different contexts can be actualised, the authority of the source of the sign can be decisive while opting for one or another meaning (hence the importance of phatic communication). (Magnus 2015: 33)
In other words, maintaining the channel of communication is actually relevant for framing the communication, for the sign-situation to be mutually intelligible.

Pärl, Ülle 2012. Understanding the Role of Communication in the Management Accounting and Control Process. Academic dissertation. School of Management, University of Tampere.

Contact, the phatic function, is necessary to keep the channels of communication open. This function operating in human communication such that there is a physical (interpersonal) and psychological (intrapersonal) connection. It is also required to maintain the relationship between the addresser (sender) and addressee (receiver) and to confirm that comunication is indeed taking place. (Pärl 2012: 67)
I've never met this interpretation before. Jakobson's own phrasing goes "physical channel and psychological connection". If you look at the classical Shannon-Weaver model, then you'll notice that the channel connects the Transmitter (Encoder) to the Receiver (Decoder) "physically" because these are physical objects, but the Information Source and the Destination are people, who require a psychological connection (primarily intention) in order for the exchange to constitute communication. If the psychological connection were "intrapersonal" only, then interpersonal communication couldn't work. I like the terms intra- and interpersonal, but I don't think they work well here. As much as psychology is intrapersonal, if the psychological connection is intrapersonal then the channel connects you to yourself and it becomes autocommunication.

Tenjes, Silvi 2001. Keele žestilise päritolu hüpotees. In: Nonverbal means as regulators in communication: Sociocultural perspectives. Tartu: Tartu University Press, Publication 1.

Kõnel on neid funktsioone, mida tavaliselt ei peeta lingvistiliseks selle sõne otseses mõttes, kuid mis on sellegipoolest väga olulised ja mis järelduvad tema oraal-auditiivsest olemusest. A. Kendon nimetab neid faatilisteks (ingl phatic) funktsioonideks. Nende kaudu töötati kõnevõime rohkem läbi, enne kui ta võeti üle kui vahend sümboliliseks kommunikatsiooniks, mis on lingvistiline kommunikatsioon. [...] Mõiste pärineb Bronislaw Kasper Malinowskilt, kes tuletas selle inglisekeelsest sõnast emphatic - 'emfaatiline, (tunde)rõhuline'. Ta on öelnud näiteks, et "tervitused on faatilise suhtlemise osa, millega inimesed loovad liidusidemeid ja hoiduvad vaikusest, mis on alati koiatav ja kardetav" (lk 314). (Tenjes 2001: 18)
Pole veel näinud, et keegi Malinowski keskmist nime kasutaks (samamoodi olen vaid ühte näinud Bronislawi eesnimes poola Ł-i kasutamas). I doubt if Malinowski derived phatic from emphatic. The etymology of "pathos" makes more sense, and "empathy" is a relatively new concept (Tichener coined it in 1909). Though Malinowski does use the notion "fellow feeling", which is Mitchell's term for empathy. (I'll have to look into it more). As much as I can make out it is dealt with in Lecture VI and VII of Sir William Mitchell's 1907. Structure & the Growth of Mind. On the other hand, Kendon's understanding of phatics may be influenced by La Barre, since he attributes it to the phylogeny of language. (Sadly cannot find any of Kendon's papers cited here.)
A Kendon peab siin silmas kõnelise kommunikatsiooni faatilist funktsiooni (Kendon 1991: 8) - viis, kuidas häälduslikkust muudetakse, kui me arvestame üksteisega. Küllap on kõigil mõnikord ette tulnud vajadus teha pööre vestluse käigus - mitte seoses sellega, millest parajasti räägiti, vaid koosolu pärast, jagatuse pärast. A. Kendon väidab, et keele päritolu küsimuses tuleb sellele probleemile rohkem tähelepanu pöörata. Kõne kui selline võib olla läbi töetatud häälelisuse kasutamise arendamise käigus faatiliste funktsioonide jaoks. Kui sotsiaalne elu hominiididel oli keeruline ja muutuv, küllap siis pidi olema väga oluline ühenduse pidamine, pidev üksteise hoiatamine või muidu teada andmine selle kohta, mis kellelgi kavas oli või kuidas üksteisesse suhtutakse. (Tenjes 2001: 19)
Koosolu might be a suitable approximation for the problematic communion, for which there seems to be no exact Estonian equivalent. Otherwise Kendon's understanding of phaticity seems pretty much La Barrean.

Rääbis, Andriela 2009. Eesti telefonivestluste sissejuhatus: struktuur ja suhtlusfunktsioonid. Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus.

Faatilise ühtekuuluvuse (phatic communion) mõiste on pärit Briti funktsionalistlikust koolkonnast, mis oli kaasaegse sotsiolingvistika oluline eelkäija. Termini võttis kasutusele Bronislaw Malinowski: "keel, mida kasutatakse vabas, eesmärgitus sotsiaalses suhtluses" ("language used in free, aimless, social intercourse") (Malinowski 1972[1923]: 149). Faatilises suhtluses ei anna sõnad edasi tähendusi, vaid täidavad sotsiaalset funktsiooni. (Rääbis 2009: 15)
Ühtekuuluvus is also the word I settled on when writing my thesis plan in Estonian. It's not the best word, kinda clunky. And the Malinowski quote is of course 1.1. (First sentence of the first paragraph about phatic communion in Malinowski's supplement.)
Alates Malinowskist on faatilise suhtluse mõistet kasutatud sotsiolingvistikas, semantikas, stilistikas, suhtlusuuringutes; tüüpiliselt tähistab see mõiste konventsionaliseerunud ja desemantiseerunud diskursusetüüpi (vt J. Coupland, N. Coupland, Robinson 1992; Coupland 2000: 1). Selle termini paljudes käsitustes (nt Turner 1973: 212; Leech 1974: 62; Thomas, Bull, Roger 1982: 149; Hudson 1980: 109) domineerib negatiivne hinnang, faatilist suhtlust analüüsitakse kui referentsiaalselt puudulikku ja kommunikatiivselt ebaolulist. (Rääbis 2009: 16)
This "negative evaluation" is grouped under the theme of "pejorative" in my corpus, i.e. when someone uses the adjective "phatic" to describe something pointless. The references:
  • Turner, George W. 1973. Stilistics. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  • Leech, Geoffrey 1974. Semantics. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  • Thomas, A. P.; Peter Bull and Derek Roger 1982. Conversational exchange analysis. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 1(2): 141-156.
  • Hudson, Richard Anthony 1980. Sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kuigi faatilise suhtluse mõistet on laialt kasutatud, pole seda kontseptsiooni kuigivõrd püütud süstemaatiliselt täpsustada. Erandiks on John Laver (1975; 1981), kes pööras tähelepanu faatilise suhtluse suhteloomisväärtusele, eriti vestluse algus- ja lõpufaasis. (Rääbis 2009: 16)
Although the concept of phatic communication has been used widely, there are very few attempts to specify this concept systematically. That's extremely true. Besides Laver I can only think of Burnard, Žegarac & Clack (maybe), and that's about it.