A Phase of Decision

Sarles, Harvey B. 1970. An Examination of the Question - Response System in Language. Semiotica 2(1): 79-101. DOI: 10.1515/semi.1970.2.1.79.

The problem of relating language and culture, or of using the language as an entree into the inspection of nonlinguistic, cultural systems has various roots in both linguistics and anthropology. This theme was succinctly stated by Malinowski in the following form: "I submit that the linguistics of the future, especially as regards the science of meaning, will become the study of language in the context of culture" (1944: 5). The problems inherent in using the structure of language as an inroad to the study of culture are reflected in the works of Sapir, Whorf, and their students (Hoijer 1954). Whorf considers the grammar as molding cultural systems: "[...] that the linguistic system (in other words, the grammar) of each language [...] is itself the shaper of ideas, the program and guide for the individual's mental activity" (1932: 5). Sapir claimed that "'The grass waves in the wind' is shown by its linguistic form to be a member of the same relational class of experiences as 'The man works in the house'" (Mandelbaum 1949: 10). (Sarles 1970: 80)

McRaspberry (Gellner 1985: 7) being as insightful as ever.

'Wrong' questions also occur; i.e., questions are also embedded in larger contexts. What we usually mean by wit includes the clever use of 'slightly wrong' questions. Obviously this implies that larger verbal (or nonverbal) units form part of an interactional behavior. It may well be, for example, that the main 'function' of questions is to help maintain an interaction and has very little to do with information exchange in most situations. (Sarles 1970: 83)

"The asking of questions is obviously a masterly shortcut for the establishment of "phatic communion." (Burke 1937: 234-235)

In any actual situation, much of this is never expressed, since it is clear in context and would be redundant. But is it always implicit, and points to the likelihood that a 'program' is pretty much in effect in any Q-R situation - there are probably a small number of possibilities which may occur situationally. This sets up the possibilities for many types of joking or teasing behavior - and when this is examined it may yield more insight into how 'situational boundaries' are defined. It is quite devastating to be asked, for example, When are you leaving?, when you have no idea you were expected to leave. (Sarles 1970: 98)

Another way to introduce "unpleasant tension" into the situation.

Stanosz, Barbara 1970. Formal Theories of Extension and Intension of Expressions. Semiotica 2(1): 102-114. DOI: 10.1515/semi.1970.2.1.102

For the traditional and in many ways faulty concepts of extension (denotation) and intension (meaning, connotation) of expressions, a number of various concepts is proposed as their explicata in contemporary semantics. Each of these concepts seems to be a precisely equivalent of one of the meanings of the explicated word. (Stanosz 1970: 102)

Interestingly, connotation is identified with meaning, as in "The connotation of a word is the conception it conveys" (Langer 1956[1942]: 52), as opposed to "extended meaning" (Danesi 1998: 52).

The concept of intension with this property corresponds, no doubt, to one of the meanings in which the term 'meaning' commonly is used; namely, to this meaning in which, for example, it is sometimes claimed that an expression is the most meaningful to a person the more he knows about the object which the expression names. (Stanosz 1970: 106)

Here, extension refers to semantic knowledge and intension to total knowledge.

Sonesson, Göran 1999. The life of signs in society - and out of it: Critique of the communication critique. Sign Systems Studies 27: 88-127.

Cultural semiotics, as conceived by the Tartu school, seems to be concerned mainly with obstacles to communication; something which is a "text" in the culture (or non-culture) of the sender becomes a "non-text" in the culture of the receiver; or it becomes a text only being read by means of another "code" which, at least initially, leaves it deformed. (Sonesson 1999: 88)

It may have something to do with the Formalist idea of artistic texts being more difficult and offering more resistance to the reader than prosaic messages in practical language. New information is borne out of this difficulty - it's a way of creating a "C-space" in Eco's nomenclature (cf. Violi 2007: 70).

This practice has produced at least two symmetrical, equally negative, consequences: by reducing all kinds of semiosis to the mass media kind, in particular to that employed by radio and telegraphy, we become unable to understand the peculiarity of more direct forms of communication; and by treating all semiosis as being on a par, we deprive ourselves of the means to understand the intricacies added to direct communication by means of different varieties of technological mediation. Taken together, this means that we dispose of no way of explaining the effects of the multiple mediations having accrued to the immediately given world of our experience in the last century. Beyond this, we may even discover a third, even more serious consequence: by projecting the communication model onto each and every form for conveying meaning, we lose sight of that which is really common to all kinds of semiosis. (Sonesson 1999: 89)

This is exactly what I call communicationalization. In recent readings I have documented it in the realms of film (Worth 1969: 283) and DNA (Battail 2008: 224), including a similar remark about its harmfulness in this journal (Tarasti 1998: 118).

The identification of communication with transport is probably suggested by the spatial layout of the diagram itself, rather than by the media modelled. Or it may have some even deeper source, as suggested by Reddy's (1979) well-known analysis of the "conduit metaphor" (which, if we are to believe McNeill's (1994) study of the relevant gestures, only occur in Western countries). Interestingly, the transport model of communication was criticised already in 1929 by Voločinov (1986), well before it was embodied in the mathematical theory of communication. (Sonesson 1999: 90)

The identification is much older and perhaps even etymological, e.g. water and rail communication (cf. Neuman & Nave 2008: 101).

Curiously, in Bakhtin's own texts, and in many passages of the Voloshinov texts also, dialogicity implies very little activity, or at least an activity of a very one-sided kind: one person quoting (and often qualifying) something said by another, normally in written form, which leaves very little possibility for one quoted to react. (Sonesson 1999: 91)

Thus, Bakhtinian dialogicity (at least from I gather here) is a form of meta-communication (in the diachronic sense employed frequently in Tartu) or "chronocommunication" (Battail 2008: 224).

In order to make sense of dialogicity (not necessarily Bakhtin's sense), we have to think of communication, not as a single, delimited act, close to a specious present, but as an extended stretch of behaviour, in which several acts take place and are reacted to, and meaning is continuously renegotiated. It is precisely because we accept too easily this view of meaning as a single, short act of give and take, that examples such as Voloshinov's "Well" (1983a) and "H'm" (1983b: 124ff), [|] Grice's (1989: 93ff) 43 cents at the tobacconist's and Sperber & Wilson's (1983: 55) smell of gas seem to make nonsense of the rules-governedness of communication and establish meaning as something ineffable. (Sonesson 1999: 96-97)

Two points. Firstly, "specious present" is Clay's most famous terminological invention (cf. Clay 1882: 168-169), which appears in odd places (e.g. Priest 2018: 152). Secondly, could Voloshinov's "Well" be the reason Jakobson chose Dorothy Parker's "Newlyweds" to illustrate the phatic function? Voloshinov, Valentin Nikolaevich 1983a. Discourse in life and discourse in poetry. Bakhtin School Papers. Russian Poets in Translation. Oxford, 5-30. (GB) Also, rule-governedness is unwellformedness.

The temporal presupposition entails another one: before the moment of sending, there is a subject making a decision to send. This is very clear in the case of the telegraph and other technological means: one must decide to go to the telegraph station or to open the Fax software on the home computer. There is much less clearly a preparatory stage, a phase of decision which can be separated from the act of sending, in ordinary verbal conversation, gesture, and so on. But can a subject not making the decision to send before sending properly be called a sender? (Sonesson 1999: 97)

A phrasal synonym for Eco's "C-space".

Quite apart from the distinction between machines and man, however, we really need to have more instances, not less, in order to account for the complexities of sending and receiving. Several subjects are involved in the sending of a book: the writer, the editor, the editorial board, the proof-reader, the typesetter (nowadays largely identical with the writer in front of his computer), the enterprise doing the distribution, the critique, the bookseller, the one who buys the book as a present, etc. (Sonesson 1999: 98)

One of my personal hypotheses as an avid reader of historical texts (throughout the 20th century, at least) is that the overall quality of writing has diminished significantly ever since this intermediary was lost. The proof-reader may notice some errors, but so did typesetters, who had the parse the text from scratch before considering it finished. IMO all academic writings have become more error- and typo-prone ever since the advent of computerized text editors, with which a text written up once is basically finished. Also, note that this whole chain of communication can be added/appended to that of Jakobson's overhearing a couple on board a train and then passing the message on in writing.

Dan Sperber (1982) has taken exception to these parallels: while circulation is a constitutive factor of the kinship system, it is only an accidental property of language, which is essentially a repertory of messages; and when information has circulated for a sufficient time, we will all be in possession of it, but a woman or a horse which is exchanged is lost for the donor; and while language signifies by means of a code, women only acquire meaning by means of the attention being directed to them. (Sonesson 1999: 101)


The distinction between temporally bound and temporally free types is not identical to the one which Goodman (1968) makes between autographic and allographic arts. Among the temporarily bound typicalities previously mentioned, the verbal text is allographic, whereas the visual work of work is traditionally autographic; in other words, the art work, but not the work of literature, is defined as to its identity as well as its value by our inherited social practice by means of its temporary association to the first exemplar created by a certain individual. This is why we do not have to queue up in front of the Stockholm National Library to read the only exemplar of "Röda Rummet" written by Strindberg, while a similar conduct is expected of us in the case of a work of visual art. (Sonesson 1999: 106)

Just recently learned of "alloscopic vision" (Brandt 2007: 52). Henceforth recording such auto- and allo- distinctions. From: Goodman, Nelson 1968. Languages of Art. London: Oxford University Press.

So we can postulate some kind of Ursituation in which the leaders of the tribe decided (probably not very explicitly) to wear their cloths in such a way that they are differentiated [|] from members of other tribes. (Sonesson 1999: 109-111)

Didn't know I needed this word, but I do. "The stranger" sequence in phatic communion is an "Ursituation".

The point is not whether Morris understood Peirce correctly. The problem really begins when Morris's tripartition is taken over by Carnap: the third part becomes what Bar-Hillel has characterised as "the pragmatic waste-basket", the place where you put problem you cannot or will not resolve. It seems to me that, even today, after Grice and Searle, pragmatics essentially remains as "waste-basket". In order to get rid of this overflowing waste-basket, however, we may have to tolerate a little more disorder on the desktop. (Sonesson 1999: 112)

My hope is that reading enough Transactions will yield a coherent sense of Peirce's pragmatics/pragmaticism, but this may be in vain. On the other hand I don't see how semantics and syntactics, as such, are less "waste-basket-y" than pragmatics.

The first example offered by Voloshinov (1983a: 10ff; cf. 1986) involves two persons sitting together in the room in silence, whereupon one of them utters the single word "Well", without receiving any answer from the other. Taken in isolation, Voloshinov claims, this utterance is completely void and meaningless. Even if we add that the intonation of the word was indignantly reproachful, but softened with a touch of humour, we are not much advanced. In order to interpret the utterance, we have to acquire knowledge about the spatial purview common to both speakers, as well as of their common knowledge and [|] understanding of the circumstances, and their evaluation of those circumstances. In this case, it so happens that they are seated in front of a window, and that when looking out of it they discover that it is snowing. They both know that it is May, which, in Russia, means that they are in their right to expect spring to begin. Finally, they are both longing for the beginning of spring and they are sick and tired of winter. Given these circumstances, Voločinov maintains, the meaning of the utterance becomes completely clear. (Sonesson 1999: 116-117)

Alas, there is a connection between the "Well" and the classical example of a linguistic utterance - "It rains." (in Bühler and Gardiner, for example.)

Kull, Kalevi 1999. On the history of joining bio with semio: F. S. Rothschild and the biosemiotic rules. Sign Systems Studies 27: 128-138.

When discovering Jakob von Uexküll for the field of semiotics, T. Sebeok has called him a cryptosemiotician. This is a class fo semiotists, "who need themselves to become aware of the perspective that semiotic affords or whose work needs to be by others reclaimed and re-established from within that perspective" (Deely 1990: 119-120; Rauch 1983). Can we say that now we have a similar situation with Rothschild? Seemingly not, since he knew semiotics and applied it; there was simply no information exchange between him and other biosemioticians. Accordingly, we need to add a fourth class (in addition to the proto-, crypto- and ordinary semioticians) to Rauch's (1984) classification - the endemic semioticians. This is a branch of normal good scientists, about whom nobody in the field knows. Or a [|] small scientific group, who are developing the field of their own, publishing in journals which are not read by their colleagues in other countries. (Kull 1999: 129-130)

Define: endemic - "regularly found among particular people or in a certain area"; "native or restricted to a certain place".

A conference "The Psychology of the Self", held by the New York Academy of Sciences in 1961, included a paper by Rothschild, in which he directly uses the semiotic approach of Ch. Morris, and introduces the term 'biosemiotic'. In semiotics, he sees the way to a non-cartesian approach: "The concept of the symbol shows the way to overcome René Descartes' partition of man into the self as res cogitans and the body as res extensa. In the symbol psychological meaning and physical sign appear as a unit" (Rothschild 1962: 774). (Kull 1999: 131)

Rotschild, Friedrich Salomon 1962. Laws of symbolic mediation in the dynamics of self and personality. Annals of New York Academy of Sciences 96: 774-784. DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1962.tb50161.x

Shields, Allan 1967. F. C. S. Schiller: An Unpublished Memorial by John Dewey. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 3(2): 51-54.

Schiller's first noteworthy essay in logic showed his sensitiveness to contemporary intellectual movements. The idea that axioms are postulates, are resolutions and demands, rather than self-evident truths or necessary first truths, has become since he wrote more or less of a commonplace. Its recognition among professional philosophers was a novelty when Schiller first put forward his essay. (Dewey 1937; in Shields 1967: 52)

Schiller, thus, opposed the view held by Clay, for example: "According to this definition, axioms and objects of perception are evident, - contain evidence of their own truth, - are self-evident" (Clay 1882: 50). For some extra context, see also Broyles 1965: 85, Werner 1969: 332; and Wykoff 1970: 59.

The canon of the necessity of context is fundamentally a derivative from his conviction that pure form is meaningless; that form is always the form of a subject-matter. The negative phase of his criticism is that purely formal logic is [|] condensed to inconsistency since it defines judgment and propositions in terms of truth-falsity while "truth" and "falsity" are meaningless apart from subject-matter. Its positive expression is the significance of relevancy. The two phases are, of course, necessarily connected. As Schiller wrote, "The central doctrine of the most prevalent logic still consists in a flat denial of Relevance and of all the ideas associated with it." (Dewey 1937; in Shields 1967: 52-53)

Is the pragmatic Relevance Theory (cited in Žegarac & Clark 1999) a reaction to (positivist) logic?

Megill, Kenneth A. 1967. Peirce and Marx. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 3(2): 55-65.

Perhaps the most significant result of the new interpretation of Peirce has been to show that the pragmatic position is inextricably tied up with a radical kind of realism. In order to make sense out of Peirce's cosmology, theory of signs and even his logic, it is essential that we accept a radical realism. Realism involves the assertion that there is a reality indepnedent of the human consciousness, but in Peirce's radical formulation a true realism also requires asserting that man lives in community. (Megill 1967: 56)

This evaluation is quite a long ways away from the previous one, stating that Peirce's philosophy was in the main "an odd sort of conceptualism" (Murphey 1965: 14).

Only in community with others can the true individual be found for only in a community can the alienation be overcome which is present in modern society.
Human emancipation will only be complete when the real, individual man has absorbed into himself the abstract citizen; when as an individual man, in his everyday life, in his work, and in his relationships, he has become a species-being [Gattungswesen, or communal man] and when he has recognized and organized his own powers as social powers so that he no longer separates the social power from himself as political power. (EW, p. 31)
For Marx, the crude materialists and the utopian socialists had insisted on making the community into an ideal which was to be striven for but which had no real force in the world. (Megill 1967: 57)

This is eerily reminiscent of something C. Wright Mills wrote in The Sociological Imagination, on the topic of individual problems being simultanously public problems: "to remain independent, to do one's own work, to select one's own problems, but to direct this work at kings as well as to 'publics.' (Mills 2000[1959]: 181).

A similar position is expressed by Marx, with particular clarity in his earlier writings. In true communism science becomes concrete and man becomes a scientific being.
Natural science will then abandon its abstract materialism, or rather idealist, orientation, and will become the basis of a human science, just as it has already become - though in an alienated form - the basis of actual human life. One basis for life and another for science is a priori a falsehood. (EW, p. 164)
Communism "as a fully developed naturalism is humanism and as a fully developed humanism is naturalism" (EW, p. 155). (Megill 1967: 59)

Modern biosemioticians would probably nod in agreement.

Lowrey, Christopher H. and Priya Venkatesan 2008. Making Science Accessible: A Semiotics of Scientific Communication. Biosemiotics 1(2): 253-269. DOI: 10.1007/s12304-008-9017-1

Contributions have stipulated that scientific communication does not "meet the public" due to its complexity and to the inherent self-organizing principle of society that engenders a hyper-reflexive mode of organization (Leydesdorff 1993). Leydesdorff elaborated on a proposal for a sociological theory of communication in order to define more clearly the interface between science and the public and he maintained that the specialized sciences communicate 'truth' in a jargon that cannot be communicated to a larger audience without previous translation (Leydesdorff 1993: 352). Mediators, it has been argued, are necessary for communication between science and the public. (Lowre & Venkateson 2008: 254)

I've participated in casual conversations about this problem. Should scientists start communicating more with the public and not fear simplifying their findings to convey a more accurate picture than mediators are able?

However, current explanations for why the methods of science are not understandable to the public do not address why literary fuction, for the most part, reaches the literate public on cognitive, social and emotional dimensions, even though a fictional novel can sometimes be as obscure as the most dry of scientific texts (consider the fiction of William Faulkner and Samuel Beckett); and, literary criticism rarely delves into an analysis of the potential inaccessibility of literature or the public understanding of literary texts. (Burns et al. as much articulated that science communication is effective if it inspires as does reading a great book, or entertains as listening to a fine piece of music.) (Lowre & Venkateson 2008: 255)

"Keeltemaja trepil kehtasin oma kunagist filosoofiaõppejõudu Rem Blumi, kes mõistis kohe mu seisundit ja pakkus üllatavat lohutust. Ta väitus, et ka kõige parema loengu informatsiooniline väärtus läheneb nullile. Ainul, mis üliõpilases püsima jääb, on õppejõu suhtumine ainesse." (Torop 1999: 365)

If one can proffer the thesis, as stated earlier, that language is a system of values established by pure difference, semiotics can offer a perspective that can distill the apparent complexity of the paper. (Lowre & Venkateson 2008: 263)

While well-meaning, the authors employ the designation, "semiotics", when the proper designation would be "semiology" - Saussure and Greimas represent, as Sebeok dubbed it, the "minor tradition" of the study of signs (cf. Petrilli & Ponzio 2008: 26).

Riese, Thomas 2008. On the Real Possibilities of Continuity. Biosemiotics 1(2): 271-279. DOI: 10.1007/s12304-008-9013-5

Intuitively, we would usually conceive our contemporary logic as "symbolic logic". So it is quite surprising that the "diagrams" in the title of the book prove to be central and fundamental structures of Peircean semiotics. Diagrams are an iconic type of signs and icons function as signs due to some sort of similarity between themselves and their objects. Diagrams, in turn, are a special sort of iconic signs, which represent the internal structure of their objects in terms of interrelated parts. [↩] Why diagrams, unexpectedly, play such a prominent role, is explained by Peirce in a likewise amazing way: icons are the only kind of signs that can impart evidence. Diagrams thus prove to be key features not only for an understanding of Peircean logical realism, but, still further, of the very foundations of Peirce's thinking in general. (Riese 2008: 271)

Professor Heiskala spoke of this (and the ongoing process of bringing Peirce's diagrammatical logic to the general public) a few years ago when he visited Tartu. I shall keep a keener eye on the role of icons and diagrams henceforth when reading the Transactions.

Originally the notion of form was introduced within the context of the medieval universalia dispute by John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) in order to defend his position of scholastic realism. Formal distinctions are entia rationis and as such intermediate conceptions "more than logical but less than real". Together with an admitted existence of "real possibilities" they are shown by Stjernfelt to be essential keys for Peircean realism which in turn proves to be decisive for the connection of his "true continuity" with diagrammatical iconicity. (Riese 2008: 272)

Good to know for the next time the form/content distinction or something like it comes up.

The true import of Peirce's "diagrammatical reasoning" far surpasses mere rule-based transformations. This is put into a surprisingly clear light in Hintikka's discussion of Peirce's distinction of "corollarial" vs. "theorematic" reasoning. Corollarial reasoning refers to immediate, fixed rule based consequences, whereas theorematic reasoning requires the introduction of objects that are not explicitly referred to in the premises. (Riese 2008: 272)

First I'm reading about these distinctions, but then again Peirce had so many distinctions. Is corollarial reasoning based on the leading principle? (cf. Cheng 1966: 86-87)

As an aside I would like to add a reference to Hans Vaihinger's "Philosophy of As If" as a Neo-Kantian version of the idea of theorematic reasoning. Vaihinger demonstrated in numerous instances the important function of fictions in reasoning. This is insofar interesting as Vaihinger shows that auxiliary constructions may even be deliberately so chosen as to be 'known to be false'. There is certainly a kinship to Pragmatism here and maybe, as an interesting field for further research, there might even found some connections to Peirce's idea that reasoning processes prove to be self-correcting. (Riese 2008: 272)

Also the first reference to Vaihinger I've met in my readings; he has thus far only come up because Ogden translated The Philosophy of 'As If' (cf. Sebeok 1998: 32).

Hénaff, Marcel 2008. The Mythologiques: Between linguistics and music. Cognitive Semiotics 3: 20-35. DOI: 10.1515/cogsem.2008.3.fall2008.20

Something that he never formulates explicitly, nor even seems to consider, and which yet constitutes the foundation of his new approach. What then? The following: the proposed identification between myth and music considered the mythical narrative as a symbolic device, i.e. as an operating device which aimed at producing an effect, and not as a discourse aiming at formulating an utterance. It is this implicit choice that is confirmed by Lévi-Strauss' own hypothesis, according to which myths are in a reciprocal relation of transformation (in the specific sense that he attributes to this concept) and that, just like variations in music, they interpret each other - or translate each other - by producing new versions. (Hénaff 2008: 21)

An affinity between Lévi-Strauss' myth and Lotman's text: both generate new meaning/information.

He dismissed the psychological explanations, according to which myths were expressions of our fundamental feelings and of our inner conflicts, as well as the purely sociological explanations, which assumed that myths only reflect the conditions and contradictions of a social group (even if this can make up one of the dimensions of myths), or even the symbolist interpretations, which claimed that myths express archetypes of human nature. He refused just as much the rationalist reductions, which turn myths into imaginal and somewhat naive transposotions of natural phenomena. Finally, he strongly questioned the functionalist theories, according to which myths would first and foremost translate the material needs of individuals and groups. (Hénaff 2008: 22)

Aren't these descriptions reductions of the approaches they are supposed to signify?

Between the two forms, however, there is a fundamental difference of application: "Just as music makes the individual conscious of his physiological rootedness, mythology makes him aware of his roots in society. The former hits us in the guts; the latter, we might say, appeals to our group instinct. And to do this, they make use of those extraordinarily subtle cultural mechanisms: musical instruments and mythic patterns. (Hénaff 2008: 29)

Spencer and his contemporaries argued about the social instinct. What this group instinct is supposed to be, I do not know.

Sørensen, Jesper 2008. Magic among the Trobrianders: Conceptual mapping in magical rituals. Cognitive Semiotics 3: 36-64. DOI: 10.1515/cogsem.2008.3.fall2008.36

The Intellectualist understand magic as an intellectual and rational procedure based on wrong premises. In Sir James Frazer's version, mafic is the misapplication of the association of ideas, expressed in the law of similarity and the law of contagion (Frazer 1993[1922]). That is, magic is the erroneous connection of entities based on similarity and contagion. As will be evident, there is a clear connection from this proposition, over Roman Jakobson equation of similarity to metaphor and contagion to metonymy (Jakobson & Halle 1956), to current cognitive theories of metaphor and metonymy. (Sørensen 2008: 37)

I wonder if the assumption that communication must be about the transfer of ideas can be called intellectualist?

Malinowski made his field study between 1915 and 1918, and the present analysis uses this material without considering possible cultural changes. The paper will use "the ethnographic present tense" as referring to the population and their culture at that time. (Sørensen 2008: 52)

Should a similar device be employed when treating the anthropological theories from that time? (A (meta-?)theoretical present tense?)


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