The Grammar of Linguistic Semiotics: Reading Peirce in a Modern Linguistic Light

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    The paper presents a new typology of linguistic signs primarily based on Peirce’s sign conception. It is demonstrated that the fundamental simple sign, the symbolic nominal lexeme, has an arbitrary relationship to its object in order to make it omnipotent, that is, open to various possible interpretations and therefore capable of referring to anything within its own limits. Exactly because of the arbitrariness and the omnipotence of the repertoire of nominal lexemes language must have a grammar that can give a semiotic direction to the otherwise completely static sign (in Peircean terms: impotent) 'it cannot by itself refer, but must have a vehicle, a grammar. There is an obligatory choice between three types of grammar corresponding to the three ways in which a state of affairs exists in a communication situation: (1) the situation as such in a real or in an imagined world being common to the speaker and the hearer; (2) the speaker’s own experience of the situation; or (3) the hearer's own experience of it. This means that the fundamental complex sign, namely the sentence, is first of all an index; it is a prime index--it is either (1) a model of the situation, (2) a symptom of the speaker’s experience of it or (3) a signal to the hearer to find the situation behind the speaker's message. However, the individual grammatical signs found in a sentence have a double function. Besides their integrative function according to which the grammatical signs of dichotomic categories perform the role of an index, that is, they point to a goal, for instance, to the hearer, the individual members of the category perform the role of an icon, or its negative counterpart, in their differentiating function: They indicate whether or not there is a sign of equality, for instance, between the speaker's experience and that of the hearer. If there is a sign of equality-- their experiences match--then I shall argue that the goal pointed to by the semiotic direction is reached. If there is no sign of equality--their experiences do not match--then I shall argue that the goal is not reached. We will stay in the speaker, because it is impossible to find a matching experience in the hearer’s store of experiences. In other words, the static linguistic symbol needs an index that needs an icon (or the lack of an icon) in order for it to be properly decoded by the hearer. Furthermore, it is demonstrated that in addition to the level of naming objects (ensured by nouns) and situations (ensured by the verb)--the latter corresponding to Peirce's rhematic sign-- and in addition to the level of assertion--corresponding to Peirce's dicentic sign-- there is a third level at which verbal categories collaborate in order to make a deduction, abduction or induction-- corresponding to Peirce's argumentative signs.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalCybernetics & Human Knowing - A Journal of Second Order Cybernetics, Autopoiesis and Cyber-Semiotics
    Issue number3-4
    Pages (from-to)37-79
    Number of pages43
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


    • Bakhtin
    • Bühler
    • Jakobsen
    • Peirce
    • Sassure
    • Abduction and Induction
    • Arbitrariness
    • Deduction
    • Diagrammatic
    • Dichtomy vs. trichotomy
    • Experience
    • Icon
    • Index
    • Information
    • Relations Code
    • Situation
    • Symbol
    • Types of Languages of Grammar

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