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The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 29, Issue 1/4, 2013
Language and Culture: Semiotic Vistas

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Displaying: 1-8 of 8 documents

1. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1/4
Nathan Houser, Signs and Survival
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The themes of SSA 2006, “The Future of Semiotics”, and of SSA 2007, “Semiotics and Survival”, are linked by an initial consideration of the prospects for the survival of semiotics as a discipline. Since its separation from philosophy in the United States in the mid-twentieth century and its founding as a separate multi-disciplinary study, semiotics has faced an uphill battle for acceptance in the academy. The pervasive dogma of physicalism, which rejects outright the idea of semiosis as non-reducible to physical action, has been the principal threat to the survival of semiotics. The theme of “Semiotics and Survival” is then extended to a consideration of the centrality of signs for survival in the Katrina crisis (a matter of vital importance, in Peirce’s terminology) and a more general consideration of the centrality of signs for survival (with reference to the problem of vanishing context). A deep link between signs and survival is conjectured to exist in the ubiquitous formation of habits throughout the universe. Finally, the role of semioticians in the survival of great cities and cultures is considered, especially when signs are turned into weapons that threaten established ways of life.
2. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1/4
Yoshiko Okuyama, Semiotics of Japan's Mountain Ascetics
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This ethnographic research features Shugendō (mountain asceticism), Japan’s centuries-old, mystical tradition. I and approximately fifty other lay participants took part in a three-day Shugendō program for the secular. The program is physically demanding and takes secular trainees to three holy mountains in Yamagata, Japan, where they take part in the water purification and holy fire rituals in the mountain asceticism tradition. Using the theoretical framework of semiotics, I explicate the visual signifiers of this esoteric mysticism in the context of Shugendō teachings represented in twenty photographs taken during the training. The purpose of this article is to promote semiotics as an analytical standpoint alternative to other approaches to studying culture, in this case, a Japanese religion sourced in my fieldwork. I argue that, living in today’s global age and visual culture, college students can and should benefit from learning about semiotics and developing visual literacy for their future career opportunities.
3. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1/4
Jamin Pelkey, Chiastic Antisymmetry in Language Evolution
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Cross-linguistic evidence from widespread modes of language variation and change demonstrate that language evolution proceeds (at least in part, perhaps in whole) by breaking and renewing symmetrical patterns. Since this activity is identified with semiosis (Nöth 1994, 1998), these patterns-in-process establish further grounds for insisting that the science of language be more adequately situated within semiotic understanding as “an ideoscopic science and sub-discipline under the general doctrine of signs” (Deely 2012: 334). After summarizing the theoretical context of my thesis, including relationships between analogy, symmetry, and linguistic diagrammatization, I present supporting comparative data in successive stages of complexity, ranging from simple reversals of linguistic diagrams through time to the emergence of more involved linguistic mirror patterns, to the emergence of intertwining diagrams and linguistic fractal symmetries. I then point back to the embodied and psychological sources of these patterns in the primary modeling system of the human Umwelt. The essay ends with gestures toward further unexplored sources of evidence and a summary proposal for understanding language evolution as non-linear process, qua semiosis.
4. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1/4
Susan Rasmussen, Voices above the Din: Tinariwen Musicians, the Media, and Constructions of Tuareg Cultural Identity in Northern Mali
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This essay analyzes the role of a famous Tuareg musical band named Tinariwen in public media representations of the Tuareg cultural predicament. There is a dual focus: on representations internationally in global media and performances, specifically in the US on television and the internet, on the one hand, and on the other, in local media and performances, specifically in the town of Kidal, Mali. In these different contexts, these musicians reflexively represent their own and more general Tuareg cultural identities and predicaments differently, to diverse audiences. Their representations have also changed over time, during alternating armed conflicts and peace initiatives in northern Mali. This essay explores the background, meanings, and consequences of these mediated performances of signifying practices as narratives of nation and imagined communities.
5. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1/4
Farouk Y. Seif, Dialogue with Kishtta: A Semiotic Revelation of the Paradox of Life and Death
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This dialogue between two “semiotic animals” explores the paradox of life and death where death is not perceived as an absolute end or an inevitable aspect of life. The reciprocal and paradoxical relationship between life and death is at the core of the semiotic process. Death is an integral part of this semiotic process, like a door opening out on another transcending world with unpredictable outcomes. Not only does the dialogue reveal an insight into the semioethics of the ritualization of life and death but it also exposes the disingenuous separation between the realms of zoosemiotics and anthroposemiotics. On ontological and epistemological levels, both zoosemiotics and anthroposemiotics are integrated reality that invariably cannot exist without one or the other in mutually transparent co-evolutionary processes purposefully oriented toward meaning making.
6. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1/4
William R. Self, Larry Powell, Mark Hickson, III, Justin Johnston, Voluntary Abdication of Legal Rights: A Semiotic Analysis of Arbitration Clauses as Miscommunication and Potential Constitutional Violations
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The authors address problems with “compulsory” arbitration clauses in contracts. Specifically, they note that consumers are misguided about their rights in such cases. In addition, arbitration clauses do not allow the press to cover any proceedings that may result. The arbitration clauses in contracts are written in legalese that consumers do not understand. The authors found that even university students had difficulty understanding the information in such clauses. An example of an actual case is included.
7. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1/4
Hongbing Yu, Human Brains Function Culturally: Semiosis under the Culture-driven View
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In light of current findings under the culture-driven view, the present article proposes a co-shaping interactive relation between the human brain and culture, and a further notion that semiosis actually serves as the central link that connects external models and internal models, initiating what is known as unlimited semiosis, which coincides with the neurological process of cognition. Empirical studies on the differences of neural activities pertaining to distinct cultural modeling systems, such as the Chinese orthography, the English and the French alphabets, have also provided clear evidence that the human brain exists in an adaptive relation to the corresponding culture, in which semiosis proves to be one of the fundamental mechanisms of how culture exerts its influence. Besides the cultural specificity of semiosis and brain functions, this paper also proposes that it is essential to pay constant attention to semiosic individuality, as this will secure a comprehensive unbiased perspective of semiotic and cognitive studies.
8. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1/4
About the Authors
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