published on January 6, 2016
A System of 21 Classes of Signs as an Instrument of Inquiry
Peirce’s classes of signs are instruments of inquiry, and, as such, they have an effective analytical power. We can find in Peirce’s texts four systems of sign classes that vary from having 3 to 66 classes. The system of 66 classes brings up the idea that to better represent a sign process, it would be necessary to consider an aspect of the sign before considering the relation that involves that aspect. However, if one observes the trichotomies in the system of 10 sign classes, this method, which seems very reasonable, cannot be applied, for before considering the sign-object and the sign-interpretant relation, Peirce only proposes the examination of the sign itself. Considering the development of Peirce’s semiotics, I propose to look back to the system of 10 classes and add to it the trichotomies that will allow the consideration of every aspect of a relation in itself before examining it within the relation. This process brings up a system of 21 classes of signs, which will be suggested as an instrument of inquiry. The aim of this paper is not only to deduce the system of 21 classes, but also to allow the reader to understand how each class represents a step in a semiotic inquiry. With that in mind, I will work on an example of how to proceed with a semiotic analysis using the system of 21 classes.