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2022 ssa keynote address

1. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 39 > Issue: 1/4
Farouk Y. Seif

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Navigating the multicursal pattern of labyrinths is at the core of De-sign (the fusion of design and signs). Due to the ephemerality of de-sign situations and the infinite possibility of outcomes, the navigational trajectory, while intentional, is ambiguous and labyrinthine. Intentionality entices us to engage in the process of creating that which-is-yet-to-become—not deliberately looking for those that are already existent as ontic things but engaging in a process that allows qualities to emerge unexpectedly. Considering the immateriality of intentionality and its indeterminate outcomes, the process of navigating through the labyrinth of De-sign should not be perceived as a set of predetermined activities aiming at an expected result or thing. Navigating through unknown territories for the purpose of seeking qualitatively desired outcomes is the effective, nonlinear, reiterative de-sign process, which is constantly adjusted pragmatically by feedback and feedforward loops in order for the emergent outcome to become compatible with intentionality.

articles

2. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 39 > Issue: 1/4
Michael Baker

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Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner’s model of conceptual blending is especially helpful in illustrating the type of text-music correspondences that often occur in Felix Mendelssohn’s songs and other vocal works. It corresponds to the way he spoke of his “poetics of song” compositions in his writings on the topic. Following a comparison of the Berlin-based approach to the songwriting of Mendelssohn to that of the Vienna-based song composers, such as Schubert, this essay will examine Mendelssohn’s own writings on text-music for such correspondences with the language of conceptual blending. I conclude with a close reading of “Es weiss und räth es doch Keiner,” Op. 99 no. 6, illustrating how Mendelssohn depicts the overall structure and specific meaning of Joseph von Eichendorff’s poem through a variety of musical techniques.
3. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 39 > Issue: 1/4
Taylor A. Greer

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Charles Tomlinson Griffes was a visionary American composer at the turn of the twentieth century who synthesized highly diverse elements into a new artistic voice. This essay explores two instances of musical irony in Griffes’s oeuvre. “The Vale of Dreams” introduces a new tonal center at the end, which casts doubt on the overall structural role of the recurring bass pedal. Griffes’s use of irony in “Prelude #3” has a more critical character in that he questions underlying theoretical assumptions about scale-degree identity and the traditional concepts of consonance and dissonance. In addition, the double irony awakened in the final chord undermines the model of binary form and the aesthetic principle of closure upon which that model is based. As a result, the third prelude constitutes a kind of musico-philosophical challenge, an aesthetic exclamation point that invites listeners to reconsider traditional definitions of interval quality, tonality, and formal closure.
4. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 39 > Issue: 1/4
Sally Ann Ness

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The changing forms of gestures used in choral conducting (both in rehearsal and performance) exemplify processes of symbol growth that challenge interpretations of Charles S. Peirce’s later hexadic semiotic as aligning with highly deterministic, (post-)structuralist theories of semiosis. The case in point discussed, a performance of Charles Ives’s A Christmas Carol, demonstrates that the Dynamic Object represented via the conductor’s changing gestures with each new instance of practice is at every turn subject to a host of unpredictable circumstances that limit its determinative powers. This predicament continuously factors into the sign’s immediate formations (Immediate Object and Interpretant) as well as its extramusical meaning-making capabilities (the formation of Dynamic and Final Interpretants). The conducting process, from first rehearsal through concert performance, illustrates how creativity in Representamen formation is an expansive force on which every form of Symbol growth depends.
5. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 39 > Issue: 1/4
Tristan McKay

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In this paper, I consider the creation and performance of Leah Asher’s TRAPPIST-1 (2017), a solo piano work in graphic notation that I commissioned and premiered. Musical works that utilize open notations often have a complex relationship to the work-concept and, in turn, an elusive ontology. I consider the role of conceptual palettes as significant sites in the creative process where ontological boundaries are delineated. I analyze four sites in the creation of TRAPPIST-1—from project proposal to premiere performance—where conceptual palettes play a dynamic role in narrowing, restricting, and guiding the identity of the work. Using Jakobson’s notion of the poetic function and Harkness’s concept of qualic transitivity, I show that conceptual palettes facilitate performance as highly cu­rated acts of translation not just of open notations but also of intangible concepts.
6. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 39 > Issue: 1/4
Robert S. Hatten

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A fundamental issue for music semiotics is how we might address the signification and interpretation of complex amalgams that do not neatly subdivide into what I call “atomistic signs.” At all levels of musical organization, we are confronted with complex amalgams that demand a more synthetic kind of perception and cognition (e.g., gestures) or a more integrative approach to reconstruction and implementation (e.g., musical styles, understood as competencies guiding interpretation). Although many music-theoretical models helpfully address the temporality of musical events, they cannot fully capture the immediacy of a complex musical gestalt that demands qualitative, aesthetic, affective, and, ultimately, synthetic interpretation. This essay considers ways we can enhance our theoretical understanding of, and our own competency for, musically artistic interpretation. I conclude with an application of this approach to the opening of the Sarabande from Bach’s keyboard Partita no. 4 in D Major.

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7. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 39 > Issue: 1/4

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8. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 38 > Issue: 1/4
Esteban Céspedes, Miguel Ángel Fuentes

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Although it is broadly accepted that semantic interpretation depends on various kinds of conditions, it is still a big challenge to provide an account of meaning that clarifies how the plurality of meaning structures can be stabilized. In this paper, we analyze the ambiguity of interpretive processes, proposing a model that schematizes the mechanisms that can lead to the arrest of so-called unlimited semiosis. Although we elaborate our analysis mainly on the grounds of Eco’s account of unlimited semiosis, we would also like to put an emphasis on Peirce’s notion of habit, in order to tackle some relevant issues concerning it. Our proposal defines conceptual dynamics in topological terms. It shows how a recursive mechanism within semiosis can generate a basin of conceptual attraction, allowing the understanding of a phenomenon that is traditionally studied in a very qualitative way: how infinite semiosis can serve in different contexts of discourse. The basic idea can be applied to systems that process information in general, and the resulting conclusions are in principle applicable to texts, works of art, oral messages, and any sign or set of signs
9. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 38 > Issue: 1/4
Bent Sørensen, Torkild Thellefsen, Amalia Nurma Dewi

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Innovation has become emblematic of our times. Indeed, innovation is seen as a vital economic, social, and technological phenomenon, increasingly attracting research interest. However, innovation is, we believe, much more than this; innovation also concerns processes of signification, communication, and inference. Therefore, both the process and product of innovation are open to semiotic explanation and analysis. However, not many semioticians have—so far—addressed innovation (at least not under the rubric of innovation). The prolific Italian semiotician Massimo Leone is the exception to the rule. Leone has tried to lay the groundwork for a semiotics of innovation. We have organized Leone’s semiotics of innovation into sixteen statements, which we address here. Hence, in a critical dialogue with Leone, we introduce Peirce’s concepts of abduction, the three hypoicons (including similarity), and the semiotic mind (of the innovator/receiver) in order to apply a few ideas which we believe can be of relevance when working with a semiotics of innovation conceptually and/or methodologically
10. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 38 > Issue: 1/4
Vern S. Poythress

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A semiotic analysis of tic-tac-toe illustrates the use of multiple perspec­tives in human understanding of signs. Tagmemic theory is a semiotic framework that pays explicit attention to multiple perspectives. It can generate multiple complementary analyses of the same semiotic system. We illustrate using the game of tic-tac-toe. Our analysis illustrates how three distinct perspectives or views (particle, wave, and field) can be applied to the same semiotic system, resulting in radically different textures in analysis. At the same time, each analysis is in a sense complete, because all the information in the other analyses can be deduced in principle from the analysis using only one view. The result is suggestive for evaluating the strengths and limitations inherent in monoperspectival programs used for artificial intelligence.
11. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 38 > Issue: 1/4
Daniel Torras i Segura

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The semiotic square is a tool developed by Algirdas J. Greimas and François Rastier that adapts rules based on binary logic. Its logic is established by looking for the complementary opposite of an initial term and then studying the contradictory terms of this pair. As an analysis tool, it has been applied to numerous wide-ranging fields. Dennis Kurzon applied the semiotic square to silence in his Discourse of Silence, but the study did not offer conclusive results and is considered unsatisfactory. This article discusses the structure of the semiotic square as applied to silence in order to highlight the difficulties and contradictions of such an application, as well as to configure a layout of the square according to the singularities of this phenomenon. Silence can appear in many different situations and is thus extremely variable. One of the conclusions reached in this paper is that silence, by its very nature, resists being pigeon-holed and limited in a semiotic scheme. The most satisfactory solution to this is to appeal to the most basic and common essence of silence.
12. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 38 > Issue: 1/4
Martin Macháček

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According to Charles Sanders Peirce, a thing does not need to be fully determined to be real. It becomes known to us as real in a process of indeterminate inference. We acquire knowledge of the real through cognition as a not-fully-determined sign, and because of this, our knowledge about the world is always fallible. Theories do not need infallibility in order to be established—they are accepted in a provisional manner, and this acceptance is a matter of the action of scientists who use empirical induction to filter hypotheses in an attempt to explain the world. Facts are not (yet) fully “saturated” so to speak, and this possibility of saturation moves forward in an indefinite process of inquiry. In this paper, I use the example of objective-reality determinism presented in a historical discussion concerning quantum entanglement. I try to interpret the metaphysical positions of the participants of this discussion in terms of indeterminism and Peircean semiotics. The underlying thought behind this approach is the belief that reality, within objective-reality determinism, is independent of any theory, i.e., independent of its representation, which is a proposition that is not in accordance with a fundamental semiotic position according to which reality is the true character of objects in representation.

book review

13. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 38 > Issue: 1/4
Hongbing Yu

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14. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 38 > Issue: 1/4

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15. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Deborah Eicher-Catt

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This essay interrogates the aesthetic ground of Ponzio and Petrilli’s 2003 concept “semioethics” as activated by what they call a “logic of otherness”. I take my lead from Charles S. Peirce’s assertion that “Ethics, or the science of right and wrong, must appeal to Esthetics for aid in determining the summum bonum" (1903: CP 1.191). Given that Peirce’s esthetics, depicted as the first of his normative sciences, “ought to repose on phenomenology” (ibid.: CP 1.191), I offer a communicological analysis (i.e., a phenomenological interpretation of the operative aesthetic sign actions of a semioethic). To accomplish this, I turn to fellow American philosopher and pragmatist John Dewey, whose experiential aesthetics offers insights into Peirce’s claims. Dewey’s understanding of the importance of semiotic “form” and existential or embodied “rhythm”, when applied to dialogic relations, reveals phenomenological “felt qualities” and their reflexive semiotic relation to what I call “embodied intensities”. We discover that, when mediated by emotional or energetic interpretants, felt qualities and embodied intensities provide both the necessary and sufficient conditions for a logic of otherness that makes an ethical stance even possible. I contend that our human relationality remains precarious in our global, digitalized environment as long as we disregard or fail to perceive, appreciate, and cultivate this aesthetic phenomenological ground of otherness.
16. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Susan Petrilli, Augusto Ponzio

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The sense of precarity is specifically human. It accompanies the consciousness that “what is” is in becoming and can stop being. All lifeforms live through signs, but we humans are also endowed with a capacity for metasemiosis. As semiotic animals, we have self-consciousness, feel responsibility, and feel apprehension: we are consciously aware of our subjection to precarity. G. Semerari called it insecuritas, in relation to both self and others. Fear “of the other” entails a threefold genitive: object, subject, and ethical (“for” the other) genitives. When concern for the other becomes overwhelming, the self may pass from non-indifference to indifference, an escape through identity: given competing identities, the other is not my concern. Yet the other remains inextricably involved, especially in globalization. Apprehension for the other cannot be eliminated. Semiotics explains this in terms of sign-network interconnectivity while “semioethics” develops the relations between signs and values. It insists that life can only flourish in relation to the other (including nonhuman life) and calls for responsibility.

special section

17. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Martin Švantner

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18. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Vít Gvoždiak

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This paper attempts to reconstruct Ivo Osolsobě’s criticism of the notion that the Prague Linguistic Circle stood for or did, in fact, introduce general semiotics to Czechoslovakia. In the first part, it presents the wider context of the origins of Osolsobě’s critique. In the second part, it discusses the definition and analysis of the main reasons for this criticism (which included a close connection with language and a lack of reflection on basic semiotic concepts in the works of the Prague School) and sketches an alternative for general semiotics in the form of cybernetics and theater semiotics. The final section deals with the position of the most important representatives of general semiotics (Charles Peirce, Ferdinand de Saussure, and Louis Hjelmslev) for the Czech tradition.
19. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Michal Karľa

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In this paper, I explore Peirce’s initial conception of metaphysics as developed in his “Treatise on Metaphysics” (1861–2: W 1.57–84). Peirce claimed therein that the idea of metaphysics was three-fold, with its three perspectives consisting of its definition, object, and method. Since Peirce defined metaphysics as the “philosophy of primal truths” (1861: W 1.59), I initially focus on elaborating upon what these “primal truths” are and illustrate that they are analytical propositions resulting from the logical analysis of the general constitution of a mental state (an image) to its elements. Next, I give account of how Peirce’s thoughts regarding the justification of metaphysical propositions resulted in his concluding that in metaphysical knowledge, like in any other, there is an element of faith. Finally, I conclude with remarks regarding Peirce’s notion of reflexivity as it is employed in his metametaphysics.
20. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 37 > Issue: 3/4
Martin Švantner

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This text shows that Latour’s methodological displacement of the theory of sign into the realm of the general semiological narrative itself truncates his own theory of sign from its essential part, which is a tradition derived from the work of C. S. Peirce. This reduction of the general theory of sign is not just a matter of the given theoretical and methodological jargon or arbitrarily chosen expressions; it also has binding ontological suppositions and consequences. A debate on the semiotic-ontological aspects of actor-network theory (ANT) can be conducted beyond Latour’s general division into “the semiotics of discourse” and the “semiotics of things/material semiotics”, where the “semiotics of things” should be counter-positional, or at least complementary to, the discourse-centric concept of agency. This perspective (simply put: discourse vs. things) can be viewed in the context of the discussion of the realist and nominalist nature of a sign as a specific relation, which begs the question: By sign do we mean a phenomenon that is constructed solely by the power of the human mind, or do we mean an ontologically unique relation not reducible to human language?