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121. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 2
Marcel Danesi Metaphorical “networks” and verbal communication: A semiotic perspective of human discourse
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This paper presents the notion that verbal discourse is structured, in form and contents, by metaphorical reasoning. It discusses the concept of “metaphorical network” as a framework for relating the parts of a speech act to each other, since such an act seems to cohere into a meaningful text on the basis of “domains” that deliver common concepts. The basic finding of several research projects on this concept suggest that source domains allow speakers to derive sense from a verbal interaction because they interconnect the topic of discussion to culturally-meaningful images and ideas. This suggests, in turn, that language is intertwined with nonverbal systems of meaning, reflecting them in the contents of verbal messages. Overall, the concept of metaphorical networks implies that human cognition is highly associative in structure.
122. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 2
Maria-Kristiina Lotman On the semantics of rhythm: Formal differences between the characters of Oresteia in tragedy
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The paper analyses the formal features of the characters of Oresteia in Greek tragedy. The protagonists and the minor characters are compared, for which the rhythmical liveliness and variability of the personages’ utterances, the length and number of utterances, and the number of dialogue verses in the metrical repertoire of the corresponding personage are taken into account. The analysis revealed that the data of Sophocles and Euripides are more close to each other both in the respect of general “liveliness” and the “liveliness” of characters’ utterances. Certain differences in the metrics and rhythmics of the main and minor characters’ verses become most obvious when we compare Electra’s part with minor characters (e. g., in Electra’s part there is always the biggest proportion of lyrical parts, more unstandard settlements, more verses with splits than any other character). The index of liveliness of Electra’s part is almost the same in all the authors. Although the same tendencies in Orestes are more schematical, the metrics and rhythmics of his utterances are rather similar to those of Electra. Thus, in respect of the proportion of lyrical verses, he always comes second after Electra; he also has quite many split verses. The parts of minor characters are usually made up entirely of iambic trimesters, the rhythmical variety of their speeches is higher than average, but there are no splits in their parts (except for Aegisthus). However, there are characters which parts have unstandard rhythm, e.g., the pedagogue in Sophocles or Chrysothemis, who is a contrast to Electra by her nature as well as her rhythmics. The contrast with other minor characters is even bigger. Clytaemnestra’s part is both rhythmically and metrically intermediate: inAeschylus her utterances consist entirely of iambic trimeters, but in Sophocles and Euripides she pronounces also a couple of lyrical verses. There are alsosome splits in her verses which usually do not occur in minor persons.
123. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 2
Ülle Pärli On postmodernism, “the stairs of avant-garde”, and Brodsky
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This article attempts to analyse Russian postmodernist poetics, proceeding from the concept of the “trans-semiotic stairs”, as presented by J. Faryno for describing the avant-garde. Examples from various texts are used to demonstrate how postmodernist texts contain divergent processes: the culturally specific and unique dissolves in tautology, meaningful entireties are dispersed into atomized empty particles. The significant teleological model of the avant-garde ceases to function here. A play by J. Brodsky, Marble, is examined on this background, as well as the position of the author that differs from the “postmodernist” context.
124. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 2
Winfried Nöth Semiotic foundations of the study of pictures
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Are pictures signs? That pictures are signs is evident in the case of pictures that “represent”, but is not “representation” a synonym of “sign”, and if so, can non-representational paintings be considered signs? Some semioticians have declared that such pictures cannot be signs because they have no referent, and in phenomenology the opinion prevails that they are not signs because they are phenomena sui generis. The present approach follows C. S. Peirce’s semiotics: representational and non-representational pictures and even mental pictures are signs. How and why pictures without a referent can nevertheless be defined as signs is examined on the basis of examples of monochrome paintings and historical maps that show non-existing or imaginary territories. The focus of attention is on their semiotic object and, in the case of non-representational paintings, on their interpretation as genuine icons, not in the sense of signs that represent most accurately, but in the sense of signs that represent nothing but themselves, i.e., self-referential signs.
125. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 2
Stepan Davtian, Tatyana Chernigovskaya Psychiatry in free fall: In pursuit of a semiotic foothold
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Diagnostics of a mental disorder completely bases on an estimation of patient’s behaviour, verbal behaviour being the most important. The behaviour, in turn, is ruled by a situation expressed as a system of signs. Perception of a situation could be seen as a function, which depends on the context resulting from the previous situations, structuring personal world. So the world is not given — it is being formed while the person is in action. We argue that distinctive features of behaviour, including its abnormal variants, can be explained not in categories of characters and diseases but in terms of situations taking place in individual worlds. The situation in which a person perceives himself is not simply a site in a three-dimensional space at a certain moment, but a part of the world and an episode of his life. Like a text composed of words, individual world is composed of situations. Each of them needs certain context to cope with ambiguity. This context is induced by the world as a whole. And the world, in turn, is presented as a chain of situations. If the context cannot help to interpret a situation adequately, uncertainty can be eliminated by actions clarifying a situation, which is changed in a predictable way. Thus, purposeful activity, skills to make predictions and corrections of one’s own actions are crucial. Weakness of any of them inevitably leads to the distortion of the presentation of the world, to wrongevaluation of situations and, as a result, to inadequate actions that finally reduce the activity as being ineffective. Thus, the lack of activity becomes the key factor in the development of disorder, being simultaneously its cause and effect. In periods of insufficient activity conditions for violated (and violating) sign processing arise. Possible variants of sign malfunction are: oligosemia (reduction of the number of perceivable signs), hyposemia (decrease of significance of signs), hypersemia (increase of significance of some signs at the expense of others), ambisemia (uncertainty of sign, when situation remains unclear), cryptosemia (recognition of signs not obvious for other observers), and parasemia (perverted interpretation of signs influenced by a false context).
126. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 2
Jan Levchenko When a Russian Formalist meets his individual history
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The present paper is devoted to the relation between changing historical identity of Russian Formalists in the second half of the 1920s and their individual evolution — as writers, members of society, figures of culture. Formalists with their aggressive inclination to modernity are opposed here to structuralists, the bearers of a conservative, traditional ideology (relating to the idea of Revolution). It could be explained by the specific “romantic” identity of Russian Formalists whose purpose was to appropriate cultural values renamed and renewed by their revolutionary theory. As a revolutionary ideology, formalism was imported from the West. But the Stalinist “Renaissance” made the idea of Revolution both in mind and society senseless at the end of the 1920s. That is why Russian Formalism lost its mainstream positions and began to work out a new, adapted form of intellectual resistance (private life, domestic literature) in the next decade.
127. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 2
Han-liang Chang Notes towards a semiotics of parasitism
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The metaphor of parasites or parasitism has dominated literary critical discourse since the 1970s, prominent examples being Michel Serres in France and J. Hillis Miller in America. In their writings the relationship between text and paratext, literature and criticism, is often likened to that between host and parasite, and can be therefore deconstructed. Their writings, along with those by Derrida, Barthes, and Thom, seem to be suggesting the possibility of a semiotics of parasitism. Unfortunately, none of these writers has drawn enough on the biological foundation of parasitism. Curiously, even in biology, parasitism is already a metaphor through which the signified of an ecological phenomenon involving two organisms is expressed by the signifier of “[eating] food at another’s [side] table”. This paper will make some preliminary remarks on semiotics of parasitism, based on the notions of Umwelt (Jakob von Uexküll) and structural coupling (Maturana and Varela). It will look into the phenomenon of co-evolutionary process in community ecology. With reference to empirical history, the project will briefly surveythe literary and medical praxis of the 17th century England where large number of creative writings referred to the phenomenon of parasitism, which was deeply embedded in religious practice (e.g., the Eucharist) and political life (e.g., the courtier ecology in monarchy) of the times. Finally, it will touch upon the possible ‘parasitic’ relationship between language and biology.
128. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 2
Valerij Gretchko Aesthetic conception of Russian Formalism: The cognitive view
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At present the theory of Russian Formalism becomes actual once again owing to the rapid development of cognitive science. Aesthetic theories recently put forward within the framework of cognitive science turned out to be consonant with the Formalist’s views on the general principles of artistic activity. In my paper I argue that (1) the theory of Russian Formalism contains a number of methodological assumptions that are close to a cognitive approach; (2) some of the main principles of the Formalist theory (e.g., “elimination of automatism of perception” or “the dominant”) permit the reformulation into cognitive terms; (3) such reformulation is not only possible, but useful because it makes the theory more powerful for explanation of the artistic phenomena. The findings from the new field of cognitive science not only prove some Formalist theses, but deepen and specify them as well.
129. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
John Deely Semiotics and Jakob von Uexküll’s concept of umwelt
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Semiotics, the body of knowledge developed by study of the action of signs, like every living discipline, depends upon a community of inquirers united through the recognition and adoption of basic principles which establish the ground-concepts and guide-concepts for their ongoing research. These principles, in turn, come to be recognized in the first place through the work of pioneers in the field, workers commonly unrecognized or not fully recognized in their own day, but whose work later becomes foundational as the community of inquirers matures and ‘lays claim to its own’. As semiotics has matured, the work of Jakob von Uexküll in establishing the concept of Umwelt has proven to be just such a pioneering accomplishment for the doctrine of signs, and in this paper I trace out some of the lines of development according to which Uexküll’s concept came to occupy its central place in semiotics today.
130. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Anton Markoš In the quest for novelty: Kauffman’s biosphere and Lotman’s semiosphere
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The emergence of novelty in the realm of the living remains, despite the long tradition of evolutionary biology, unwelcome, calling for explanation by old, established knowledge. The prevailing neodarwinian evolutionary paradigm approaches living beings as passive outcomes of external (and extraneous, hence “blind”) formative forces. Many teachings opposing Darwinism also take the existence of eternal, immutable and external laws as a necessary prerequisite. Ironically enough, authors who oppose Darwinian theory, and admit that living beings possess a “self”, often accentuate internal, ideal and eternal harmony,which is incompatible with historical changes; moreover such harmony is again imposed by external, atemporal “laws”. I describe here a third approach embodied by the names of two unrelated scholars, Stuart Kauffman (biology, physics) and Juri Lotman (semiotics, culturology). Their approach suggests thatthe evolution of organisms, minds, cultures — is a continuous negotiation (semiosis) of ‘laws’, driving to ever broader spaces of freedom and constantly larger autonomy of existence.
131. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Han-liang Chang Semiotician or hermeneutician? Jakob von Uexküll revisited
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Like other sciences, biosemiotics also has its time-honoured archive, consisting, among other things, of writings by those who have been invented and revered as ancestors of the discipline. One such example is Jakob von Uexküll who has been hailed as a precursor of semiotics, developing his theory of “sign” and “meaning” independently of Saussure and Peirce. The juxtaposition of “sign” and “meaning” is revelatory because one can equally legitimately claim Uexküll as a hermeneutician in the same way as others having claimed him as a semiotician. Such a novel temptation can be justified by Uexküll’s prolonged obsession with Sinn and Bedeutung since his first book in 1909. This paper attempts to reconstruct the immediate intellectual horizon of Uexküll’s historicity, a discursive space traversed by his contemporaries Frege and Husserl, in order to see how Uexküll’s discussions of Zeichen and Gegenstand, Sinn and Bedeutung, were informedby other philosophers of language, and to establish Uexküll as a phenomenological hermeneutician in the tradition of Husserl, Heidegger and Gadamer. To forestall and counter possible criticism that hermeneutics is primarily concerned with textual interpretation, while Uexküll is at most an interpreter of animal life, the paper will discuss his unfinished parody of the Platonic dialogue Meno, which is entitled Die ewige Frage: Biologische Variationen über einen platonischen Dialog (1943). It is through such textual practice that one witnesses the emergence of an Uexküll who embodies at once the addressee exercising his understanding of ancient texts as well as the second addresser recoding his explanation to another group of targeted addressees. This textual practice already goes beyond the confines of biology and in fact involves the linguistic pragmatics of rhetoric and speech act.
132. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
John Michael Krois Ernst Cassirer’s philosophy of biology
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The first part of this essay outlines Cassirer’s philosophy of biology in the context of philosophy of science in the 20th century, giving an overview of Cassirer’s different writings on the philosophy of biology. The second part outlines his treatment of what he took to be the chief philosophical problem in the philosophy of biology: the conflict between mechanism and vitalism. Cassirer interpreted this conflict as a methodological debate, not a metaphysical problem. In Cassirer’s eyes, each point of view is justified within specifics limits. The third part explicates Cassirer’s critique of Darwinism. Although Cassirer was critical of particular conceptions of Darwinian evolution, he did not reject evolution and, in fact, asserted that the concept of emergence was also of far-reaching importance in other fields besides biology. Part four offers concluding remarks about the importance of the philosophy of biology for Cassirer’s general philosophical orientation and for his conception of the tasks of philosophical theory.
133. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Kalevi Kull Uexküll and the post-modern evolutionism
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Jakob von Uexküll’s evolutionary views are described and analysed in the context of changes in semiotic and biological thinking at the end of Modern age. As different from the late Modernist biology, a general feature of Post-Modern interpretation of living systems is that an evolutionary explanation has rather secondary importance, it is not obligatory for an understanding of adaptation. Adaptation as correspondence to environment is a communicative, hence a semiotic phenomenon.
134. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Jesper Hoffmeyer Uexküllian Planmässigkeit
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In strict opposition to the prevailing positivist conception of nature as senseless and deprived of meaning Jakob von Uexküll claimed that a certain planmässigkeit was operative in nature. This idea however might be taken to mean that organic evolution is not itself a creative process but a gradual, if majestic, unfolding of Nature's own master plan. Such an idea would threaten to restore determinism in the center of biological theory, and this would seriously contradict the vision of biosemiotics shared by most of its proponents. It lies at the heart of biosemiotics and of Peircean cosmological philosophy that indeterminacy is primary, that “habit taking” or interpretation are real processes in the world, and therefore that belief in the law of necessity is unfounded. It is suggested that Uexküllian planmässigkeit is in fact reconcilable with a modern non-deterministic understanding. In a certain sense the Umwelten of animals have indeed developed in accordance to a natural planmässigkeit, but this is a plan that incessantly traps life in certain strategic choices and in the same time diversifies the dimensionality of options for dealing with these choices, i. e. “the adjacent possible” in the terms of Stuart Kauffman.
135. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Cornelius Steckner Symbol formation
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Symbol formation is a term used to unify the view on the interdependencies in the research of the Hamburg University before 1933: the Philosophical Institute (William Stern, Ernst Cassirer), the Psychological Institute (Stern) with its laboratory (Heinz Werner) in cooperation with the later joining Umwelt Institut (Jakob von Uexküll). The term, definitely used by Cassirer and Werner, is associated with the personalistic approach: “Keine Gestalt ohne Gestalter” (Stern), but also covers related terms like “melody of motion” (Uexküll), and “relational content” (Cassirer), discussing the term “empirical scheme” (Kant). All this scientific interest addressed personal forces to structure thresholds in equivalent stimuli. This view on intermodal formation allowed research in common aspects in the environments of animals, of children and adults to meet there the symbol formation of artists (Weimar Bauhaus) and poets like R. M. Rilke, a friend of Uexküll.
136. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Torsten Rüting History and significance of Jakob von Uexküll and of his institute in Hamburg
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This paper aims to give an insight into developments that contributed to the significance of the work of Jakob von Uexküll and stresses the importance of his occupation in Hamburg. A biographical survey pays tribute to the implication of the historical pretext and context. A scientific survey describes findings and ideas of Uexküll that proved important for the development of biology and the cognitive sciences. In addition, this paper sets out to reject the common notion that Uexküll’s concepts were ideas of a purely theoretical and philosophical character. It confirms that in fact the central aims of his work were to sustain the empirical method in biology and to give biology a sound epistemological basis. Some examples show how historical and theoretical developments converged at Uexküll’s Institut für Umweltforschung in Hamburg and ignited a productive research activity.
137. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Tobias Cheung From protoplasm to Umwelt: Plans and the technique of nature in Jakob von Uexküll’s theory of organismic order
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For Uexküll, biology is the science of the organization of living beings. In the context of Entwicklungsmechanik, he refers to Driesch’s and Spemann’s experiments on the development of embryonic germ cells to prove that self-differentiating processes constitute organisms as natural objects. Uexküll focuses on the theory of such self-differentiating processes or organizations. The notion of organization implies for him a “technique of nature” that is capable of structuring organic and inorganic material according to plans and rules. These plans and rules are part of the overall order of the world. As preformed sign systems or codes, they determine and regulate the development and existence of individual animal subjects in their specific Umwelten.
138. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Andreas Weber Mimesis and Metaphor: The biosemiotic generation of meaning in Cassirer and Uexküll
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In this paper I pursue the influences of Jakob von Uexküll’s biosemiotics on the anthropology of Ernst Cassirer. I propose that Cassirer in his Philosophy of the Symbolic Forms has written a cultural semiotics which in certain core ideas is grounded on biosemiotic presuppositions, some explicit (as the “emotive basic ground” of experience), some more implicit. I try to trace the connecting lines to a biosemiotic approach with the goal of formulating a comprehensive semiotic anthropology which understands man as embodied being and culture as a phenomenon of general semioses.
139. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Jui-Pi Chien Schema as both the key to and the puzzle of life: Reflections on the Uexküllian crux
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Jakob von Uexküll’s problematic is manifested in his paradoxical portraiture of form within the plan of nature: the one a sensual schema and the other a transsensual ideal form. At first sight, Uexküll’s belief in the Platonic and the Reformational notions of the immobile becoming of form seems to be a resignation from the heated debates among his contemporary materialists, vitalists, dynamists, and evolutionists. However, in terms of the Kantian subjective teleology, Uexküll’s appropriation of the ancient philosophy reinstates the invisible, static, but repetitive cycle as his regulating principle in the observation of the activity of animals. This regulating principle distinguishes itself from the rule of resemblance established by the appearances and fossil remains of animals, which is linear, incomplete, and digressive. In the light of Michel Foucault, the transition from the visible to the invisible recoups the study of nature from the living beings (les êtres vivants) to the life itself (la vie), from natural philosophy to biology. My study suggests that we recast Uexküll’s sign theory from his observations on the crux that models and triggers an animal to action in its Umwelt. Bracketing Uexküll’s transcendental configuration of form and image, we still find that schema, in itssensual and functional context, evolves from a reflection of the objects to a summary of their features plus an ignorance of their proper names. Uexküll's erasure of proper names (in different languages) that directs our attention to the presentation in its pure form (Gestalt) not only constitutes an important step in epistemology, but also in a life science that meticulously delves into the genotypes.
140. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Dario Martinelli The musical circle: The umwelt theory, as applied to zoomusicology
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The purpose of the present article is to illustrate the crucial role played by the Umwelt theory in zoomusicological (and, more generally, zoosemiotic) studies. Too much, in fact too little, has been written on the relationship between non-human animals and music. Most of these writings do not explicitly aim at contributing to the actual problem (a good example being the reflections on birdsong contained in John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding). Some are, so to speak, a little folkloristic, quite a few broach the problem in strictly scientific terms, and very few take a clearly zoomusicological approach. In an attempt to understand all the possible ways in which the problem can be analysed, it turns out that all these contributions — in spite of their reciprocal diversity — have points in common, leading to three main categories of approach: discontinuity, gradualism, and pluralism (or Umwelt theory). The discontinuist attitude is by definition opposed to the intent of a zoomusicological research, which in fact defends the thesis that music is not specific only to humans. On the other hand, one might share the gradualist assumption that musicality departs from a basis common to many animal species (at least, all those provided with vocal apparatuses). However, such a basis cannot be interpreted as monolithic (i.e., as having developed in a unique and indivisible way), carrying, as a result, qualitative differences in music between species. For the above-mentioned reasons, and for others to be illustrated in the present paper, it becomes clear that the approach to zoomusicology must necessarily be pluralistic. The most suitable framework seems to be that postulated by Jakob von Uexküll, and known as the theory ofUmwelt.