Denoting a Connotation

Begins 11:58 GMT

As I am beginning to sink into the semiotic depths I notice a lot of Eco’s discussions connote associations with Archer’s theory of the Internal Conversation.  On page 83, and partially discussed in previous post, Eco asks whether there is ‘something’ in the mind of the person understanding the content of an expression that corresponds to a semantic field.  When I read that I was reminded of Archer’s statement on p167 of Structure, Agency and the Internal Conversation that the “membrane between the life of the mind and the life of the group is highly permeable”.  Everyone, she claims, is a reflexive being.  Communicative reflexives initiate internal dialogue but complete it interpersonally (p167).

[SS Is that why you/we/I keep jumping in and out of different frames and in and onto different pages?]

[OS I think so.  I am not sure yet, but there’s something connecting our emerging meaning of Eco’s theory of semiosis and Archer’s theory of the internal conversation as a mediating ‘tool’ between structure and agency.]

[SS I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel I just understand, but can’t explain how I do]

[OS Me too.  That’s why we are using Polo’s story to help make the understanding clearer to simple folk like you and me.]

The connection between Archers and Ecos works, although theoretically in its infancy, is obvious given the fact that semiotics is a form of social practice (Eco p298) as is reflexivity.  Both are forms of social criticism.    Can a connotation be made from the theory of semiotics to the theory of agency?  I am drawn back to Eco’s caution about precautions within the field of study.

Misunderstandings exist and need ‘elimination’. Before delving into his compositional theory of sememes, Eco uses the following clarification as a foundation: “Denotation is the content of an expression.  Connotation the content of a sign-function” (p86)

For example, in logical literature ‘proper names’ do not have denotatum, and therefore extension, because there must be corresponding content.  To show what happens in cases of proper names referring to historical personages and the presentation of sign-vehicle of a proper noun known personally, Eco uses two examples: /Napoleon/ and the name /Stefano/.

Napoleon denotes a cultural unit that is well defined and ‘finds a place in a semantic field of historical entities”. The denotation of /Napoleon/ does not change but there are many connotations attributed by different cultures to the culture unit <Napoleon>.  Thus, the sememe <Napoleon> has several markers including that of human person.  Within text 2 of this thesis, the attributions of these markers will be explored by the opposing cultural units of the ESS and the Pied Platoon.

However, when a sign-vehicle of a relative is presented there is a much more limited code than the one by which the message /Napoleon/ is received.  Eco uses the example of /Stefano/ which given the a field of cultural units that includes his own relatives and friends the proper noun denotes his son.  Although the codes are more varied in the former, and limited in the latter, the semiotic mechanism does not change. (p87)

Homonymy often occurs in use of language as the examples of proper nouns shows.  This is the case because “the universe of proper names is simply linguistically a poor universe”.  However, the semantic universe of connected cultural units is quite rich.  The connected universe of the cultural units of named human beings, for example, is isolated by very precise systems of opposition.

A proper name out of context does not denote anything whereas a common noun out of context always has a lexematic meaning.  But “no sign-vehicle denotes unless referred (on basis of  context) to a specific code in which it appears primarily as an element of a repertoire of sign-vehicles”. (p87)  To illustrate this point Eco uses the example of the sign-vehicle /cane/ which if communicated out of context can be:

1/A latin imerative; 2/an Italian common name <dog>; and 3/ and English common name.

[SS Speaking of dogs, isn’t it time to waddle off this page and go to the part where /Mr Smith/, the <dalmatian>, and <Wild Dog>, named /Lycaon Pictus/ try to reek havoc on /human beings/… Woof.   ‘Woof’ does not inspire connotations of the jaw breaking, blood dripping canines of these canines!]

[OS Do you know we spent the entire 713 words of this post on only one page of Eco’s work.  Specifically page 87]

[SS Actually are spending more time talking about spending time on Eco’s p87.  I am going over to see what’s happening in the story.]

Ends 13:13 GMT (here on time measured by GMT unless move into another zone)

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