Lines of Distinction

Begins 9:35pm

[SS AAARRERDGETE. So irritating.  For the last half hour I have been trying to find the copy of the post I was editing.  Instead I find a copy of the last edit with a whopping chunk cut out.  I am now attempting to recreate it.  So the’ begins’, is an historical memory and reconstruction of what I wrote a few hours ago. Aaaargh!]

There are two definitions of a sign-function: in itself, and its relation to combinational possibilities within a context.  Drawing lines of distinction between the two aids in solving problems in semantic analysis.

The second type of definition – a sign-function’s combination within context – is a matter of sign production.  Sign production has rules governed by a set of codes.  Codes not only conceived as a correlational rule but also as a set of combinational rules. Eco makes clear that the double definition of sign-function does not imply double definition of the code.

[SS I bet you and I have a combined view of these combinational rules.  And unusually there are very few lines of distinction.  We didn’t blog yesterday because it took hours to read and re-read, and read again pages 90 – 105]

[OS We pushed the reading and comprehension because to break up the analysis of the KF model would have been foolhardy.  But, yes I agree, we all found this section hard]

The illogical expression /Johnny found sad/ is considered acceptable or unacceptable depending on interpretive decisions connected to the practice of sign production.  The codes of sign production are not concerned with isolating meanings of individual words but combinational possibilities.  Therefore, /green colourless ideas sleep furiously/ although semantically anomalous may be permitted if viewed within the context of a different text, for example as a poetic device.

[SS Does that mean /we/ are a poetic device and legitimised by the combinational definition of a sign-production?]

[OS Sort of but our credentials are mainly given in Archer’s Internal Conversation to be discussed later.  I think that’s planned after Eco!]

A theory of the interpretation of sememes relies on theory of compositional nature.  A review of the example Eco uses on page 78 of /Mus/ when analysed by its compositional nature highlights a few meanings.  /Mus/ can denote living being in respect to the antonymous, or oppositional axis, animate vs inanimate.  It can denote <<rodent>> in respect to zoological field.  <<Harmful>> in respect to axis harmless vs harmful.  Therefore a sign function may denote positions on different axes and because of those varied denotations can connote contradictory positions.

Katz and Fodor (KF) developed a model for compositional analysis, which Eco uses as a point of departure for a needed revised model (p98)  The KF Model can explain if and why a sentence has many senses but not in what circumstances it will lose its ambiguity nor in what sense.

Eco points out the inadequacy of the KF model by drawing up a Cahiers de Doléances literally a list of grievances.  The term was originally used at the start of the French revolution.  He sweeps with dismissiveness through the KF model as if he is at war.

The first reason he gives is that Katz and Fodor adopt an almost ‘dictionary-like rigidity’ and fails to take into account the ‘factual beliefs that people share about things’. (p99)  Whereas the KF model gives too much focus to the ideal competence of the ideal speaker.  “Meanings are common social beliefs, sometimes mutually contradictory and historically rooted, rather than undated and theoretically fixed constructs”.

[SS for some reason that makes me think of images of penguins wrapped in red scarves in protection against the cold that I see used as festive images for Christmas.  Don’t they justify the ignorant view that penguins live in the Arctic?]

[OS I can’t really explain your associations, but it made me think about how Climate Change has ‘come along way’ in the social mind.  Imagine 200 nations actually got together to agree to a plan to do something to reverse the affects.  That’s something]

Eco would probably say that the KF model would not be able to explain the social competence of climate change in all its living contradictions as it isolates meaning.  His second grievance, which he calls the Platonism of markers,  with the model is its inability to manage complexity.  It proposes semantic markers, for example, as purely theoretical constructs.  A marker once identified did not need further analysis within the KF framework.  But as Eco points out further semantic analysis of each component of a sign function will indirectly raise the question of the interpretation of the interpretants.  This will lead to the ‘continuously self-renewing set of semiotic products that Pierce suggested’ (discussed on p71).

Third on the list of grievances is what Eco believes is the KF’s disregard for connotations (p100).  It offers the semantic theory of a purely denotative language.  One that provides rules for a  basic dictionary that may aid a tourist in their choice of menu for lunch, but would not help if they really wanted to speak a language.  It fails to take into account the ‘infinity of ramifications’ (p101).  For example, subcodes can exist in which /bachelor/ connotes <dissolute> or <charming you man>.  There are also additional possibilities of emotive connotations of sympathy or antipathy.

Another critique is that the model ‘explains the simpler by the more complex’

[OS Didn’t he also say that one of his grievances that Katz and Fodor can’t manage complexity. Well not them, but their model.  This feels slightly contradictory].

Although Katz is aware of the problem, the model only comes up with provisional solutions and uses ‘distinguishers’ to cover certain weaknesses.  It seems when analysis is too difficult there is a ‘lack of articulation’ for example, and in particular, the notion of the interpretant. (p104)

According to Eco, “A sign stands for something to the idea which it produces, or modifies… That for which it stands is called the object; that which it conveys its meaning; and the idea to which it gives rise its interpretant”. (p68)  The KF model lacks articulation of the notion of the interpretant. This is the final grievance of the list of six that Eco concludes why the KF model is “not suitable for a semiotic theory of codes”.

[SS Why do I get the feeling that only Eco’s theory will be suitable?]

[OS Well he is the main dude in the field!]

[SS my mother just said “I am fecked and I am going to sleep”.  After an extremely (can that meaning be super sized) irritating session, I am “fecked and going to sleep also”]

Ends 11:40

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