Fictive Samples

Begins: 11:55pm

In Table 39, which he calls Typology of Modes of Sign Production, Eco lists another type of sample that fall jointly under the headings Ostension and Replica.  He calls them ‘fictive samples’, which Ekman and Friesen (1969) call ‘intrinsically coded acts’ (cited on p 227).  A ‘fictive’ sample is the replication of part of a gesture as a sample of an entire gesture that is not completed.  There is no follow-through.  A clenched fist that is used to communicate the possibility of hitting someone is a fictive sample. (p 227)

Fictive samples are coded by a unit-to-unit correlation.  This is a convention shared by other coded productions including, examples, imprints, clues, symptoms and replicas.

Replicas forms the third of the four headings in Table 39, under which Eco includes the following:

  • verbal devices
  • ideograms
  • emblems
  • alphabetic letters
  • coded kinesic features
  • musical notes
  • traffic signals
  • graphic features
  • symbols in formal logic
  • symbols in mathematics
  • proxemic features

Replicable expressions listed, but not limited, above have different “pertinence levels and may be subject to two, one, or no articulation.” (p 228)

This layered articulation with its possible combinations was disregarded because of the dominance of ‘verbocentric dogmatism’ that existed in semiotics throughout the sixties (p 228).

[SS I wouldn’t want to meet Eco on a battlefield waving a white flag – he’d be sure to ask me what I meant by it and would probably question the iconic symbol and my frantic gestures for peace. ]

[OS Are you still going to wear shamrock and your green scarf as symbols of solidarity on St Patrick’s Day?]

[SS Yes.  No.  I can’t answer that.  For nostalgia I may, but I recall my retort when I wore no shade of green in the US and was chastised for it.  In an attempt to limit the attacks on my Irish identity I would say: ‘sure aren’t I green on the inside’.  Still haven’t quite wrapped my mind around how to show how good I feel about my origins, but not so good that the pride becomes a blinding sense of superiority.  And how that can be shared by my love for South Africa.  It seems we’re only ‘supposed to’ have one national identity. I will continue to muddle through my issues of identity.]

[OS Well you can reflect on that on your own time.  We are getting off track.  Back to articulating our reflections on Eco’s text.]

Eco believes the system of double articulation as an absolute correlation of coded sign production is a fallacy.  Eco does not dispute that meaning in language arises out of the interplay between first and second articulations.  But he is absolutely denying that “every semiotic process must come about in the same way”. (p 228)

His refutation and its proof are found in his analyses of Levi-Strauss’ work in 1961 on linguistic properties in paintings and tonal music. (cited in Eco p 229)  Strauss’, for example, rejected possible autonomous meaning of color and shape in non-figurative paintings.  Despite acknowledging his ‘elaborate perceptive observations on the problems of tonal music’, Eco refutes Levi-Strauss’ conclusion that:

  1. There is no language without double articulation.
  2. Double articulation is not mobile.

There are many possible combinations in music as there are many possible games in a pack of cards.  There are exist sub-systems within a system that is better understood as a diverse matrix.  The matrix itself Eco implores, “must not be identified with one of its surface manifestations”. (p 229)

Levi-Strauss, Eco claims, confuses an event (a game of bridge) with a structure (a pack of cards) with multiple combinational units that can make possible many events. (p 230)

Cards highlight an other area in need of investigation around the issue of double articulation.  Take a a particular articulation of a set of cards that produce a good hand in a game of poker. This game is one of many games that could be played out of one set of cards.  The particular articulation that produced the hand of poker is one of many possible combinations that could be expressed out of a pack of cards for that particular game.  The question Eco asks is: are the cards that form the combination of the poker hand elements of a second articulation?  There is in this ‘play’ of cards a twofold position and element of opposition in one the hierarchical sequence of the same suit, and they are opposed as hierarchical values attributed to the four sequences of the four suits.  (p 230)

A further related question Eco asks as he explores the problem is “Does articulation stop at the single card?” (p 231) The articulation of the unit of the card and its combinations are not inherent in the card itself but changes according to the game being played.  From this we can assume that ” (i) semiotic systems do not necessarily have two articulations; (ii) the articulations are not necessarily fixed.” ( p231)

[OS I am going to use this Levi-Strauss quote:  “Art is capture of nature by culture”.  Wow.  That probably sums up how Lycaon Pictus, the leader of the ESS in Text 2 views it also.]

[SS I have decided I am going to wear the symbol, shamrock, not as a sign of my identity but because today I want to feel I belong, I want to fit in.  I will worry, or not, about its meaning another day.  Happy St Patrick’s Day.  Great excuse for a consuming a creamy pint of Guinness.]

Ends 1:45pm

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