A Sign Is Just a Sign (Advances in Semiotics) by Thomas A. Sebeok

By Thomas A. Sebeok

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Memory in "man, proud man" makes up, as it were, a multisensory private documentary archive, severally composed of nonverbal signs with a verbal overlay. It is the articulatio secunda, or the syntactic aspect of language, which provides the machinery whereby memory organizes, continually remodels as a child playing with a tinkertoy, and finally imposes a coherent and personal narrative schema upon each of us. " This blueprint, too, is what Jacob envisioned when, in the concrete titular and key metaphor of his recent autobiography, he fantasized carrying within himself a kind of statue intérieure, "sculpted since childhood, that gives my life a continuity and is the most intimate part of me, the hardest kernel of my character.

For this sentimental reader, the title, and some of the contents too, reverberate with the sound of another from a bygone age: Symbols and Society (1955), today an all too seldom revisited volume. " Singer cites Schutz's later, more developed phenomenological notion of "we-reality," that is, the notion of the priority of the We to the I, or, in common parlance, the overriding importance of human sociality. Schutz argued along two lines: first, that "I" is born into the world of others, who raised "me" and bequeathed to "me" patterns of signification ("knowing") and of communication ("behaving"); and second, that "I" is able to "stop and think"the expression is John Dewey'sthat is, to become conscious of "my" concealed individual self (Schutz 1962:169-172).

According to a classic definition, a sign is something that stands for something else (aliquid stat pro aliquo) for some organism, and has two facets: a sensible signifieror a perceptible impact on at least one of the sense organs of the interpreting organismand something intelligible (the content) being signified by the former. The signified (also called the designatum) is capable of being translated, whereas the signifier (also called the sign vehicle) is not. The human's rich repertoire of nonverbal messagesby sharp contrast with languagenever constituted a unified field of study, and therefore lacks a positive integrative label.

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