Author Topic: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?  (Read 7512 times)

Offline zaba

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So, we all know that triangle thing: symbol/thought/referent -- while there are plenty of varieties of conventions for naming the nodes on the tryad, the idea is basically the same.

Still, while I "get" that the referent is the thing in the world to which the symbol refers (sort of like Saussure's dyad), the third corner is difficult for me to get my head around.  If you have a great example, I'd be really appreciative. (looking at you @MalFet / Mr Pierce).

Thanks!

Offline MalFet

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2014, 07:47:32 AM »
Hey zaba, long time no see!

The first thing to keep in mind is that Saussure and Peirce were describing completely different things. Saussure was describing an ontology for the sign, which consists of two co-extensive parts: the signifier and the signified. Peirce, on the other hand, was describing a process of semiosis. In order to understand Peirce's sign, you have to think about it as happening over time.

So, the three parts:
the sign (or, more often, representamen): the thing that represents the denoted object; similar in many respects to Saussure's "signifier".
the object: the mental conceptualization denoted by the sign; includes everything in Saussure's "signified", but also more.
the interpretant: the interpreted consequence of the sign-object relationship, which itself can become a sign (this is the big one).

That's the typology, but here's a very simple example: I'm standing by the fridge, eating a sandwich I found. You walk in and yell, "THIEF!".

Phase one:
Representamen: the phonetic sequence [θif]
Object: the word "thief"
Interpretant: your intention to reference a thief

Phase two:
Representamen: your intention to reference a thief
Object: an existing thief, possibly me
Interpretant: you are calling me a thief

Phase three:
Representamen: you are calling me a thief
Object: you are angry that i have stolen your sandwich
Interpretant: your intention to confront me over issues of sandwich theft

Phase four:
Representamen: your intention to confront me over issues of sandwich theft
...and so on.

Does that clarify at all?


Offline zaba

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2014, 09:07:57 AM »
That really, helps MalFet -- especially this "spiraling chain" of triangles as an illustration of the process of semiosis. Your explanation makes it much easier to understand semiosis. Previously I was trying to understand semiosis with only one iteration, but once you have multiple "phases" as you showed, it's much easier.

So thanks.

OK, Saussure is describing an ontology for the sign. Check.
Pierce is describing the process of semiosis (something like "meaning creation", I guess). Check.

But what about Ogden and Richards? I suppose they were predecessors to Pierce, but they certainly weren't trying to account for either semiosis, nor were they intending to provide any ontology. How do they fit into this?
 

Offline MalFet

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2014, 09:37:02 AM »
The Meaning of Meaning (the book by Ogden and Richards with the triangle) was published in 1923, and Peirce died in 1914. To be honest, it's been years since I read it, but just of the terminology it looks like "symbol" refers to the representamen-object dyad, "referent" refers to the thing in the world, and "thought or reference" refers to the interpretant (or something roughly like it).

If I remember correctly, the point of Ogden's triangle is usually not the points but rather the sides. Each side represents a basis of "sound equivalence" (between symbols and things, between things and interpretations, or between symbols and interpretations). Likewise, we can expand our classification: if Saussure is describing an ontology of the sign, and if Peirce is describing a process of semiotics, Ogden is presenting a classification of epistemology.

Offline zaba

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2014, 09:47:55 AM »
I'd like to think more about meta-semiotics: How do different approaches to semiotics account for meaning? Thanks a lot.

Offline zaba

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2014, 09:58:22 AM »
Quote
If I remember correctly, the point of Ogden's triangle is usually not the points but rather the sides. Each side represents a basis of "sound equivalence" (between symbols and things, between things and interpretations, or between symbols and interpretations). Likewise, we can expand our classification: if Saussure is describing an ontology of the sign, and if Peirce is describing a process of semiotics, Ogden is presenting a classification of epistemology.

OK, let me see if I get it, adopting the original example to Ogden's terms:

symbol: the phonetic sequence [θif]
referent: you, in this scenario
thought/reference: a category of people who steal

0. [symbol] --------- [referent] ==> There's only a dotted line between symbol and referent because the relation is arbitrary (a la Saussure)
1. [symbol] ______ [thought] ==> the "connection" between a word and a mental category of objects/events to which it refers
2. [thought] ______ [referent] ==> the "connection" between a category of objects/events and individual things in the world.

Is this an accurate, albeit simplistic, interpretation?

Offline MalFet

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2014, 10:00:32 AM »
Is this an accurate, albeit simplistic, interpretation?

That sounds about right, but unfortunately it's been ages since I read the book.

Offline Daniel

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2014, 10:55:03 AM »
A very simple (oversimplified?) answer to the original question:

There's a relationship between three things:
1. The linguistic sign (pronunciation, spelling, grammatical properties)
2. The thing in the real world
3. The mental representation of "meaning".
We can think of 3 as the thing that links 1 and 2 in the mind. You don't have a real dog in your head, but you have some representation of one: you have the knowledge to determine which things are dogs and which things are not dogs.

To paraphrase Frege, that is something like the way in which the referent presents itself to your mind.



As a simple illustration, consider "dog":
We can think of the sign as the letters d-o-g (or phonemes, etc.).
We can think of the referent as a real dog, barking over there in the corner of the room.
And we can think of the third part as the means of answering "what's a dog?" -- not just listing a bunch of real dogs, but that I am able to do so-- I know "what a dog is".



Of course, as MalFet has explained, there are lots of different distinctions to be made with varying terminology and different purposes.


zaba, your use of the word "category" seems to be at least in the right direction. I don't recall ever hearing "category" in that particular usage (instead, it's used once we move on from this and just start talking about meaning in itself, but I suppose it's still implied to be related). And I suppose "category" may imply some specifics not always intended in such sytems or for all circumstances (categories might work better for nouns than verbs, etc.).
« Last Edit: October 28, 2014, 10:59:40 AM by djr33 »
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Offline MalFet

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2014, 07:46:39 PM »
"Category" is a very important term in the semiotics literature, and zaba is using it correctly.

Offline Daniel

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2014, 10:10:09 PM »
Is it essentially the same as the word "category" in lexical semantics? Or is there a distinction in its use?
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Offline MalFet

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2014, 10:46:27 PM »
It's completely different. Peirce's "category" refers to a member of a rather involved ontological typology.

http://www.iupui.edu/~arisbe/menu/library/bycsp/newlist/nl-frame.htm

Offline zaba

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2014, 12:28:28 AM »
Moving away from semiotic accounts of language, let me see if I can extend the analogy to nonlinguistic signs.

Take, for example, number (which may but need not be expressed in language).

1. symbol: someone holding up one finger
2. thought: the value/quantity "one"
3. referent: 1 particular object, determined contextually

Would you agree that this is accurate?

How about time:

1. symbol: "4:18"
2. thought: the early morning
3. referent: the position of a location of the earth relative to its axis and the sun

Color:

1. symbol: a swath of fire-engine red paint
2. thought: red
3. referent: a particular wavelength we agree to call "red"

Offline MalFet

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2014, 12:38:26 AM »
The tricky thing is that there are no hard constraints on what can be a sign of what. Peirce was ultimately a scholar of formal logic with heavy interests in epistemology; his project was entirely about classifying the types of relationality that can exist between various orders of things for consciousness. Knowledge, for him, is a communicative event.

As a result, there's no question of accuracy here or anywhere. I can imagine, easily enough, communicative events in which those triads are well formed, but there's no reason to think that their opposites couldn't be well formed in other circumstances too.

Offline zaba

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2014, 12:48:33 AM »
Quote
I can imagine, easily enough, communicative events in which those triads are well formed, but there's no reason to think that their opposites couldn't be well formed in other circumstances too.

Yes, that's my conceptual issue. The referent can also be construed as a symbol and the symbol as a referent. After all, both are material "physical".

Is the distinction between the two just a matter of context?

Offline MalFet

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Re: What's an illustrative example to illustrate the semiotic tryad?
« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2014, 01:20:13 AM »
It's a matter of how consciousness relates things in events of communication.