Theory Of Sign Essay

1610 words - 6 pages

To understand how signs function, semiosis, Morris proposes four elements: Sign vehicle (S), Designatum (D), and Interpretant and interpreter (I). "The mediators are sign vehicles; the taking-account-of are interpretants; the agents of the process are interpreters; what is taken account of are designata" (Morris, 1972: 19). Those elements of semiosis become the foundation of branches of linguistics and basic elements of language. The branches of linguistics are semantics is the study of sign in its relation to designatum, pragmatics the study of sign in relation to interpreter, and syntactics the study of sign in relation to other signs. Based on those semiotic elements, Morris proposes a definition of language: “a language is . . . any inter-subjective set of sign vehicles whose usage is determined by syntactical, semantical, and pragmatical rules” (Morris:48). An objection for this definition of language might be that by extending the four semiotic elements into linguistics and language, Morris’s definition of sign will be problematic since all objects that are symbolically and linguistically associated with other objects are defined as signs. Therefore one might observe the discrepancy of his definition of sign with his examples (See C. J. Ducasse, 1942). Since this paper is aimed at demonstrating my understanding on Morris’ theory of sign, I will describe the problematic aspects of Morris’s arguments if they become obstacles for me to understand his arguments.
Morris argues that the object of semiotic does not deal with particular object, but association of four of them, therefore sign is characterized as: “S is a sign of D for I to the degree that I takes account of D in virtue of the presence of S” (Morris: 19). Designatum is a semiotic term, "the kind of objects which the sign applies to,.i.e., the objects with the properties which the interpreter takes account of through the presence of sign vehicle" (Morris: 20). Sign always depends upon their linguistic and social contexts, how they interact. It means that particularity of meanings emerges not in the sign but in the interaction between those elements, even though in Morris’s description we find that those elements are apparently independent. The semiosis elements, which Morris also terms it as the relational properties of sign, not only define what sign is but also limit its referential properties. Morris’s account that “something is a sign only because it is interpreted as a sign” (Morris: 20) suggests that a sign is already laden with particular reference, and continuity of particular reference depends upon the relational properties of sign.
In the system of semiosis, sign works operates under this formula: "S is a sign of D for I to the degree that I takes account of D in virtue the presence of S" (Morris:19). S and D relationship is associative: sign is always associated with designatum: either with a kind of object (designatum) or a real object (denotatum) . Sign associated...

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