Principia Cybernetica Web

Semiotic Terms

  • The following are mostly from within the theory of semantics and control as developed by Joslyn (see the paper "Semantic Control Systems").
  • They have been supplemented from the Glossary of Semiotics, by Vincent Colapietro [ CoV93].
  • The general categories considered are:

    Signs and sign-functions
    Signifiers and tokens
    Signifieds and objects
    Degrees of motivation and arbitrariness
    Proper signs
    Symbols and codes
    Laws and semantic closures

    Sign :
    A deterministic, functional regularity or stability in a system, also sometimes called a sign-function. Something, the signifier, stands for something else, the signified, in virtue of the sign-function. May be either lawful, proper, or symbolic depending on the presence or absence of motivation. This is, of course, a very general definition, but it is in the tradition of both semiotics and general systems theory to think very generally.
    Contains: signifier, signified.
    Cases: lawful, proper, symbolic.
    Synonym: sign function.
    Sign Function :
    Synonym: sign.

    Signifier :
    That part of a sign which stands for the signified, for example a word or a DNA codon.
    Synonym: token, sign vehicle.
    Part-of: sign.
    Token :
    The physical entity or marker which manifests the signifer by standing for the signified.
    Synonym: signifier, sign vehicle.
    Sign Vehicle :
    Synonym: token, signifier.

    Signified :
    That part of a sign which is stood for by the signifier. Sometimes thought of as the meaning of the signifier.
    Synonym: object, referent, interpretant.
    Part-of: sign.
    Object :
    Synonym: signified, referent, interpretant.
    Referent :
    Synonym: signified, object, interpretant.

    Motivation :
    The presence of some degree of necessity between the signified and siginifier of a sign. Makes the sign proper, and complete motivation makes the sign lawful. For example, a painting may resemble its subject, making it a proper sign.
    Antonym: arbitrariness.
    Arbitrariness :
    The absence of any degree of necessity between the signified and siginifier of a sign. Makes the sign symbolic. For example, in English we say "bachelor" to refer to an unmarried man, but since we might just as well say "foobar", therefore "bachelor" is a symbol.
    Antonym: motivation.

    Proper Sign :
    A sign which has an intermediate degree of motivation. For example, a photograph is a proper sign.
    isa: sign.
    Cases: icon, index.
    Icon :
    A proper sign where the motivation is due to some kind of physical resemblance or similarity between the signified and siginifier. For example, a map is an icon of its territory.
    isa: proper sign.
    Index :
    A proper sign where the motivation is due to some kind of physical connection or causal relation between the signified and siginifier. For example, smoke is an index of fire.
    isa: proper sign.

    Symbol :
    For CS Peirce, a sign where the sign function is a conventional rule or coding. The operation of a symbol is dependent on a process of interpretation.
    isa: sign.
    Rule :
    A functional regularity or stability which is conventional, and thus necessary within the system which manifests it, but within a wider universe it is contingent, or arbitrary. For example, if we wish to refer to an unmarried man in English, then we must say "bachelor", even though "bachelor" is a symbol.
    Synonym: code, semantic relation.
    Antonym: law.
    Semantic Relation :
    Synonym: code, rule.
    Code :
    The establishment of a conventional rule-following relation in a symbol, represented as a deterministic, functional relation between two sets of entities.
    Synonym: semantic relation, rule.
    Interpret :
    To take something for something else in virtue of a coding.
    Interpreter :
    That entity, typically a human subject, which interprets the sign vehicle of a symbol.
    Interpretant :
    For Peirce, that which followed semantically from the process of interpretation.
    Synonym: signified, object, referent.

    Law :
    A regularity or stability which is necessary for all systems, and thus immutable as a fact of nature. The necessity of the relation is called the sign's motivation.
    Antonym: rule.
    Semantic Closure :
    Propounded by Pattee [ PaH82], the property of real semiotic systems like organisms, wherein the interpreter is itself a referent of the semantic relation.

    See also:

    Copyright© 1998 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

  • Author
    C. Joslyn,

    May 8, 1998 (modified)
    Aug 9, 1995 (created)


    Metasystem Transition Theory


    Semiotics / Semantic Control

    Prev. Next


    Add comment...