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Unformatted text preview: rd is chosen and becomes accepted by the linguistic community, the sign no longer seems arbitrary to the language community that uses it, but in fact it is. 11 If signs are arbitrary, how and in what manner are signs so productively employed to generate meaning in our routine everyday lives? How do we talk about anything if it’s all arbitrary? The answer lies in “difference.” According to Saussure meaning does not come from the positive attributes of things, but from their location in a space of difference. When we hear the word “dog” it produces meaning because the word “dog” differentiates itself from other words such as ‘cat’, ‘dig’, ‘bone’ or ‘tree.’ As silly as that statement may sound, Saussure’s claim was extraordinary; a word conveys meaning by virtue of what it is not. This is the principle of discursive differentiation. The path from the word to the object is always mediated by a concept Unlike Saussure who thought of the sign as a binary unity, Peirce(Noth 1995: 39‐47) defined the sign as consisting of three parts: the word, the concept, and the object (Figure 7). He called these respectively, the representamen, the interpretant, and the referent. Although Peirce’s gave us a model of a semiotic triangle and it is very often useful—and seemingly common‐ sense—to include the object as part of the sign is technically misleading. Figure 7.Peirce’s three part model of the sign We saw in the previous section that an object has an infinite number of attributes. Therefore no single word can capture the essence or the multiplicity of attributes of an object. It is impossible for a word to give us direct access to a whole object because a word can only refer to a selected attribute of the object (Figure 8). There is always a concept between the word and the object it describes. 12 Figure 8. The path from the word to the object is mediated by a concept Every sign is polysemic The path from word to object, mediated by a concept, is almost never a straight line containing only one concept. A single word in fact refers to m...
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