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Jerzy Pelc “Theory Formation in Semiotics”

Pelc, Jerzy 1997. Theory Formation in Semiotics. – Posner, Roland; Robering, Klaus; Sebeok, Thomas A. (eds.), Semiotics: A Handbook on the Sign-Theoretic Foundations of Nature and Culture. Vol.1. Berlin: Walter De Gruyter: 617–643

[…] the phrase „the semiotics of expression E“ denotes, firstly, the semiosic properties, semiosic functions, and semiosic relations of expression E within the considered semiotic system. This involves (a) the structure of the expression and its connextion with the sign context, (b) its meaning and reference, and (c) its relations to the surrounding situation; the users, place, time, etc. (634-635)

Secondly, the word „semiotics“ is sometimes used as the name of a certain branch of knowledge, a science, discipline or interdisciplinary study having semiotics1 as its object. We shall denote this branch of knowledge, science, discipline or interdisciplinary study with „semiotics2“. In most of the cases this is a structure with at least two levels. On its lower level (semiotics2.1) it describes semiotics 1 in a metalanguage1, while on its higher level (semiotics2.2) it uses a metalanguage2 or metametalanguage, to describe and explain phenomena belonging to semiotics2.1. (635)

Distinguished within theoretical semiotics are pure semiotics and descriptive semiotics. The former „could be presented as a deductive system with undefined terms and primitive sentences which allow the deduction of other sentences or theorems,“ and its branches would be pure syntactics, pure semantics, and pure pragmatics. Descriptive semiotics on the other hand is the application of the metalanguage in discussions of concrete instances of sign situations. (635)

All methods of language analysis – bot the grammatical and the stylistic, rhetorical and versificational one, and the method of formalization – are semiotic methods. They are often called „semiotics“, but in a meaning different from those discussed so far. For the sake of distinction we will use the term „semiotics3“. […] semiotics3 contains research procedures typical for the humanities (e.g. stylistic analysis) alongside those widely used in mathematics and symbolic logic, namely the methods of formalization. (636)

„Semiotics4“ is applied semiotics, e.g. semiotics of culture, sociosemiotics, praxiosemiotics, psychosemiotics or zoosemiotics. […] Each semiotics4 is thus the result of a systematic application of semiotics3 to some complex of objects, events and phenomena comprising a certain whole […] (636)

As we see, obviousness and intuition accompany the construction of unformalized and unaxiomatized seimotic theories; in fact, intuition also guides scholars constructing axiomatized semiotic theories. The authors of both the unaxiomatized and the rare axiomatized theories make use of statements of other sciences (such as linguistics, psychology, sociology, acoustics or optics) as premisses of semiotic theories, and also employ terms of other sciences in constructing definitions of semiotic terms. (639)

Keeping in mind the distinction made between a theory characteristic of a given discipline and a theory occurring in a given discipline, we must note that in theoretical semiotics we usually deal with theories characteristic of semiotics, whereas in applied semiotics we have in most cases theories characteristic of a given domain of application. (640)

The semiotic theory, being empirical and humanistic, is usually closely connected to its author’s world view. In its semantic part it contains ontological commitments, and in its pragmatic part gnosiological assumptions. (641)

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