Semiotic Elements and Classes of Signs - Classes of Signs

Classes of Signs

Peirce proposes several typologies and definitions of the signs. More than 76 definitions of what a sign is have been collected throughout Peirce's work. Some canonical typologies can nonetheless be observed, one crucial one being the distinction between "icons", "indices" and "symbols" (CP 2.228, CP 2.229 and CP 5.473). The icon-index-symbol typology is chronologically the first but structurally the second of three that fit together as a trio of three-valued parameters in regular scheme of nine kinds of sign. (The three "parameters" (not Peirce's term) are not independent of one another, and the result is a system of ten classes of sign, which are shown further down in this article.)

Peirce's three basic phenomenological categories come into central play in these classifications. The 1-2-3 numerations used further below in the exposition of sign classes represents Peirce's associations of sign classes with the categories. The categories are as follows:

Peirce's Categories (technical name: the cenopythagorean categories)
Name: Typical characterizaton: As universe of experience: As quantity: Technical definition: Valence, "adicity":
Firstness. Quality of feeling. Ideas, chance, possibility. Vagueness, "some". Reference to a ground (a ground is a pure abstraction of a quality). Essentially monadic (the quale, in the sense of the such, which has the quality).
Secondness. Reaction, resistance, (dyadic) relation. Brute facts, actuality. Singularity, discreteness, “this”. Reference to a correlate (by its relate). Essentially dyadic (the relate and the correlate).
Thirdness. Representation, mediation. Habits, laws, necessity. Generality, continuity, "all". Reference to an interpretant*. Essentially triadic (sign, object, interpretant*).

*Note: An interpretant is an interpretation (human or otherwise) in the sense of the product of an interpretive process.

The three sign typologies depend respectively on (I) the sign itself, (II) how the sign stands for its denoted object, and (III) how the signs stands for its object to its interpretant. Each of the three typologies is a three-way division, a trichotomy, via Peirce's three phenomenological categories.

  1. Qualisigns, sinsigns, and legisigns . Every sign is either (qualisign) a quality or possibility, or (sinsign) an actual individual thing, fact, event, state, etc., or (legisign) a norm, habit, rule, law. (Also called types, tokens, and tones, also potisigns, actisigns, and famisigns.)
  2. Icons, indices, and symbols. Every sign refers either (icon) through similarity to its object, or (index) through factual connection to its object, or (symbol) through interpretive habit or norm of reference to its object.
  3. Rhemes, dicisigns, and arguments . Every sign is interpreted either as (rheme) term-like, standing for its object in respect of quality, or as (dicisign) proposition-like, standing for its object in respect of fact, or as (argument) argumentative, standing for its object in respect of habit or law. This is the trichotomy of all signs as building blocks of inference. (Also called sumisigns, dicisigns, and suadisigns, also semes, phemes, and delomes.)

Every sign falls under one class or another within (I) and within (II) and' within (III). Thus each of the three typologies is a three-valued parameter for every sign. The three parameters are not independent of each other; many co-classifications aren't found. The result is not 27 but instead ten classes of signs fully specified at this level of analysis.

In later years, Peirce attempted a finer level of analysis, defining sign classes in terms of relations not just to sign, object, and interpretant, but to sign, immediate object, dynamic object, immediate interpretant, dynamic interpretant, and final or normal interpretant. He aimed at 10 trichotomies of signs, with the above three trichotomies interspersed among them, and issuing in 66 classes of signs. He did not bring that system into a finished form. In any case, in that system, icon, index, and symbol were classed by category of how they stood for the dynamic object, while rheme, dicisign, and argument were classed by the category of how they stood to the final or normal interpretant.

These conceptions are specific to Peirce's theory of signs and are not exactly equivalent to general uses of the notions of "icon", "symbol", "index", "tone", "token", "type", "term", "proposition", "argument", and "rhema".

Read more about this topic:  Semiotic Elements And Classes Of Signs

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