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Katya Mandoki :
towards a unified terminology; [opening, EP]
Fri, 7 Jun 1996 11:17:01 -0600

Fellow semiologists/semioticians,

I call for help from you all  to define by careful examination
and argumentation  a simple, unified terminology for use in
semiotics/semiology theory.
What I have in mind is this list as a means to arrive
at a consensus regarding a single set of basic terms we could all (peircians,
 saussurians, greimasians, benvenistians, jakobonians, veronians,
wallonians, barthesians, morrisians, ecoians, hjelmslevians et al) agree
upon. Why must we necessarily take sides and feel forced to use a special
jargon to be understood by our fellow co-ians only? Isn't it possible to
decide by a careful analysis which may be the elementary terms that may be
common to all? Why do we have to be constantly translating into each other
terms such as interpretants, interpreters, speakers, decoders, signifiers,
signifieds, denotata, designata, references, referents, representamen,
indexicals, deictics, connotation, implication, implicature, etc, Why is
the term "symbol" used in such a variety of meanings from Eliade to
Cassirer to Bourdieu to Peirce? What are the advantages of the tryadic and
dyadic models over one another? Could we look at these matters
unprejudiced, without having to defend apriori our favorite gurus? I think
semiotics/semiology has enough perspective now to make this initiative
possible. I am aware terms carry with them the whole code to which they
belong, and
this is the main reason why unification of terms has been impossible so
far. It is not as simple as choosing one term among denotatum, reference,
signified, interpretant, ground, etc. over the others. But I have faith that
discussion may pave a way for a less dispersed terminology. Another, major,
obstacle is that terms are loaded not only by these codes but by, say, the
ontological stance implied, and on this issue, I don't see an easy solution.
Yet, a common terminology could consider it being used by both realists
and constructivists alike, making ontological implications explicit and
still aplicable by both positions with the minimal possible deviation of
meaning.

Scientists have no problems with terms such as leptons, quarks, fractals,
attractors, cells, entropy. Why precisely us, semiologists/semioticians,
can't get through this very basic obstacle? Couldn't we discuss it here?
I may be dreaming, but what if we make a collective effort and present
for the next congress in Guadalajara a paper authored by Semios-l with
this proposal? We have almost a year to work.  We could arrive to a
simple enough (not simplistic) terminology that may be used not only by
specialists in semiology but by biologists, astronomers, zoologists,
aestheticians, pedagogists, etc. so as to be able to benefit more  from
comparative studies and attract specialists in other fields to
contribute to our discipline. The dispersion of terminology both
intimidates and dissuades non specialists.  Semiology/semiotics is a truly
transdisciplinary field; if we don't have a single terminology, what may hold it
 together
and make it fructify? How many empirical contributions have we lost from
other fields due to this terminological caos?

Is anyone willing to join? Could we make this discussion bilingual
(Spanish and English) to make it more balanced, since non-peircians are
more often found among Spanish speaking semiologists?

Katya Mandoki

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