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Comments to Semios-L

Mortelmans Dimitri :
Fri, 14 Jun 1996 10:03:34 PDT

Steven Skaggs wrote:
> Think of a number between 1 and 5.
> Type it on the screen.
> <4>
> I read a 4.
> When I read '4' that's my interpretant.
> The number on the screen was the representamen or sign vehicle.
> Your thought was the object.
> Your thought was itself an interpretant (of a preceding semiotic event).
> The lesson here is that objects are not 'real' (and certainly not
> necessarily physical), but are position markers in the semiosic chain.
I do not agree with this argument.

You read '4' that is: you got a visual impression by your senses showing
three black lines on a white background (at least at my screen). That is
your signifier or representamen.

Because you are culturally socialized to it and because you find yourself in
a certain context, you have a concept in mind that gives this combination of
lines a certain meaning. This could be called the interpretant or the

The thought that combines these two makes this combination of three lines
signify 'four' which establishes a sign.

What about the object then ? I wrote before that even the 'something where
the sign refers to' needs to be physical. Dr. Reinheimer correctly stated
that this was maybe too all encompassing but in this example there is a real
(and even physical) object. There is on the surface of your screen a certain
combination of color changing substances (phosphor a specialist told me).
[It is more obvious if we take the case in which the '4' is printed on
paper. In that case the object would be a certain amount of ink on a paper

As a whole the sign is off course a mental construct. It is a thought that
combines the components of the sign. However, its components could be

What happened in your example was the communication of a sign. The one who
thought about a number between 1 and 5 communicated his thought into a
visual sign (he also could have spoken it). At the other side you received a
visual image which you decoded as a sign, meaning '4'. It is not certain
both the coding and the decoding were the same. That depends on the context
sender and receiver are situated in and the codes they possess. I do not
believe the other one's thought is included in the sign '4'. That could be a
further interpretation of the sign in your mind.

Dimitri Mortelmans

Dimitri Mortelmans (R2.20)
Departement Politieke en Sociale Wetenschappen
Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen
Universiteitsplein 1                    e-mail: mortel@uia.ua.ac.be
2610 Wilrijk                            voice : 03/820.28.58.
Belgium                                 fax   : 03/820.28.82.

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Comments to Semios-L