Saturday, December 09, 2006


An excerpt from Mihhail Lotman's, Umwelt and Semiosphere (pdf), a contribution to the workshop Cassirer, Lotman, Uexküll: between biology and semiotics of culture:

Nevertheless, Lévinas' phenomenological language which seems to be mighty and adequate enough to define the existential necessity of the existence of the other can not in principle transmit the content of meeting. In order to that we must return to Buber, who summarized it with a simple phrase: "you and me". As Émile Benveniste showed, such words as "me", "you", "here" and "now" differ from usual words which signify objects not because they are different words, but because they belong to a principally different sign system. Benveniste tried to mark this differentiation by using such terms as semiotics and semiology, as well as speech and language. Namely, deictic words are the ideal form of semiotics of speech, differently from semiotics of language which is oriented towards objects and situations (Benveniste 1966). It is a very important differentiation, although in my opinion not quite adequate: deictic signs belong to the field of speech as well as symbolic ones. But here is another aspect which was overlooked by Benveniste: we are not dealing here just with speech (i.e., e.g., with monological speech), but necessarily with dialogue. Beyond the situation of dialogue deictic words are just meaningless.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 10:09 AM.


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