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The nature and role of indexicality in language and culture using the data of three of the authors read on the course.

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Introduction

The nature and role of indexicality in language and culture using the data of three of the authors read on the course. According to Charles S. Pierce, we as human beings are 'meaning- makers' and we 'think only in signs'. Therefore meanings are created through our interpretation of signs in the form of words, images, sounds, smells, flavours, acts or objects. These words have no inherent meaning and only become signs when we attach the meaning to them (Pierce, 1931-58, 2.302). Pierce also suggested that it is the interpretation of a sign that signifies something or stands for something other than itself. It is by our unconscious interpretation of signs and associating them with a particular system of rules that makes signs meaningful (Pierce, 1931-58, 2.172). The two important models of what make up a sign were those of linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and philosopher Charles Sanders Pierce. Saussure suggested a dyadic model to the sign; a signifier or the form which the sign takes, and the signified, the representation of the idea (Saussure, 1974:67). In contrast Pierce offered a triadic model which consisted of the Representamen: the form which the sign takes; an Interpretant: the sense made of the sign; and an Object to which the sign refers. This relation between the representamen, the interpretant and the object Pierce called 'semiosis' (Pierce, 1931-58, 2.228). He explains this concept by the use of the traffic light sign for 'stop': the red light at a junction facing traffic (the representamen); the traffic coming to a stop (the object) and the knowledge that a red light indicates that the traffic must stop (the interpretant) ...read more.

Middle

(Benveniste, 1971:227). In linguistics, time is self-referential or self- reflexive and deixis refers to indexical signs within language. These signs are the demonstratives, adverbs and adjectives which are used to arrange the "spatial and temporal relationship around the subject taken as the referent." (Benveniste, 1971:226). Loudes de Leon This model of linguistic participation was derived from Goffman's (1974, 1981) analysis of the speaker/hearer dyad as form of interaction. (de Leon, 1998:135). This participation structure advocates the child model; these children are taught to participate at a very young age. This participation may involve gestures, gaze direction, body-movements with little or no vocalisation other than gurgling; which is treated as a meaningful part of the child's development by the adults and parents. Children are taught to speak even before they are actually able to, and at a very young age their social participation begins. This suggests a deep level of interaction between the parents and young children. Every gesture and sign is taken up and interpreted by the adults. Everything they do is communicative and every utterance is meaningful which is signified by the response of the adult to the child. (Lecture Notes, 21/10/03). Returning to Pierce's triadic model of signs for an example, the gurgle of the child is the representamon; the gesture or sound uttered by the child. The interpreton is the response by the adult to the child and the object is whatever intention the adult thinks the child wants or needs. From this early stage the children learn to interpret their actions as meaningful because the adults do. In the conversation between the grandfather, Mal and her mother Mel is embedded as speaker by her grandfather and her mother is the addressee. ...read more.

Conclusion

Accent indicates the social personae you inhabit and a role alignment with particular values, these particular styles or values are also icons. Indexical icons are therefore powerful kinds of ideological symbols: rough people talk in a rough way and refined people talk in a refined way. (Lecture Notes, 16/12/'03). Society is built through acts of speaking with differences in role relationships and interaction. Goffman uses the metaphor of 'footing to describe where you stand with other people. They begin on one footing and change to a different one depending on the interaction between them through the action of speaking. Pierce's theory of signs is questioned by, amongst others, Beth Singer who argues that the major fault in his theory is that is not general enough: "it defines the term 'sign' as 'sign of' and thus makes it essential to a sign that it stands for something else." (Cited in Colapietro 1987:205). Bakhtin uses a description of a kind of indexicality that is verbal utterances seen also as social interaction. Systems of speech come from the stratification of society and the division of labour which affects the way people speak and the way society is organised (Lecture notes, 25/11/'03). In conclusion, the recent interest in the study of indexicality has shown that it is a universal feature of languages and more complicated than first thought. Indexicality cannot be understood without looking at the social and cultural contexts of speech although Hanks (2000) suggests that the abstractness and the amount of terms that describe indexicality, raise the question of agreement to the subject. As indexicality is based on contiguity it must be defined in relation to 'local standards of copresence and relevance' and that the structure and interpretation of indexicality is culturally specific. (Hanks, 2000). ...read more.

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