On Modeling Systems and Semiotic Structures

The relationship between language and thought has historically been one of the most central problems for both semioticians and linguists. This presentation will approach this problem using the notions of “modeling system” and “semiotic structure”. The main proposal we will be advancing is this: while language certainly is a modeling system, its main function is that of being a semiotic structure. The difference we will posit that exists between modeling systems and semiotic structures is that a semiotic structure is geared towards practice, while a modeling system is geared towards ordering perception. We will claim that language, i.e. linguistic natural language, has as its main function that of communication, i.e. its main function is to enable the practice in which communication consists. This is supported by the fact that language change is driven by adapting expression to content. Certainly, the fact that, in language, expression is at the service of content entails the fact that language is also a modeling system. However, in order to think of language as a modeling system, we have to conceive language as a part of a more comprehensive sign system, to wit a sign system that establishes a pertinence principle that governs perception. Language as a semiotic structure becomes, in this way, the expression plane of a more general modeling system whose main function is not that of establishing a practice, but simply that of ordering perception in order to make practices possible. This results in an enchainment of semiotic systems that ultimately resolve in an umwelt-like structure. The presentation will thus explain how such enchainment takes place and how it gives rise to a (relative) hierarchy of sign systems.

Eugenio Israel Chávez Barreto

Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu, Estonia

PhD student at the Department of Semiotics at Tartu University. He studied linguistics at the National School of Anthropology and History, Mexico. His main research interests are general semiotics, biosemiotics, and the history of semiotics and linguistics. His current research consists in the elaboration of a monograph about Luis Prieto’s semiotic theory.

communication and signification
structural semiotics