The Key Principle: The Sign Character of Language



That every language is a system of signs, that the sounds of language are posited by the speaker as signs and received by the hearer as signs, that the phenomenon of language arises as the mediator between individuals in the exchange of signs in this or some similar way we can begin to speak about language. In any case, the first thing needed logically in order to define it is a general term such as sign (σηεα, signum, seign) . What are signs?


Language Theory Sign Nature Language Science Representative Function Vowel Length 
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  1. 1.
    This is one of the results of a (still unpublished) study by Bruno Sonneck, “Sprachliche Untersuchungen zur Zeichentheorie,” which is supported by J. Gonda, ΔEIKNYMI, Semantische Studie over den indogemannschen Wortel deik-(1929), as well as the pertinent article in the etymological dictionaries of Walde-Pokorny, Walde, Kluge, and Paul. However, in its results it does not depart essentially from the general positions reached by Gonda. It would appear to me to be essential to bring language theory into connection with etymological issues. As far as it is today possible, Mr. Sonneck may have accomplished this task in the circumscribed area.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Compare on this K. Bühler, Die geistige Entwicklung des Kindes, 1. ed. (1918), pp. 116ff.; 5 ed. (1929), pp. 224ff.; and the discussions concerning what distinguishes the signals of ants and bees from symbolic signs which are found in Die Krise, pp. 51ff.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    William of Occam preferred to write supponere for this: “Occam uses supponere pro aliquo, as this, according to the evidence of Thurot, was customary from the year 1200, in the intransitive sense as equivalent to stare pro aliquo” (M. Baumgartner, Ueberwegs Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie, II 10, p. 602).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    We do not write “in itself” but rather for itself. that is. abstracting from the function of representing [Vertretung].Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    K. Baler, “Phonetik und Phonologie.” Trav’aux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague 4 (1931): 22–53.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    The socalled externally unheard `inner’ speech does not contravene the rule. For also here, for the single person himself, there are Given in perceptual fashion ’sounds’ or a substitute for sounds in some form or other (acoustical. motoric, optical), therefore something that can be perceived; otherwise, there would not be a true speech event.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    H. Gomperz. Semasiologie (n.d. ), p. 278. Compare also the essay Über einige philosophische Voraussetzungen der naturalistischen Kunst,’ Beilage zur Allgemeinen Zeitung, Nos. 160 and 161 of 14 and 15 July 1905.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Compare on this the section ’ Gemaldeoptik in K. Bühler, Die Erscheinungsweisen der Farben (Jena. 1922).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Travaux du Cercle du Prague I (1929), pp. 39–67.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Also, the analysis of observations in the structure of J. S. Mill’s theory of induction and the theory of Stumpf were free from the error we are discussing. According to Mill, as well as according to Stumpf, relations can be ’observed’; in Mill’s theory of observation, the extremely empiricist notion that even mathematics is based on experiences is explicitly bound up with the thesis we are discussing.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LowellLowellUSA

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