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The Influence of Roman Jakobson on the Development of Semiotics

  • Umberto Eco
Part of the Topics in Contemporary Semiotics book series (TICSE)

Abstract

The project of a science studying all possible varieties of signs and the rules governing their production, exchange, and interpretation is a rather ancient one. Pre-Socratic poetry and philosophy are frequently concerned with the nature of natural signs and divine messages. The Hippocratic tradition deals with the interpretation of symptoms, while the Sophists were critically conscious of the power of language. Plato’s Cratylus is a treatise on the origins of words, and the Sophist can be considered the first attempt to apply a binary method to semantic definitions.

Keywords

Main Trend Auditory Sign Verbal Language Real Thing Semiotic System 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    Roman Jakobson re-evaluated the role played by these last three works in “Linguistics,” Main Trends of Research in the Social and Human Sciences I (The Hague-Paris, 1970), pp. 419–63, and Coup d’oeil sur le développement de la sémiotique (the opening speech at the First International Congress of the International Association for Semiotic Studies [1974]) = Studies in Semiotics 3 (Bloomington, Ind.: Research Center for Language and Semiotic Studies, 1975). On links between Jakobson and phenomenological tradition, see Elmar Holenstein, Jakobson (Paris: Seghers, 1974).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Substantial reappraisals of Peirce are in Jakobson, “Results of a Joint Conference of Anthropologists and Linguists” (1952), Selected Writings II (The Hague, 1971), pp. 554–67; “Concluding Statement: Linguistics and Poetics” (1958), Style in Language,ed. Thomas A. Sebeok (New York, 1960), pp. 350–77; “À la recherche de l’essence du langage,” Diogène, 51 (1965) and Problèmes du langage (Paris, 1966), pp. 22–38 [see also “Quest for the Essence of Language,” Diogènes, 51 (Montreal, 1966), 21–37, and Selected Writings II, pp. 345–59]; “Language in Relation to Other Communication Systems,” Linguaggi nella società e nella tecnica, Convegno promosso dalla Ing. C. Olivetti and Co., S.p.A. per il centenario della nascità di Camillo Olivetti (Milan, 1970), pp. 3–16; “Linguistics,” Main Trends of Research in the Social and Human Sciences I; and Coup d’oeil sur le développement de la sémiotique. Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    “La contribution apporté par Ferdinand de Saussure au progrès des études sémiotiques est évidemment plus modeste et plus restreinte… Contrairement à Peirce et à Husserl, tous les deux conscients d’avoir jeté les fondements de la sémiotique, Saussure ne parle de la sémiologie qu’au futur.” (Jakobson, Coup d’ceil sur le développement de la sémiotique). Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Sharing a precise theory of human history as a collective product, I believe that the development of the historical novel would have been nearly the same even without the existence of Walter Scott (only logicians would have changed their examples apropos of the author of Waverley). But there is some difference between a cult of personality and the respect accorded a matter of fact.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    “De la poésie à la linguistique,” L’Arc, 60 (1975).Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Donum Natalicium Schrijnen (Nijmegen-Utrecht, 1929), pp. 900–13; also in R. Jakobson, Selected Writings IV (The Hague: Mouton, 1966), pp. 1–15.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Novyj Lef, 12 (1928), 36–37, and Readings in Russian Poetics, ed. L. Matejka (Ann Arbor, 1962), pp. 99–102.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Cf. the way in which the poems of Pushkin are understood in the light of a reference to sculpture (Jakobson, “Socha v symbolice Pulkinové,” Slovo a slovesnost III [1937], 2–24; see also “La statue dans la symbolique de Pouchkine,” Questions de Poétique [Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1973], pp. 152–89, and Punkin and His Sculptural Myth [The Hague: Mouton, 1975]): literary signs speak of visual signs, both referring back to a semantic system of metaphysical oppositions, such as Life and Death.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Novejsaja russkaja poèzija (Prague, 1921); see also “Fragments de ‘La Nouvelle poésie russe’,” Questions de Poétique, pp. 11–24.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    “Futurizm,” Iskusstvo, 7 (August 2, 1919), also in Questions de Poétique, pp. 25–30.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    “Results of a Joint Conference of Anthropologists and Linguists,” “Again and again one may quote Sapir’s still opportune reminder that `every cultural pattern and every single act of social behavior involves communication in either an explicit or implicit sense- (”Language in Relation to Other Communication Systems,“ Linguaggi nella società e nella tecnica [Milan, 1970]).Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Written jointly with M. Halle and published as Janua Linguarum, series minor, 1 (The Hague: Mouton, 1956).Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Structure of Language and Its Mathematical Aspects, ed. R. Jakobson [= Proceedings of Symposia in Applied Mathematics, XII] (American Mathematical Society, 1961), 245–52.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    “Socha v symbolice Puikinové.” “Pourquoi faut-il souligner que le signe ne se confond pas avec l’object? Parce qu’A côté de la conscience immédiate de l’identité entre le signe et l’objet (A est A), la conscience immédiate de l’absence de cette identité (A n’est pas A) est nécessaire: cette antinomie est inévitable, car sans contradiction, il n’y a pas de jeu de concepts, il n’y a pas de jeu des signes, le rapport entre le concept et le signe devient automatique, le cours des évenéments s’arrête, la conscience de la réalité se meurt” (“Co je poesie?” Volné sméry, 30 [Prague, 1934], pp. 229–39; “Qu’est-ce que la poésie?” Questions de Poétique, pp. 113–26).Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    “Futurizm,” Iskusstvo 7 (August 2, 1919).Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    With P. Bogatyrev, “Die Folklore als eine besondere Form des Schaffens” (1929).Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    “Musikwissenschaft und Linguistik,” Prager Presse, December 7, 1932; see also “Musicologie et linguistique,” Questions de Poétique, pp. 102–04.Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    “1Jpadek filmu?” Listy pro uméml a kritiku I (Prague, 1933), 45–49; see also “Décadence du cinema?” Questions de Poétique, pp. 105–12.Google Scholar
  19. 20.
  20. 21.
    “The Dominant” (1935), Readings in Russian Poetics: Formalist and Structuralist Views, ed. L. Matejka and K. Pomorska (Ann Arbor, 1971), pp. 82–87.Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    “Socha v symbolice Puskinové.”Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    “Concluding Statement: Linguistics and Poetics” (1958).Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    “Szczupak po polsku,” Prace Polonistyczne, 20 (1965), 132–41 [Italian translation: Premesse di storia letteraria (Milano: Saggiatore, 1975)].Google Scholar
  24. 25.
    “Results of a Joint Conference of Anthropologists and Linguists” (1952); “On Visual and Auditory Signs,” Phonetica, 1 1 (1964), 216–20, and Selected Writings II, 334–37; “Quest for the Essence of Language” (1966); and “About the Relation between Visual and Auditory Signs,” Models for the Perception of Speech and Visual Form, ed. W. Watten-Dun (Cambridge, Mass., 1967), pp. 1–7, and Selected Writings 11, pp. 338–44.Google Scholar
  25. 26.
    “Language in Relation to Other Communication Systems” (1968); “Linguistics,” Main Trends of Research in the Social and Human Sciences I (1970); and Coup d’tell sur le développement de la sémiotique (1974).Google Scholar
  26. 27.
    “Da i net v mimike,” Jazyk i éelovek, ed. V. A. Zvegincev (Moscow, 1970), pp. 284–89, and Selected Writings II, 360–65; see also “Motor Signs for `Yes’ and `No’,” Language in Society, 1 (1971).Google Scholar
  27. 28.
    Kindersprache, Aphasie und allgemeine Lautgesetze (Uppsala, 1941), and Selected Writings 1 (2nd ed: The Hague: Mouton, 1971), 328–401; see also Child Language, Aphasia, and Phonological Universals [= Janua Linguarum, series minor, 72] (The Hague: Mouton, 1972).Google Scholar
  28. 29.
    International Journal of American Linguistics, 10 (1944), 188–95; Portraits of Linguists Il, ed. T. A. Sebeok (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1966), 127–39; and Selected Writings, 11, 477–96.Google Scholar
  29. 30.
    Cf. note 26.Google Scholar
  30. 31.
    C. Lévi-Strauss, “L’analyse structurale en linguistique et en anthropologie,” Word, 1, 2 (1945). By examining the footnotes of many books and papers one rather frequently discovers that a lot of provocative ideas have come from a “personal communication” by Roman Jakobson. This generosity in giving fresh suggestions, whether to old colleagues or to young students, is one of the main features of Jakobson’s personality.Google Scholar
  31. 32.
    “Results of a Joint Conference of Anthropologists and Linguists” (1952).Google Scholar
  32. 33.
    “Linguistics,” Main Trends of Research in the Social and Human Sciences I.Google Scholar
  33. 34.
    Later published as `Language in Operation,“ Mélanges Alexandre Koyré I (Paris, 1964), 26981.Google Scholar
  34. 35.
    “Concluding Statement: ‘Linguistics and Poetics” (1958).Google Scholar
  35. 36.
    36. 0 c esskom stixe preimuséestvenno v sopostavlenii s russkim t = Sborniki po teorii poètiéeskogo jazyka V] (Berlin-Moscow, 1923); “Concluding Statement: Linguistics and Poetics” (1958); “Linguistics and Communication Theory” (1961).Google Scholar
  36. 37.
    Novejsaja russkaja poèzija [see note 10].Google Scholar
  37. 38.
    “Randbemerkungen zur Prosa des Dichters Pasternak,” Slavische Rundschau VII (1935), 35774.Google Scholar
  38. 39.
    “Concluding Statement: Linguistics and Poetics.”Google Scholar
  39. 40.
    “Co je poesie?” (1934) [see note IS].Google Scholar
  40. 41.
    “Zur Strukur des russischen Verbums,” Charisteria Gvilelmo Mathesio (Prague, 1932), pp. 7484, and Selected Writings II, 3–15; “Beitrag zur allgemeinen Kasuslehre,” Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague, 6 (1936), 240–88, and Selected Writings II, 23–71; and “Boas’ View of Grammatical Meaning” (1959).Google Scholar
  41. 42.
    Fundamentals of Language (1956).Google Scholar
  42. 43.
    “Concluding Statement: Linguistics and Poetics” (1958).Google Scholar
  43. 44.
    “Concluding Statement: Linguistics and Poetics,” Style in Language pp. 350–51. Apropos of one of the poetic devices most brilliantly pointed out by Jakobson, parallelism, it should be remarked that he has devoted considerable effort to elucidating the semiotic role of the various types of symmetry reflected in the diverse uses of parallelism. Cf. “Grammatical Parallelism and Its Russian Facets,” Language, 42 (1966), 399–429, and “The Modular Design of Chinese Regulated Verse,” Échanges et Communications: Mélanges offerts à Claude Lévi-Strauss (The Hague: Mouton, 1970), pp. 597–6605, where he stresses the striking similarity between the types of symmetry in Chinese classical verse and the approach to these problems in the theories of Chinese physicists.Google Scholar
  44. 45.
    “Language in Relation to Other Communication Systems” (1958); “Linguistics” (1970).Google Scholar
  45. 46.
    “Linguistics and Communication Theory” (1961).Google Scholar
  46. 47.
    “Language in Relation to Other Communication Systems” (1968).Google Scholar
  47. 48.
    See my proposals (U. Eco, A Theory of Semiotics [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976]) for distinguishing between s-codes (or codes as systems) and codes tout court. Google Scholar
  48. 49.
    For instance in “Language in Relation to Other Communication Systems,” Linguaggi nella società e nella tecnica (Milan, 1970), 1.4: “This code includes all the distinctive features to be manipulated, all the admisible combinations into bundles of co-occurrent features termed phonemes, and all the rules of concatenating phonemes into sequences-briefly, all the distinctive vehicles serving primarily to differentiate morphemes and whole words.”Google Scholar
  49. 50.
    Holenstein, Jakobson, pp. 96, 202.Google Scholar
  50. 51.
    “Linguistics,” Main Trends of Research in the Social and Human Sciences I (1970).Google Scholar
  51. 52.
    “On Visual and Auditory Signs” (1964) and “About the Relation between Visual and Auditory Signs” (1969) [see note 25].Google Scholar
  52. 53.
    Coup d’oeil sur le développement de la sémiotique (1974).Google Scholar
  53. 54.
    “Language in Relation to Other Communication Systems” (1968).Google Scholar
  54. 55.
    Main Trends of Research in the Social and Human Sciences I (1970).Google Scholar
  55. 56.
    “Futurizm,” Iskusstvo 7.Google Scholar
  56. 57.
    “Musikwissenschaft und Linguistik” (1932).Google Scholar
  57. 58.
    See, for instance, “On the Identification of Phonemic Entities,” Travaux du Cercle linguistique de Copenhague, 5 (1949), 205–13 (also in Selected Writings I, 418–25); and Fundamentals of Language.Google Scholar
  58. 59.
    For an introductory bibliography, see Musique en Jeu, 5 (1971).Google Scholar
  59. 60.
    Coup d’oeil sur le développement de la sémiotique (1974).Google Scholar
  60. 61.
    “Language in Relation to Other Communication Systems” (1968).Google Scholar
  61. 62.
    Thesis 8 in “Thèses présentées au Premier Congrès des philologues slaves,” Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague I (1929), 5–29; also in A Prague School Reader in Linguistics, ed. Joseph Vachek (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1964), p. 55.Google Scholar
  62. 63.
    “La phénomenologie moderne démasque systématiquement les fictions linguistiques et montre avec lucidité la différence fondamentale qui sépare le signe de l’objet signifié, la signification d’un mot et le contenu que vise cette signification.” “Co je poesie?” (1934).Google Scholar
  63. 64.
    “Results of a Joint Conference of Anthropologists and Linguists” (1952).Google Scholar
  64. 65.
    “On Linguistic Aspects of Translation” (1959) [see note 66].Google Scholar
  65. 66.
    See specifically “On Linguistic Aspects of Translation,” On Translation (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, and New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), pp. 232–39, with the list of various types of interpretation: intra-linguistic translation or rewording, interlinguistic translation, intersemiotic transmutation. Apropos of the possibilities of intersemiotic transmutation (transposition from verbal to visual and so on), see the remarks in Essais de linguistique générale (Paris, Minuit, 1963) (on aphasic impairments in children). On the creativity of every interpretation, see in “Randbemerkungen zur Prosa des Dichters Pasternak” a provocative definition of metaphorical and metonymical substitutions in poetry as “interpretations” (Peircian terminology is still absent, but here one witness an enlargement of the notion of interpretant to poetic procedures).Google Scholar
  66. 67.
    In “On Linguistic Aspects of Translation.”Google Scholar
  67. 68.
    In “Results of a Joint Conference of Anthropologists and Linguists.”Google Scholar
  68. 69.
    “Louvain Lectures” (see M. van Ballaer, Aspects of the Theories of R. Jakobson, memoir (Kattolieke Universiteit te Leuwen, 1973 [mineographed]).Google Scholar
  69. 70.
    E.g., Shifters,Verbal Categories, and the Russian Verb (Harvard University Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Russian Language Project, 1957 [mimeographed]); also in Selected Writings II, 130–47.Google Scholar
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    “Zur Struktur des russischen Verbums” (1932).Google Scholar
  71. 72.
    “La scuola linguistica di Praga,” La Cultura, 12 (1933), 633–41; see also “Die Arbeit der sogenannten `Prager Schule’,” Bulletin du Cercle Linguistique de Copenhague III (1938), 68 (also in Selected Writings II, pp. 547–50).Google Scholar
  72. 73.
    “Linguistics,” Main Trends of Research in the Social and Human Sciences I.Google Scholar
  73. 74.
    In order to establish the beginning of the activity of Jakobson as a writer, I rely on Roman Jakobson: A Bibliography of his Writings, ed. C. H. van Schooneveld (The Hague: Mouton, 1971).Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Umberto Eco
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SemioticsUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

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