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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology of signs

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2008 09:15:00 -0400
Message-id: <487F45D4.2020807@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Smoke is a sign of fire, but in that sense it is an *index*,
which is is just one way that something can be a sign.    (01)

Antoinette noted that smoke could also be a *symbol*,
which is another way that something can be a sign:    (02)

 > And smoke could be a signal (smoke signal) which could also
 > be a symbol that there is trouble, or a celebration.    (03)

The point, which Peirce made long ago, is that anything can be
a *mark* that is *interpreted* as a sign.  But a mark is only
interpreted as a sign by some mind or "quasi-mind".  The quasi-
mind could be any living thing.  For further explanation, see
the excerpt below from Section 2 of an article I wrote.    (04)

By the way, I also posted the slides for a talk that has a large
overlap with that article, but I didn't have time in the talk to
explain Peirce's theory of signs.  The slides, however, have
more detail on other points:    (05)

    http://www.jfsowa.com/talks/pursuing.pdf    (06)

John Sowa
______________________________________________________________    (07)

Source:  http://www.jfsowa.com/pubs/pursuing.pdf
          Pursuing the Goal of Language Understanding    (08)

In [Peirce's] semeiotic, every sign is a triad that relates a
perceptible *mark*, to another sign called its *interpretant*,
which determines an existing or intended *object*. Following is
one of Peirce's most often quoted definitions:    (09)

    A sign, or *representamen*, is something which stands to somebody
    for something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody,
    that is, creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign,
    or perhaps a more developed sign.  That sign which it creates I
    call the *interpretant* of the first sign.  The sign stands for
    something, its *object*.  It stands for that object, not in all
    respects, but in reference to a sort of idea, which I have
    sometimes called the *ground* of the representamen. (CP 2.228)    (010)

A pattern of green and yellow in the lawn, for example, is a mark,
and the interpretant is some type, such as Plant, Weed, Flower,
SaladGreen, or Dandelion.  The guiding idea that determines the 
interpretant depends on the context and the intentions of the
observer.  The interpretant determines the word the observer
chooses to express the experience.  The listener who hears that
word uses background knowledge to derive an equivalent interpretant...    (011)

On the surface, Peirce's triads seem similar to the meaning
triangles by Aristotle, Frege, or Ogden and Richards (1923).
The crucial difference is that Peirce analyzed the underlying
relationships among the vertices and sides of the triangle.
By analyzing the relation between the mark and its object,
Peirce (1867) derived the triad of icon, index and symbol:
an *icon* refers by some similarity to the object; an *index*
refers by a physical effect or connection; and a *symbol*
refers by a law, habit, or convention.  Figure 4 shows this
*relational triad* in the middle row...    (012)

Peirce (1911:33) did not limit his definition to human minds or
even to signs that exist in our universe:    (013)

     A sign, then, is anything whatsoever -- whether an Actual or a
     May-be or a Would-be -- which affects a mind, its Interpreter,
     and draws that interpreter’s attention to some Object (whether
     Actual, May-be, or Would-be) which has *already* come within
     the sphere of his experience.    (014)

The mind or quasi-mind that interprets a sign need not be human.  In
various examples, Peirce mentioned dogs, parrots, and bees.  Higher
animals typically recognize icons and indexes, and some might recognize
symbols.  A language of some kind is a prerequisite for signs at the
formal level of rhemes, dicent signs, and arguments.    (015)

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