signifier / signified


signifier / signified
  ---- by Claire Colebrook
  According to the structuralist linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure, a language is made up of signifiers or differential marks, which then organise or structure, not only our language, but also the very conceptualisation of our world. The revolution of structuralist linguistics lay in the insistence on both the arbitrary nature of the signifier and on the highly contingent production of the system of signification. Whereas linguistics prior to structuralism might have studied a word diachronically by looking at the way the Latin word ratio comes to form a common root (and meaningful cause) for the modern words, 'reason', 'rational', 'rationalise', 'irrational' and so on, structuralist linguistics is synchronic. One should not study the emergence or genesis of signs, for this is vague, but only signs as they form a system. So it would be significant that one language might mark a difference between grey and blue, or like and love, while another language would not mark out such a difference. The consequences of this supposed primacy of the signifier extended well beyond linguistics. If it is the case that we think only within a system of differences, then thought depends upon a prior structure and that structure can only be studied or criticised as a whole. There can be no intuition of any term or thing in itself, for we only know and think within a system of differences without positive terms.
  Not only does Deleuze favour the linguistics of Louis Hjelmslev over Saussure so that there are already forms or differentiations that are not the effect of a language or conceptual scheme, he also (with Guattari) conducted an intense political assault on the ideology or despotism of the signifier. How is it that we come to think of thought as reducible to a system of linguistic signs? Not only do Deleuze and Guattari insist, positively, that there are régimes of signs beyond language, ranging from music and the visual arts to the signs of the inhuman world - smoke being a sign of fire, light being a sign for a heliotrope or a bird's refrain being the sign of its territory, they also conduct a critique of the modern concept of signification, the idea that we are submitted to a system of signs beyond which we cannot think. On the structuralist understanding of the signifier, all thought takes place in a system of signs and all differences are mediated through this system such that nothing can be considered in itself. Structuralism is often, therefore, considered to be a 'break' in this history of western metaphysics, for it concedes that there can be no knowledge of pure presence, only knowledge of the world as mediated through signs. According to Deleuze and Guattari, however, the signifier is yet one more way in which we fail to think difference positively; one more way in which we mistake already structured experience for the positive structuring power of life to differ. Signifiers, Deleuze and Guattari argue, are just examples of the ways in which life is expressed or differentiated. Deleuze's argument for positive difference is in direct contrast with the idea that there is a system of relations that determines life in advance. On the contrary, Deleuze says that while language can overcode other systems of difference, for we can speak about other systems of signs, it is also possible for language to be deterritorialised through the positive power of difference. If, for example, our régime of visual signs is overturned by an event in cinema, then we might be forced to think differently and create new concepts. In such a case thinking would not be governed by a preceding system, but would be violated by the shock or encounter with life, a life that emits signs well beyond those of the system of signification.
  Connectives
   § deterritorialisation / reterritorialisation
   § difference

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • signifier / signified —    by Claire Colebrook   According to the structuralist linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure, a language is made up of signifiers or differential marks, which then organise or structure, not only our language, but also the very conceptualisation of… …   The Deleuze dictionary

  • signified — [sig′nə fīd΄] n. Linguis. the object or concept represented by a SIGNIFIER (sense 2) …   English World dictionary

  • signifier — [sig′nə fī΄ər] n. 1. a person or thing that signifies 2. Linguis. a sound or group of sounds, an image, or a symbol that stands for an object or concept: cf. SIGNIFIED …   English World dictionary

  • SIGNIFIER И SIGNIFIED — (Лингвистика) различие по отношению к любому лингвистическому знаку между термином (его звуковой формой) signifier и понятием (идеей), обозначаемым термином signified. Это различие было введено Соссюром. Другим подчеркнутым им аспектом знака был… …   Большой толковый социологический словарь

  • Signified — Signify Sig ni*fy, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Signified}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Signifying}.] [F. signifier, L. significare; signum a sign + ficare (in comp.) to make. See {Sign}, n., and { fy}.] 1. To show by a sign; to communicate by any conventional… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • signified — noun the meaning of a word or expression; the way in which a word or expression or situation can be interpreted the dictionary gave several senses for the word in the best sense charity is really a duty the signifier is linked to the signified •… …   Useful english dictionary

  • signified — noun Date: 1939 a concept or meaning as distinguished from the sign through which it is communicated compare signifier 2 …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • signifier — noun Date: 1532 1. one that signifies 2. a symbol, sound, or image (as a word) that represents an underlying concept or meaning compare signified …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • signified — /sig neuh fuyd /, n. Ling. the thing or concept denoted by a sign. Cf. signifier. [1630 40; SIGNIFY + ED2] * * * …   Universalium

  • signifier — /sig neuh fuy euhr/, n. 1. a person or thing that signifies. 2. the configuration of sound elements or other linguistic symbols representing a word or other meaningful unit in a language. Cf. signified. [1525 35; SIGNIFY + ER1] * * * …   Universalium


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