T. Nazarova: "Linguistic and Literary Semiotics"


    The property of belonging to the field of semiotics can be discovered in words. In this respect it is important to distinguish between syncategorematic and categorematic words. Syncategorematic words, in contrast with the categorematic ones, are of a much more abstract character. This is best illustrated by an examination of English articles. To arrive at the semiotic function of articles one has to begin by completely "disembodying" and "abstracting" them. The three English articles - "a/an" (classifying), "the" (identifying) and "[zero]" (generalizing) - are used to indicate, single out or classify an object with respect to the participants of the speech event. The English articles are a set of special signs by means of which we can continuously shift, organize and re-organize the deictic orientation of speech in different ways.

    From words we may turn to polylexemic word-equivalents - word combinations. The latter also have meanings as words do. In Modern English there are different classes of word-combinations. They display varying degrees of semiosis. On the one hand, there are neutral, recurrent word-combinations of the following type: "blue sky," "warm day," "long night," "nice face". They are the so-called "common property" collocations (Ter-Minasova 1980). We may list more formal word-combinations like: "extensive literature on the subject," "the development of our science," "leading linguists, drastic reconsideration of our methodology," etc. They can also be included into the "common property" thesaurus in the sense that there is nothing uniquely individual or occasion-specific about them. They can be used by different speakers for a wide range of communicative purposes.

    Collocations of this type should be distinguished from what was called "private property" (Ter-Minasova 1980) - word-combinations created by a speaker or writer for a particular occasion and aimed at achieving a certain expressive-emotional-evaluative impact on the addressee: "spiritual adultery," "ripples of dissent," "dinginess of soul," "a little hangover of guilt," "a woman without mystery," "a coma of misery," "a massive sea of protest," "a vague flower of the upper classes," etc. 3

3 I have borrowed these collocations from modern British and American writers (Iris Murdoch, Anita Brookner, Jeanette Winterson and John Grisham). [BACK TO TEXT]

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AS/SA nº 1 (1996): 4 of 8

© 1996 Nazarova
© 1996 AS/SA

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