T. Nazarova: "Linguistic and Literary Semiotics"


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1) "He wanted to see how far below the table the new broom was liable to sweep." (Graham Greene)

2) "He was putting the dot on an i, but he wasn't going to cross the t's as well." (Graham Greene)

3) "I believe John Akenside had a finger in nearly every European political pie..." (Barbara Pym)

    Linguosemiotic methods are not confined to the separate elements of the language (phonemes, words, word-combinations). They can be applied to texts as well. Here the semiotics of interlinguistically based texts comes into the picture. Otherwise stated, this is the question of the choice of the kind of English for this or that sign situation. The moment someone deliberately chooses a variety of English for a special kind of human communication, he (or she) ceases to be functioning on the natural linguistic (historical-philological) level, but enters a new branch of activity which becomes the object of a different science - semiotics. The process is connected with the use of "rational communicative systems," the rationality of scientific communication, its optimal character. Language for Specific Purposes (LSP) has much to do with a semiotically repetitive, "disembodied," arbitrarily chosen text, "singular (or "unique") in the sense that it is there to be "transcribed, imitated, emulated" as closely as possible.

    Teaching literature to foreign-language students appears to be one of the most involved linguodidatic problems. On the one hand, there are teaching programs in which there is no room for literature; here the latter is proclaimed to be uncognoscible, and, therefore, teachers have the right to disengage themselves from the cumbersome object. On the other hand, there are numerous textbooks whose conspicuous titles give a clear idea of how the solution to the problem is viewed and practiced by the respective authors. Texts are abridged, simplified, and, to use a very popular term, "neutralized." More often than not learners are presented with sentences and paragraphs torn out from the context for further exercise and perusal. Numerous literature-based textbooks are confined to comments on the plot and the characters. No wonder that authors of manuals rarely concern themselves with the esthetic value of verbal art and the globality of a literary work - a fictitiously construed "imaginary world" that serves the purposes of esthetic impact, enjoyment and appreciation.

    Literary semiotics is in a way distinctly different from the approaches outlined above. Discourse-oriented semiotics aims at typological investigation of narrative and has more to do with narratology, logic, cohesion and syntax, being of little practical value to students professionally concerned with literature and language studies. Structure-oriented semiotics deals with schematic synopses of literary texts and owes its present-day worldwide recognition to a Russian scholar, Vladimir Propp, who was the first to elaborate the structural approach to folklore (1928) and whose findings were later (in the 1950s) placed at the base of the structural-semiotic presentation of literary works. One should also mention learner-oriented methodologies inviting students esthetically to decompose significant utterances following the patterns worked out by Barthes, Greimas, Genette and Todorov.





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AS/SA nº 1 (1996): 6 of 8

© 1996 Nazarova
© 1996 AS/SA

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18.03.1996