References of "Basso Fossali, Pierluigi"
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See detailQue peut le métalangage ? What can metalanguage do ?
Dondero, Maria Giulia ULg; Provenzano, François ULg; Klinkenberg, Jean-Marie ULg et al

Book published by Presses Universitaires de Liège (2014)

In the social sciences, research that is conveyed in a display of technical language is not always seen in a good light. This is a trend particularly in semiotics. As a field of study, it has a reputation ... [more ▼]

In the social sciences, research that is conveyed in a display of technical language is not always seen in a good light. This is a trend particularly in semiotics. As a field of study, it has a reputation for eagerness to use semio-jargon at the worst, or at best, a reputation for walling itself off in a self-reflective meta-language. It is true that the best known and most cited treatise on structural semiotics, by Greimas and Courtés, was published as an Analytical Dictionary. And it is also true that Peirce's work is prodigiously crammed with terminological inventions and speculations. It would seem that in both cases, the quest for scientific rigor took precedence over elegance of expression and of so-called natural discourse. Nothing new under the sun, n'est-ce pas? They say that a courtesan under Louis XIV scandalized the Sun King's court by uttering a technical term in the king's bedchamber, which illustrates how far back the issue goes; it certainly didn't begin with the development of the academic study of signs. In issue 4 of Signata we would like to examine the various aspects of building the meta-language of semiotics. The intention is not to adopt a philological perspective, but to look at the issue of terminologies in current scientific epistemology. We will examine the diversity of the possible meta-languages (natural language versus technical language?), the influence of related disciplines (what implications do the borrowed terms from grammar, logic, mathematics, and so on have for semiotics?), the reasons — explicit or not — for the choices made, and the stylistic impacts of those choices. An inquiry of this sort could go in many directions. What follows is an open-ended, non-exhaustive enumeration: Semiotics: A special case? Is it actually true that the semiotic approach generates a more prolific meta-linguistic output than other disciplines? How and why? It would be interesting, for example, to do comparisons with these more or less related disciplines (linguistics, sociology, psychology, etc.), to assess whether their rapport with the meta-language might possibly be different, and the reasons for and effects of those differences. In these assessments, of course, there arises the issue of "natural language", which is so readily its own meta-language: Are there disciplines that reconcile themselves with this supposed naturalness without any detriment? An updated meta-language may be deemed as unavoidable for a discipline whose vocation is to generalize, which implies substantial modeling power. But what do we find in philosophy, which can be expressed without abandoning natural language, and which seems to incur less reproach for its jargon than semiotics? The archaeology of meta-languages Another line of inquiry would be of a genealogical nature: This would involve examining the theoretical justifications that underpin meta-language borrowings from this or that other discipline, at this or that other time in its history, and the repercussions, both stylistic and epistemological, of the trade in terminology. On this score, we note that classical structuralism has expressed itself to a great extent in a grammatical and more broadly linguistic language (actants, modalities, deixis, articulation, semes, etc.). But it is common knowledge that other approaches to semantic facts have favored the language of logic. And yet others have shown that it is both possible and effective to use language taken from geometry or optics. In addition to these, from the perspective of the primacy of perception, the language of the natural sciences must be included — particularly that of the neurosciences —, and the language of sensory forms from phenomenology. Whether one is helping oneself to terms like "isotopy" and "valence" from physics and chemistry or "topology" from mathematics, these are not innocent choices in a discipline that has blazed its trail through the social sciences. The epistemological influence of the meta-language. Without any doubt, herein lies the most complex, ambivalent issue. Firstly, when one adopts a meta-language, by definition one views the object of study as a language (whether it is the natural language or the language of images, or the language of social practices). Yet this operation is so laden with consequences that to enumerate them would be an impossible task. We will merely note that many theoretical categories and analytical tools seem to emerge directly from the choice of a particular meta-language and the distance dictated by it. Secondly, opting for one meta-language over another is ipso facto a choice of which explanatory form the analysis will use. It follows that working on the meta-language, far from being a deathly sterile activity, is a practice intended to generate the form the explanation will take (which is without any doubt a major issue in scientific discussion). But these two epistemological impacts of meta-language generation can trigger a great deal of discussion on what we might call "the adverse effects" of the chosen options. For example, if there is a consensus within a group on a particular meta-language (such as in Greimassian semiotics), it may become just a template to apply, simply a schema to project onto objects; but if it is an object of inquiry (such as in Peirce's work), it may yield an approach that is more theoretical than practical. Hence the question: Hasn't semiotics in fact been above all a field with a mix of applied and self-reflective approaches? And in any case, does it truly explain things when one supports a meta-language and seeks to apply it and think within its terms? For example, we might question whether the meta-linguistic power of semiotics hasn't made it a discipline that is quick to generalize, and kept it from focusing on the singularity of its objects. We might also question whether semiotic research isn't all too often more formal than substantial, both in the Hjelmselvian sense and the usual sense. Ultimately, even further up the line, one could debate the epistemological possibility of the meta-language itself — as the poststructuralist philosophies have done. Isn't the distinction between object language and meta-language actually a bit utopian in the natural languages, since it assumes that the terms completely lose their reflexivity? Lastly, we might question whether the meta-language as a theoretical tool doesn't entail more than just artless transparency, but also an effort to define the theory within a restrictive set of evidence. For example, to bring up the "semiotic square" presupposes that there is always a semiotic square that explains the basis of the discourse (in such a way that what was a working hypothesis could become a non-falsifiable theory). The socio-rhetorical effects of the meta-language Aside from the epistemological requirements, when technical terminology is reworked, this has impacts on the circulation of concepts and their appropriation by different groups, which then affects group members' recognition of one another and how they differentiate one group from another. The boundary drawn on a conceptual system by a terminological apparatus thus gives rise to corollary inclusion-exclusion repercussions that are not unimportant. There are fights over terminological legitimacy, whose foremost characteristic is actually that they are not formulated as such. Any meta-language also has impacts on the social aspects of thinking. This is especially true of the meta-language of semiotics, because, due to its dedication to generality and transposability, it must fully support deconstruction. On the other side of the coin, one can maintain that meta-language is to objects what bureaucracy is to communities: It is helpful in creating order and making distinctions, in establishing levels and empty slots, but the risk, then, is that it may become an end in itself that must be maintained and tended, and that it ultimately disallows acting and thinking in other ways. In the light of this rhetorical approach, finally, we will set down some things to consider on the manner in which semiotics talks to itself: Are "techno-speak" and "jargon" inevitable? Are "elegance" and "practicality" valid criteria for a meta-language? What impacts on the meta-language are due to the obligation we often have in semiotics to dialogue with those outside our field: Can/ should this influence the way semiotics is communicated? And what is the cost of this influence? [less ▲]

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See detailLes temporalités de la photographie de mode
Dondero, Maria Giulia ULg; Basso Fossali, Pierluigi

in Infra-mince. Revue de Photographie (2013), 8

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See detailLa sémiotique, entre autres / Semiotics, among others
Dondero, Maria Giulia ULg; Provenzano, François ULg; Klinkenberg, Jean-Marie ULg et al

Book published by Presses universitaires de Liège (2011)

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See detailSémiotique de la photographie
Dondero, Maria Giulia ULg; Basso Fossali, Pierluigi

Book published by Presses Universitaires de Limoges (2011)

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See detailCartographie de la sémiotique actuelle/Mapping current Semiotics
Dondero, Maria Giulia ULg; Provenzano, François ULg; Klinkenberg, Jean-Marie ULg et al

Book published by Presses universitaires de Liège (2010)

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See detailSemiotica della fotografia. Investigazioni teoriche e pratiche di analisi
Dondero, Maria Giulia ULg; Basso Fossali, Pierluigi

Book published by Guaraldi Editore - 2nd ed. (2008)

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