March 17, 2008 12:58pm CST
This is for the people who are interested in some serious literary discussions. Here we can share our knowledge on some relevant literary theories. I wish to start with structuralism which was an intellectual movement began in France in the 1950s. In short it is the belief that things cannot be understood in isolation; they have to be seen in the context of larger structures. The structures here are those imposed by our way of perceiving the world and organising experience rather than objective entities already existing in the external world. Meaning or significance is not a kind of core or essence inside the thing- meaning is always outside. Meaning is always attributed to things by human mind.
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17 Mar 08
Indeed, the words are conventional signs with no direct connection of some sort with their significant. Their significance is understood only by experience, that is learning from the ones that made these conventions. Words are different tahn the other signs, some of them being related directly to their significance, like the smoke to a fire, or like the rain to a cloud... But the champion of all signs is the symbol...! I don't know much about structuralism, but the second part of your discussion caught my attention. See you around!
18 Mar 08
The signifier and the signified...here we come to Saussure, the linguist. His arguments are primarily on three points. Firstly he argued that the meanings we give to words are purely arbitrary, that is the meanings are maintained by conventions only. There is no inherent connection between a word and what it designates. That is , the word "tree" has no inherent connection with the thing we call a tree. The word has connection with the thing or the concept only in the context of English language. Just like a "red light" signifies "stop" in the context of a traffic system. If there was one to one relation between the word tree and the object we call tree it would have been called a "tree" in all the languages.
18 Mar 08
And then he argues that meaning of words are relational. No word can be defined in isolation. The meaning of the word "hut" depends on its position in a syntagmatic chain(hovel-hut-house-mansion-palace) Mansion is a dwelling bigger and grander than a house but not as big and as grand as palace. We define "mansion" by explaining how its meaning relates to that of the two words on either side of it. And in binary opposites(male/female, white/black), each designates the absence of the "other"(male- which is not female). In a language there are only differences without fixed terms.