The Humanity Of Words - online book

A Primer Of Semantics

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Ig6                  THE HUMANITY OF WORDS
interpret in their context. We live in a world of signs. They press upon us from all sidesfrom the early morning alarm to the last tired yawn.
But there are signs of various kinds. For Morris, the word "sign" is a generic term. Like this:
Sign
Signal           Symbol
A signal is a substitute stimulus; the doorbell for the visitor, the red light for stop, the gong for come to dinner, etc.
A symbol is a sign that is produced by an interpreter of a signal and acts as a substitute for that signal with which it is synonymous. If, when my companion takes a quick look at his wrist watch, I interpret this signal to mean Get going! I have produced a symbol. When I interpret the gong sound by the word "gong," (and the thought It's time for dinner) I have produced a symbol.
The symbol is, in other words, one step removed from the signalwhich is, itself, a sign. Morris says that all signs that are not symbols are signals.
The word "sign" includes anything and everything in the sentient world that acts as a substitute for something else in goal-seeking behavior, and which must, therefore, be interpreted. The two terms "symbol" and "signal" make a place for every kind of sign, whether verbal or nonverbal.
The three major divisions of semiotic are syntactics, semantics, and pragmatics.