From semantics to semiotics: A page of early Soviet intellectual history

Ekaterina Velmezova


The paper focuses on a particular episode in the (pre)history of semiotics in the USSR in the 1920s–1930s. At that time, an attempt to create an “integral” science was made by linguists, among whom N. Ja. Marr was one of the best-known. Several semantic laws formulated by Marr could be either reformulated in order to be applied to other disciplines (literary studies, anthropology, archeology, biology) or “proved” by the facts or discoveries drawn from them. Another “proof” that these linguistic theories were correct consisted in the possibility of transferring the corresponding models and schemes from one field of knowledge to another: at that epoch the refusal to make a clear methodological separation between disciplines which were primarily concerned with “matter” and those that were more “spiritual” was an important tendency for scholars both in the Soviet Union and in other countries.

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SIGN SYSTEMS STUDIES. ISSN 1406-4243 (print), 1736-7409 (online). E-mail: Postal address: Sign Systems Studies, Dept. of Semiotics, University of Tartu, Jakobi St. 2, 51014 Tartu, Estonia