Praxis and enunciation: Greimas, heir of Saussure

Jacques Fontanille


Enunciative praxis was defined as comprising all the operations that produce, through assuming the system of narrative deep structures, semiotic configurations sufficiently stabilized to be available for other uses. The practice of enunciation implies an operations chain, organized in collective time, and a capacity for creation and renewal in meaning figures production, under the constraint of cultural conditions.

This conception of enunciation is not an invention of Greimassian semiotics in general. It is present already in Saussure, when he describes signs praxis and life of languages. The founding moment of his reasoning is the substitution of substance by action: the sign is not an abstraction obtained by discretization of the substance, the sign is a “class of executions”, a praxeological class.

The Greimassian enunciative praxis can be defined as all acts by which discourses are convoked, selected, handled and invented by each particular enunciation. This conception strengthens the relationship with Saussure’s speaking mass, since the praxis in question belongs to no one, and it is not even assignable to a precise linguistic community.

Finally, we may propose to analyse enunciation praxis as a sequence of reflection and exploration, which mediates between primary experience and the semiotic object.


enunciation; experience exploration; manifestation; praxis; reflexivity; sign duality; sign transmission

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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