Four ways of triadic ‘sign-ness’ on two semiotic squares

Herman Tamminen


The article deals with semiosis and its dimensions as a theoretical construct to show some elementary differences between spheres of semiotic activity. In essence, one sign will be dissected into four categories of existence to show it may have different relations depending on the dimension it happens to be in. The general framework is that of human consciousness and its two distinct states: awake cognition and asleep dreaming with emphasis on the latter. From our point of view, the concepts of ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ have two layers: the manifest form and the latent function, the seen and the unseen. These are used as parallels to support the central thesis of this article that human cognition has dreaming as its countepart.

The main theoretical frame is drawn from the work of Greimas and Courtés with emphasis on the semiotic square. The concept of the sign is taken from Peirce, whereas ‘sign-ness’ is adopted from Pyatigorskij. By projecting the triadic sign onto the semiotic square and excluding the concept ‘sign system’ along with the syntactic aspect, the basic fourfold dimension of the sign as such will be brought to view based on the distinct sign-relations in each given dimension. In order to double the square, semiosis will be endowed with features of ‘being-able’, thus affording the initial expression of dominant modalities serving as basis for the structure(s) of the elementary function and mechanism in each of the four dimensions. This will also enable bringing into view some elementary restrictions on semiosis in each dimension. Lastly, some new terms are suggested in accordance with what has been presented.


semiosis; consciousness; dream; semiotic square; ‘sign-ness’; Peirce

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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