Academic journal article Applied Semiotics/Semiotique appliqué

Translation as Contradictory Complementary Convergence: Language, Science, and Culture

Academic journal article Applied Semiotics/Semiotique appliqué

Translation as Contradictory Complementary Convergence: Language, Science, and Culture

Article excerpt


All signs becoming other signs are signs in the process of translation (1) within the same language (intralinguistic), (2) across languages (interlinguistic), and (3) between sign types (intersemiotic). [1]

Intralinguistic translation consists of a sign's repetitive use within different contexts that, as contexts vary, so also the sign's meaning, and thus the sign becomes a variation of itself. An extreme case: 'Atom' from Greek times as a minuscule solid, changeless, impenetrable sphere became transformed, after a series of differentiations over the centuries, into a wave amplitude of myriad possibilities one of which might at some instant become a particle. Interlinguistic translation is the customary use of the term 'translation'. In such cases 'atom' in English becomes 'atomo' in Portuguese. Intersemiotic translation, between sign types and sign contexts, is a matter of a relatively simple sign's becoming a more complex sign, or vice versa. A typical case: The image of a cross, icon, by hyperbole, is taken as part of a scene including other religious images, and in this context where signs are indicating other signs it is thus translated into an index, and subsequently the thought or invocation of the icon-image becomes translated into a linguistic symbol, 'cross'. The sign becomes translated from one sign type to another, and then another in a sequence that, as far as the sign's interpreter can tell, occurs in the mere blink of an eye. Yet the sequence occurs in time, however brief the increment. Time occurring within experience, a primarily one-dimensional process, becomes of utmost importance, as we shall note below.

Sign types

Charles S. Peirce developed a rich tripartite concept of the sign (CP 2.227-307). The most basic of Peirce's three sign types consisting of icon, index, and symbol is the icon, which, in its most fundamental form, is self-contained, self-reflexive and self-sufficient, because it has not (yet) entered into inter-dependent, inter-related inter-action with anything other than itself. In other words, with respect to the three sign types, the icon is a First, of C. S. Peirce three categories, Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness. [2]



Briefly: (1) Firstness is what it is, irrespective of anything else (like the icon, it is self-contained, self-reflexive and self-sufficient), (2) Secondness is what it is insofar as it is inter-active with something else, and (3) Thirdness is what it is insofar as it mediates between Firstness and Secondness and brings them together in the same way that it mediates itself and them, bringing it into inter-relationship with them. Thus the categories are inextricably linked; they are inter-dependent. [3]


An icon is a sign bearing possible similitude with something else. The similitude is no more than possible, for the icon qua icon has no other; that is, it enjoys no explicit element of Secondness--interaction with something else. Icons in the purest sense come in the form of what Peirce labels hypoicons. They are so called because they have not (yet) been endowed by their sign makers and takers with any form or fashion of linkage with anything else, nor have they been given any sort of meaning (CP 2.274-83). Peirce subdivides hypoicons into three categories: images, diagrams and metaphors (in terms of pure sensations, whether visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory or gustatory). Figures 1, 2, and 3 as visual examples of hypoicons.


Notice that: (1) the first figure is a matter of Firstness, insofar as it remains uncontextualized, though it enjoys possible contextualization in inter-dependency with other possible contexts, (2) the second figure is that of Secondness as a possibility that can enjoy realization only if it becomes inter-actively linked with something else, and (3) the third figure includes two images that enjoy possible linkage, and if this linkage is realized, given the two images' inter-relation of similarity, they can take on the character of Thirdness, though the inter-relationship remains no more than tacit at this level. …

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