Writing with Signs

Everything emits Signs. The primordial form of writing that is inscribed into things that we experience is one of signs or signals emitted by them. These signs are not of the same kind and do not have the same way of appearance and do not allow themselves to be deciphered in the same way. Signs, therefore, are not homogeneous but are heterogenous. They evolve, crystallize or give way to other signs from moment to moment. It is a chain of signs or signifiers that is at play. Jacques Derrida teaches us that there is no transcendental signifier. This means there is no single absolute content per signifier or sign-form. It just a play signifiers. This means sign function does not refer to specific frozen referent but can designate several meanings within a social-cultural context.

All cultures are sign languages. We write, read and live signs. Alphabets of signs (signum) are breath of our social life. Every object can become a sign within an environment of a given culture. It is not just objects but ideas, concepts, rituals can be taken as signs. This is why we say everything emits signs. Everything emits signals. We may call this flow of signals as a chain of sememes. In other words, sign can be thought of being made of parts that have been called sememes. We can produce signs by assembling sememes.
All writing, art and culture belong to the upper threshold of semiotics. We are descending at the lower threshold and we try to reach a de-fleshed or sufficiently de-semiotised play of sign through the concept of sememe. We arrive at the sememe when we leave the shore of upper coding. Writing as we know is already a semiotic act and it belongs to upper threshold and as such is already upper coded with meaning, values and emotions. When we disinfest it and decode the play of signs and arrive at the play of sememe, we arrive at the lower shore of semiotics.

Sememe or signs opens the embrace of writings and we are then enabled to think everything as a form of writing. We then arrive at the threshold that enables us to consider the emission of signs or signals or rather emission of sememes by everything that we experience. The level where the play or assemblage of sememes occurs is a level of under-coding while the level of writing as we know it today is level of over-coding. Paradoxically, arriving at the level of under-coding, we are enabled to transcend to a large extend the cultural boundaries that keep signs bound to their modes of specific significations through their cultural codes.

To understand the over-coded writing as well as emission of signs/ signals by objects within a culture , we require to descend at the level of under-coding. We then may de-code the calculus of signs embedded within all forms of writings within a culture. Besides, writing is mode of working with calculus of signs. Hence, being a production of signs/ signals/ sememes, we have the task of understanding as well as use the play of sememes to produce signs that can speak for us. sign as we know is something that is standing for something else. Hence, they become our message and messagers through the medium of writings.

Here we are not talking of natural signs but are concerned with conventional signs. We systematize these signs by using codes so that it can be received in the absence of a things/objects that they stand for. It is a code that facilitates the denotative function of a sign or a set of sememes. Sign can only give us flow of signals. It is the code that ties it to its meaning. Otherwise, the signal emitted by the sign cannot be understood by humans. This is why humans then cannot use signs to write where they have no access to the cultural codes. It is by means of a code that humans cognize the signals emitted by a sign object/ things etc. Signs are always mediated by codes and these codes are culture-bound. But when we arrive at the level of the play of sememes we can transcend one culture-bound code and embrace others. This is why deconstruction is possible. We know the signs through sememes but we can also assemble sememes to constitute other signs and therefore construct other meanings in through our writings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao