On Configurable Sign: Sign after Saussure and Barthes

Author: Rommel Chrisden Rollan Samarita (De La Salle University, Manila)
Speaker: Rommel Chrisden Rollan Samarita
Topic: Post-structuralism and language
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


The present discussion offers a reconceptualization of “sign” (1) by reexamining the basic tripartite configuration (sign=signified/signifier) of the “linguistic sign” (first introduced by Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure [as it appeared in Course in General Linguistics,1959]) and the “semiotic sign” or “myth” (developed by French semiotician Roland Barthes [in Mythologies, specifically in Myth Today, 1972]); and, (2) by introducing the concept of the “configurable sign”—a sign that generates other probable configurations of the linguistic-semiotic sign from/using its default configuration.

This conceptual reworking of sign begins by applying the concept of “emes” (phonemes and graphemes, in particular) in the synchronic analyses of the Latin lexeme “arbor” (in keeping with the lectures of F. de Saussure) to signal the many configurations of arbor (e.g. sign=signified/signifier, =signified/signifiers, =signifieds/signifier, =signifieds/signifiers, = signifieds… / signifiers…) which render the lexeme, like any other eme in a langue, a configurable sign. It, then, proceeds with the iteration of the semiotic principle that a “global sign” becomes a “signifier” in R. Barthes’ second-order semiological system (1972), an event (or logic) which makes the sign, the signifier, even their semiological systems “configurable” (e.g. event1=sign1àsignifier2, event2=sign2àsignifier1).

After laying the linguistic logic of the configurable sign from Saussure’s linguistics and Barthes’ semiotics, the discussion opens and furthers discourses on (1) the state of sign, signified, and signifier after poststructuralism, (2) the death of myth, and (3) free play as a preceding event for/of a language structure: some problematics that are important in the advancement of modern and postmodern linguistic theory and literary theory.