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Reclassification of Signs

A translation semiotics perspective

Hongwei Jia
From the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies


Previous semiotic research classified human signs into linguistic signs and non-linguistic signs, with reference to human language and the writing system as the core members of the sign family. However, this classification cannot cover all the types of translation in the broad sense in terms of sign transformation activities. Therefore, it is necessary to reclassify the signs that make meaning into tangible signs and intangible signs based on the medium of the signs. Whereas tangible signs are attached to the outer medium of the physical world, intangible signs are attached to the inner medium of the human cerebral nervous system. The three types of transformation, which are namely from tangible signs into tangible signs, from tangible signs into intangible signs, and from intangible signs into tangible signs, lay a solid foundation for the categorization of sign activities in translation semiotics. Such a reclassification of signs can not only enrich semiotic theories of sign types, human communication, and sign-text interpretation, but also inspire new research on translation types, the translation process, translators’ thinking systems and psychology, and the mechanism of machine translation.


In the process of writing and proofreading this article, many colleagues and friends helped me in one way or the other, but here special thanks go to Dr. Hongbing Yu from Nanjing Normal University, Prof. Binghua Wang from Leeds University, UK, Ms. Stephanie Greenhill, USA, and Ms. Catherine Schwerin, Associate Editor of Chinese Semiotic Studies.


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Published Online: 2018-08-15
Published in Print: 2018-08-28

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