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Towards a semiotics of multilingualism

Dejan Ivković EMAIL logo
From the journal Semiotica


Describing the semiotic activity of multifaceted configurations of language presence in plurilingual contexts (spaces and objects) as multilingual semiosis, this article adopts a classical semiotic perspective on linguistic diversity and attendant artefacts. Accordingly, the juxtaposition of languages through associated linguistic and non-linguistic representations – embedded in a specific sociocultural and linguistic matrix – appropriates a second-order, supralinguistic layer of signification. The article develops a set of concepts and analytical tools to interpret a range of phenomena underlying the complexity and dynamism of language contact. To account for the hierarchy and semiotic flow of linguistic items and features, the article revisits the memetic concept of lingueme (cf. Croft 2000) – a linguistic type of cultural replicator – framing it as a primitive, distinctive unit of multilingual semiosis, associated with a respective language variety (lect). In its capacity as a graphic signifier, lingueme is a basic unit of semiograph, the latter concept denoting the material-digital form and conduit of the semiotic sign. In the flow of semiosis, language presence and modalities of linguistic representation may exhibit one or more of the following semiotic properties: iconicity, indexicality, and symbolicity. The semiotic properties of linguemes are examined through the analysis of the gratuitous use of two dots – here termed floating umlaut – in the branding and names of heavy metal bands.


I am grateful to Marcel Pauluk, Ljiljana Vuletić and Jürgen Spitzmüller for their comments and suggestions.


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Published Online: 2015-7-17
Published in Print: 2015-10-1

©2015 by De Gruyter Mouton

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