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On the transmodality of signs and their interpretants: Evidence from Peirce’s MS 599, Reason’s Rules

  • Winfried Nöth EMAIL logo
From the journal Semiotica


The paper begins with a survey of the state of the art in multimodal research, an international trend in applied semiotics, linguistics, and media studies, and goes on to compare its approach to verbal and nonverbal signs to Charles S. Peirce’s approach to signs and their classification. The author introduces the concept of transmodality to characterize the way in which Peirce’s classification of signs reflects the modes of multimodality research and argues that Peirce’s classification of the signs takes modes and modalities in two different respects into consideration, (1) from the perspective of the sign and (2) from the one of its interpretant. While current research in multimodality has its focus on the (external) sign in a communicative process, Peirce considers additionally the multimodality of the interpretants, i.e., the mental icons and indexical scenarios evoked in the interpreters’ minds. The paper illustrates and comments on the Peircean method of studying the multi and transmodality of signs in an analysis of Peirce’s close reading of Luke 19:30 in MS 599, Reason’s Rules, of c. 1902. As a sign, this text is “monomodal” insofar as it consists of printed words only. The study shows in which respects the interpretants of this text evince trans and multimodality.


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Published Online: 2019-03-13
Published in Print: 2019-05-07

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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