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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

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Volume 2018, Issue 222


A Peircean epistemology of metaphor

Yicun Jiang
Published Online: 2018-04-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0154


This paper aims to elaborate an epistemology of metaphor in the Peircean semiotic tradition. As a logician, Peirce sees metaphor as a result of logical processes that create new meaning. His exposition on iconicity and iconic reasoning has laid a solid foundation upon which may be erected a fresh epistemology of metaphor fit for the contemporary study of language and mind. Broadly speaking, metaphor in Peirce can be examined from two perspectives: macroscopically it is an icon as opposed to index and symbol, whereas microscopically it is a subdivided hypoicon on the third level as opposed to image and diagram. Semioticians after Peirce have further developed his theory of metaphor. Through his concept of “arbitrary iconicity,” Ersu Ding stresses the subjective nature of metaphorization and tries to draw our attention to the specific cultural contexts in which metaphors occur. He also emphasizes the diversity and multivalency of metaphorical vehicles. Umberto Eco sees the interpretation of signs as an open-ended process that involves knowledge of all kinds. Encyclopedic knowledge thus serves as an unlimited source for metaphorical association. For Eco, the meaning of a metaphor should be interpreted in the cultural framework based on a specific cultural community. These ideas are in line with Peirce’s theoretical framework where the meaning of a metaphor depends on an interpreter in a particular socio-historical context. Based on the above theories, the present article proposes a cultural space where innumerable semantic features of objects or life situations are rhizomaticly linked on the basis of encyclopedic knowledge shared by members of a particular culture.

Keywords: Peircean epistemology; metaphor; icon; index; symbol; arbitrary iconicity


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-04-25

Published in Print: 2018-04-25

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2018, Issue 222, Pages 347–363, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0154.

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