The analysis of Licheń's Holy Icon as a case study in semiotic fortition

Joanna Lubos-Kozieł 1  and Małgorzata Haładewicz-Grzelak 2
  • 1 Wrocław University
  • 2 Politechnika Opolska


Through a team fieldwork study that entailed participant observation and creating a database of visual images (September 2010), this study seeks an understanding of semiotic fortition as a natural process. Natural semiotic processes are conceptualized here following the tenets of Natural Linguistics (e.g., Stampe 1979[1973]; Dziubalska-Kołaczyk 2002). Of particular relevance as a research category is the dyad of lenitions (the processes serving the demands of the speaker/sender of the message) and fortitions (those serving the listener/the receiver). We claim that these are in fact semiotic categories (perceptually based) and transpose them in the study of semiotic boundaries as a dynamic event (e.g., Newman 2003; Lotman 1973 [1970]). The fortitive processes are studied as a case study of the Holy Icon of Our Lady of Licheń, Sorrowful Queen of Poland (Matka Boska Licheńska Bolesna Królowa Polski), which is kept in one of the currently most important Catholic pilgrimage centers in Poland. In conclusion, analytic results are substantiated by perceptual saliency tests on the most popular Marian representations, administered to 113 university students.

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The official journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, founded in 1969 as one of the first scholarly journals in the field, Semiotica features articles reporting results of research in all branches of semiotic studies, in-depth reviews of selected current literature in the field, and occasional guest editorials and reports. The journal also publishes occasional Special Issues devoted to topics of particular interest.