Linguimericks—Book ७३—O Morphology! SpecGram Vol CLXXXVII, No 3 Contents The Moby-Dick of Linguistics Research—Jonathan Downie


Deedles D’Dee
SpecGram Poet-in-Residence

There’s a corner of linguistics that is known as semiotics:
“The science of the sign”and it’s turned lofty profs psychotic!
There are several semioticiansEco, Lotman, Barthes—
But two of them, it’s claimed, stand two feet taller and apart:
A Swiss and an American. Although they never met
They’re considered the key players of the semiotics set.

Saussure, first, was so sure that the sign was dyadic—
Signifier and signifiedhe got quite ecstatic.
It fit well with his view that reality was dichotomous
(Saussurean precociousness or just so sure and serious?).
He told his brother René who was busy Esperanting:
“The sign’s a dyad, bro,” said Ferdinand, red-faced and panting.

Peirce bet his purse that sign was triadic:
A three-part party. And rather symptomatic
Of the way he thought in generalsystems interlocking:
A ship at sea is quite distinct from that same ship when docking.
He told his (second!) wife about it in a red-faced rant:
“The sign’s a triad, Julie: object, sign, interpretant.”

Barthes, Lotman, Eco seem to echo both these men.
They may apply the sign in different fieldsbut then again
Like footnotes to Plato, is it really adding much
To talk of signs in artwork, or a local football match?
It’s dyadic or triadic, the rest is just pretence.
And signifies the meaningless of semio-nonsense.

And me? Not sure I care about the nature of the sign;
I think about it sometimes, then I pour a glass of wine
And let my thoughts drift over to other, simpler things:
Like how the sunset goldens and how the songbird sings.
Which I might share with my brother or even with my wife.
But red-faced rants about the sign: come on, boys, get a life!

LinguimericksBook ७३O Morphology!
The Moby-Dick of Linguistics ResearchJonathan Downie
SpecGram Vol CLXXXVII, No 3 Contents