The History of Semiotic Ideas: Victoria Lady Welby’s Significs

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The purpose of this article is to characterize the basic ideas of the conception of significs, the original science of sign and meaning that emerged at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries in the works of Victoria Lady Welby (1837-1912). The article explains the features of significs, which considers the meaning of verbal and non-verbal signs as a complex hierarchical structure, the levels of which are sense, meaning, and significance. Significance includes the preceding levels and takes into account their relations with axiological characteristics. The author points out that the content of the structure of “sense-meaning-significance” can be represented in different ways, depending on metaphorical, terminological, social and communicative factors. The conception of significs thus becomes universal and fundamental. The article emphasizes that significs highlights the dynamic nature of meaning, considering changes, that take place on each of its levels. The author sees in this fact the connection of significs with the evolutionary ideas contained in linguistics and natural science, and traces the process of formation of significs, arguing that its foundations lie in the description of various examples of the use of language, undertaken by V. Welby at the early stages of her research. The article is based on the study and comparative analysis of both the works of V. Welby herself and the commentary literature. In conclusion the author specifizes the value of the conception of significs as an integral dynamic theory of sign, meaning, and significance, which incorporates the various aspects of sign issues - from the logical and linguistic to the axiological and pragmatic ones, and indicates the ways of explication the impact of significs on the subsequent development of semiotic, philosophical, and linguistic researches.

About the authors

Konstantin D. Skripnik

Southern Federal University

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2150-1571

DSc. in Philology, Full Professor, the Department of the History of Foreign and Domestic Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy, and Social and Political Sciences

105/42, Bolshaya Sadovaya Str., Rostov-on-Don, Russian Federation, 344006


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