Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros13VariaSemioticians narrating a field


Semioticians narrating a field

The discursive construction of semiotics as a marginal field
Eduardo Chávez Herrera


Cet article présente les résultats d’une étude plus large menée avec 40 chercheurs en sémiotique dans 12 pays (l’Allemagne, la France, le Royaume Uni, la Bulgarie, l’Estonie, la Belgique, l’Italie, le Danemark, le Luxembourg, les États-Unis et le Mexique) en trois langues (français, anglais et espagnol), dans le cadre du projet ERC DISCONEX. Dans cette recherche nous nous sommes concentrés sur le domaine sous-étudié de la construction identitaire des sémioticiens, et l’avons examiné en nous concentrant sur leurs récits, produits dans un contexte particulier. Nous avons traité ce sujet en utilisant des entretiens de recherche et une analyse linguistique des interactions qui se déroulent. L’analyse, plutôt que de faire l’application d’un modèle sémiotique, constitue un point de jonction entre l’analyse du discours et la sémiotique puisqu’elle est influencée par une boîte à outils qui se compose de différents éléments de la théorie narrative du positionnement (Bamberg, 1997; Wortham, 2000, Søreide, 2006; De Fina, 2013; and Deppermann, 2015). Les résultats révèlent que les interviewés n’adhèrent pas à une seule identité, mais qu’ils se représentent eux-mêmes choisissant dans un inventaire de possibilités identitaires qui se croisent ou se contredisent selon le moment de l’interaction. Nous expliquons aussi l’existence d’un contexte macro-discursif prédominant qui tend à transmettre les expériences subjectives des sémioticiens, de travail dans un domaine marginalisé. Cette étude nous aide donc à comprendre comment un groupe d’experts en sémiotique interagit et négocie leurs identités académiques et comment ils s’efforcent d’accomplir la reconnaissance de leur domaine, malgré les restrictions institutionnelles de leurs systèmes académiques nationaux.

Haut de page

Notes de l’auteur

The research presented in this paper received funding from the European Research Council (DISCONEX project 313,172) and the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT).

Texte intégral

1. Semiotics and semioticians

1All cultural or human practices have sought to understand meaning generation processes by means of explanatory models. Semiotics is the field dealing with the production and re-production of meaning-making mechanisms. Despite the fact that semiotics, as a separate and comprehensive form of study, has come to the fore during the last hundred years, as a research object, it is as old as other fields of the humanities, such as philosophy, rhetoric or literature. Yet, the current status of semiotics in society and academic environments is rather marginal, and just as Gaines (2015) remarks, this is one of its many paradoxes. It is paradoxical because semiotics deals with all aspects of meaning; it is relevant to every field of inquiry (Posner et al., 2003), and is applicable to everyday experiences producing meaning. However, even for those in favour of its practice as an academic endeavour, its disciplinary status is rather polemic. In fact, semiotics has a different status according to the context in which is practiced, namely, in its degree of organisation in national academic systems.

2For instance, semiotics is considered a fully-fledged discipline in Estonia, with chairs, journals, study programmes and research traditions (Torop: 1998; Kull & Välli, 2011; Kull et al., 2011). At the other extreme, in Great Britain, semiotics has no degree of organisation at all. This asymmetry in organisation generates problems when placing semiotics at institutional levels. For instance, as Salupere (2011) pointed out, the Common European Research Classification Scheme (CERCS) locates semiotics as part of ‘philology (H004)’ in subsection H352 Grammar, semantics, semiotics, syntax (‘H’ stands for humanities). The fact that semiotics does not have an official designator as a field and is considered as a branch of philology (not even linguistics), restricts the allocation of resources for grants and research projects.

3Another example of institutional constraints takes place in France, where semiotics is institutionally separated into two disciplinary fields (Boutaud, 2004; Ablali, 2007; Jeanneret, 2007; Beyaert-Geslin, 2017). According to the National Council of Universities (CNU) semiotics belongs either to the language sciences (section 07), or to the information sciences and communication (section 71). Not only this division has hampered the accurate development and recognition of the field, but it has also neglected its right to exist in the disciplinary market. In this manner, early semiotics practitioners attempted to ground the epistemological identity of semiotics as a field of knowledge. Nevertheless, they did not really make great efforts to underpin the institutional organisation of the field. The absence of a recognised disciplinary status alongside institutional constraints has consequences for practitioners, since they are the ones who construct and maintain the field. In this research, we understand a discipline as an organised form of knowledge, which has been institutionalised in university faculties as well as in scholarly associations (Weingart, 2010: 10). According to this definition, semiotics is not considered a discipline but a field of knowledge.

4No single scholar is a semiotician from the beginning and, just in the same way as other academics in different fields, this development could be straightforward and linear, or can involve ‘marginalisation and exclusion’ (Colley & James, 2005). In this way, those who have chosen to remain in the field of semiotics have to learn to dissociate their identities and to negotiate them according to the field they are working in (literature, linguistics, philosophy or anthropology, among others).

5In fact, very little is currently known about semioticians’ identification mechanisms and how the absence of institutional recognition affects their lives as academics. Previously published studies are limited to local surveys as in the case of Darras (2012), in the English language or Biglari (2014), in the French language. Both analyses rely heavily on internet-based surveys and email interviews.

6Therefore, the question of identification becomes a relevant aspect for the semiotics community and needs to be addressed by semioticians themselves, so that the field can achieve better levels of organisation and dialogue. This issue deserves to be investigated since, in global terms, the current state of semiotics is a late outcome of the institutionalisation of disciplines in academia at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century (Foucault, 1966; Becher & Trowler, 2001). This process contributed to the disciplinarisation of certain forms of knowledge, leaving semiotics out of this process as noticed by Rastier (2001).

2. Identity construction

7This identity issue was also raised in our data, when we asked our respondents about their careers and trajectories, and they made reference to this difficulty of recognition. In Ricœur terms, it is a problem of unrecognised identity (Ricœur, 2004). Thus, semiotics scholars feel that they are not fully recognised when they see that semiotics cannot be accurately organised or that their peers reject the field and represent it as some sort of fad within other disciplines. Identity has thus made relevant in this research at the micro level when interviewees presented themselves in the local context of the research interview. Therefore, our focus has been on the types of identities researchers locally perform, construct and negotiate with an interviewer, through language, when talking about themselves, their personal and professional links with semiotics, and how they refer to the semiotic discourse(s) they produce and reproduce as academics.

8The discursive view of identity, heavily influenced by poststructuralism in the first moment, harkens back to Foucault’s conceptualisation of how discourses form the basis of subjectivity (Foucault, 1969; 1971). To him, identities shape and direct the individual in her everyday life. The model put forward by Foucault presumes that meaning lies in representations mediated by sign systems, as in the case of language. Later, Hall (1996), embracing Foucault’s approach, conceived of identity as a psychological and discursive process that reflexively acknowledges and ‘invests in subject positions’ (Hall, 1996: 12).

9Another discursive approach to identity emphasises the role of language in the enactment of identity as a parallel to interaction, due to the way we use language to convey images of ourselves and to identify others. Therefore, language and discourse are central to the construction (Benwell & Stokoe, 2006). To social constructionists, there is no such thing as a ‘true self’, and identity is considered to be a process that is continuously negotiated in interaction inasmuch as identities are plural, contradictory and scattered (De Fina, Schiffrin & Bamberg, 2006). Furthermore, as a discourse-bound phenomenon, identity is visible and subject to empirical investigation (Lucius-Hoene & Deppermann, 2000). One criticism of much of the literature on social constructionism comes from the controversy it has unleashed in some academic circles (Brubaker & Cooper, 2000). The authors thus point the risk of ‘emptying out’ the meaning of the term identity, and of rendering it incapable of doing serious analytical work.

10In this research we adopted a non-monolithic approach that examines different facets of identity in the way it is performed through discourse with our respondents. Semioticians thus choose to identify themselves in the interaction with us through resources that are mobilised in the interplay of the research interview, using linguistic markers that help to negotiate different aspects of their identities. In this way, we attempted to describe the experiences of being an academic semiotician based on the narratives elicited in the collected interviews with members of this community. These conversations show that there are different identity issues at stake. Therefore, our focus has been on the types of identities researchers perform when they talk about themselves as well as their personal and professional links with semiotics.

3. Narratives in interaction approach

11Most research on narrative from an interactional viewpoint highlights the reductionism of the ‘classical’ Labovian approach since it does not account for the diversity of narrative genres and functions (Potter, 1997; Och & Capps, 2001). Labov (1972) developed a model of narrative analysis for approaching oral versions of personal experiences; its main aim was to explore the semantic and syntactic aspects of narratives which have to do with particular clauses produced by the narrator. Interest in narratives-in-interaction evolved as a critical departure from decontextualised, isolated texts. Not only have interactionist researchers remarked that audiences also shape the construction of narratives, they have also insisted on the multiplicity of genres in formal and less-formal contexts of story-telling (Bamberg & Georgakopoulou, 2008; Andrews, Squire and Tamboukou, 2008; De Fina, 2009).

12In our study, the interviewees showed a disposition to use the narrative mode (Bruner, 1990). Participants recalled past experiences, emerging as longer episodes of storytelling about their lives, but also other activities and circumstances of action. Furthermore, they were able to elaborate on the presentation of themselves and others (Bamberg, 2004). The narratives resulting from our interviews are regarded as products of auto-epistemical processes that reveal new insights and ‘levels of sense-making about one’s life’ (Lucius Hoene & Deppermann, 2000: 205).

13The main theoretical approach that we have used in this research is known as positioning theory (Davies & Harré, 2001). This is not a rigid approach and intends to address multiple facets of identity in the way they are performed through discourse (Deppermann, 2015). The concept positioning finds its origin in the notion of ‘subject position’ coined by Foucault, who rejected the notion of a fully agentive, controlling subject having power over behaviour and knowledge. Thus, positions arise in ongoing talk, storytelling, and are semiotically structured, linked to social action and accomplished by social practice (Deppermann, 2015). In addition, positions can take place locally and represent a multiplicity of identities. This research brings together and establishes a synergy between different strands of positioning theory (mainly those of Bamberg, 1997; Søreide, 2006; Wortham & Reyes, 2015, and Deppermann, 2015).

14In line with Bamberg (1997) and his analytical schema of three levels, we analysed locally co-constructed narratives in order to explain how semioticians take up multiple acts of positioning vis-à-vis themselves as researchers and vis-à-vis a collective other. While level 1 is specific to narrative, since it works on the referential plane of the story world and how characters are positioned in the narrative, level 2 shows how speakers are positioned in regard to the audience. Level 3 seeks to explain how the speaker takes up a position in regard to herself by means of self-identification. Also, level 3 aims at describing more permanent and ‘portable’ identity traits, which go beyond local or situational identities (De Fina, 2013). Therefore, this perspective addresses the navigation between respondents’ local identity claims (Bamberg, De Fina & Schiffrin, 2011) and larger macro contexts to formulate and construct concrete types of identification.

15Alongside positioning theory, we have also drawn on the similarity/difference aspect of the principle of relationality (Bucholtz & Hall, 2005). This resource stresses the fact that identities become meaningful in relation to other available identity positions.

16This framework accompanies positioning theory since it helps to capture and explain the respondents’ diversity of identity claims.

4. Methods

17In this research, rather than applying or developing a semiotic model, we conducted a series of research interviews (Richards & Talmy, 2010; Mann, 2016) with semiotics practitioners to get to know different aspects of their realities. These interviews were the most suitable method for approaching our research object. Firstly, this choice corresponded with the in-depth type of data we wanted to obtain. Secondly, we had foreknowledge of the research topic through our review of the literature and our personal experiences in semiotics after studying an MA in semiotics and participating in semiotics conferences and writing papers on semiotics-oriented topics. Thus, we wanted to delve into the organisation of the field through the eyes of its practitioners. Semioticians need to justify and negotiate the pertinence of their research, according to the field they are institutionally attached to, but they are also obliged to show and confirm their right to exist in the field of semiotics by producing outstanding research and negotiating their positions with their home institutions. This is why we decided to enquire about the quandaries practitioners face when working in this field.

18Moreover, the interviews were thus the setting that afforded a great deal of identity work. In these interactions, participants engaged with the narrative mode as well as the telling of argumentative stories. When doing so, they reflected and discursively enacted their actions in the storyworld as characters, as well as from the perspective of the here-and-now of the interaction. The narratives resulting from the interviews are considered as outcomes of self-reflexive processes that shed light on new insights and levels of sense-making about respondents’ practices and lives.

19The study was conducted, in the framework of the ERC DISCONEX project for our PhD thesis with a pool of 40 respondents in 3 languages (English, French and Spanish) from 12 countries (Great Britain, Germany, Mexico, Estonia, France, Italy, Denmark, Bulgaria, Sweden, Luxembourg, Belgium and the US). This population does not represent the entire field of semiotics. Thus, we are not suggesting that everything made relevant locally in this research is generalisable to all semiotics scholars. This is a study of a particular population that intends to include a diversity of researchers from different semiotic orientations involving: biosemiotics, cultural semiotics, visual semiotics, cognitive semiotics, semiotics of law, and so forth.

20Furthermore, the pool includes multiple institutional positions, ranging from Emeriti professors, full professors, associate professors, senior lecturers and lecturers. In most cases, semioticians are researchers bordering two disciplinary fields: they are institutionally attached to a discipline: linguistics, communication, anthropology or philosophy. Some of them have openly decided to do research in semiotics, whereas some others use semiotics as a toolbox for their research solely. Most of respondents come from the language sciences as well as communication sciences. The remaining ones are scattered among 11 different fields (education, media, psychology, anthropology, sociology, law, philosophy, art, architecture, cognitive science and visual communication). Respondents come from multiple national contexts where disciplinary boundaries are different and, as discussed above, where semiotics has different disciplinary status. Yet, as a community, they are intertwined through theoretical connections and common research interests.

21In these research interviews, respondents were asked about their biographical information, research orientations, institutional relationships and publications. For example, all participants were asked to tell a story of them reaching semiotics in their own words in the first part of the interview. The interviews were audio-recorded and fully transcribed. Transcripts are presented in an uncomplicated script style with interactional markers when necessary for the analysis. Since the respondents’ locally-constructed identity is at the core of this study, it is necessary to refer to participants as anonymised participants in order to avoid any possible harm. Nonetheless, despite the fact that anonymity is analytically useful, it is also inescapable that the participants are real people working in a small community of practitioners and that the data include both situated professional life as well as biographical trajectories. Even though I am not using pseudonyms to identify participants, but rather a token, plus a number (e.g. I32), the respondents live outside the data.

4.1. Procedures

22Our analysis proceeded in three stages. The interviews were taped and transcribed, and then we looked for wider patterns or repeated phenomena (such as, for example, the repeated patterns in the stories told by participants) and, also, to identify singular instances that stood out. We thus examined the events being talked about and the setting in which these events took place (e.g., how the university cancelled a semiotics chair after a professor’s retirement in a particular country). In this stage, the mapping of events was carried out with the help of MaXQDA software. This process aided the more systematic exploration of the interviews and supported the identification of larger categories.

23In the second stage, we examined different discursive resources used by respondents to convey positioning acts in narratives (including self-positioning acts and positioning vis-à-vis other actors). In this step, we also made an inventory of more than 130 subject positions to see whether multiple positions were constructed in a single narrator’s story and whether these positions oppose, overlap or merge. The positions most frequently taken up in the data were the ones which point to constructing more ‘powerful’ persons who are in control (active agents): ‘successful authors’, ‘specialists in the field’. Notwithstanding this, at some other moments in the interviews, respondents also positioned themselves as powerless beings through low-agency subject positions; e.g. ‘unable to establish dialogue with other semioticians, ‘being divided’. Of all the subject positions, 11 of them seemed to be most relevant across all the interviews: ‘the established researcher’, ‘the theoretician’, ‘the founder’, ‘the concerned educator’, ‘the disengaged scholar’, ‘the dynamic researcher’, ‘a critical voice’, ‘the lonely interdisciplinary researcher’, ‘a liminal position’, ‘the marginal scholar’, ‘the strange academic’.

24In the third stage, we focused on the three dimensions of identity construction put forward by Bamberg, De Fina and Schiffrin (2011): a) the balance between passive and active agency, b) differentiation between self and others and a sense of belonging to a group, and c) moving between sameness and change in one’s biography. This dimension is oriented towards self-recognition and provides an overview of how speakers convey identity maintenance, or underscore how they have changed.

25We will now turn to the discussion of the respondents’ positioning practices.

5. Semioticians’ positioning practices

5.1. The dominant D-discourse of semiotics

26The first issue to be discussed is the appearance of a dominant discourse in this community of semioticians. A pervasive Discourse (with capital ‘D’ following Gee, 2008) emerged across the data which somehow conveys the respondents’ subjective experience of dwelling a marginal field. The character of this Discourse is ambivalent since it is enacted as a form of self-critique of the semiotics community from an inner viewpoint, on one hand. On the other hand, it articulates other social actors’ voices (academic peers mostly) pertaining the way the field is perceived. Negatively orienting to or being complicit in this Discourse is one of the motives whereby respondents developed sameness or difference in the group.

27In the interviews, several respondents negatively positioned themselves against the field through a multiplicity of representations of its features: being positioned as reproducing a self-referential discourse or, having a character as a ‘complicated’ and ‘isolated field’. In fact, twenty-four individual representations of semiotics were identified in our data.

28This D-discourse is linguistically informed by d-discourses (lower case ‘d’) in which different types of resources are mobilised such as the following:

291) Age-related terms; 2) Spatial expressions; 3) Complexity-oriented terms; 4) Evaluative indexicals, and 5) Reported speech. Furthermore, it incorporates an additional resource shaped as a membership categorisation that also depicts semioticians as lacking positive qualities.

30Age-related terms are representations that pejoratively design the field as something that harkens back to the past, presented as ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘non-fashionable’ anymore.
The spatial dimension concerns a series of expressions that depicts semiotics as being outside in regard to other disciplines as ‘peripherical’, ‘isolated’, ‘everywhere’ and ‘nowhere.’ With regard to complexity-oriented terms, they are either designed to make qualitative evaluations about the entire field, or about one particular aspect: ‘semiotics as too difficult’, ‘too heavy’; ‘a complex- metalanguage’ or too ‘self-referential’.

31This D-discourse includes an indexical link that connects the names of scholars such as Umberto Eco and Roland Barthes with the context of their use. For instance, as two respondents put it: ‘Barthes et tout ça’ (Barthes and all that), ‘Umberto Eco and that stuff’. These evaluative indexicals (Wortham & Reyes, 2015) presuppose that in particular contextual conditions semiotics is closely related to the works of either of them, and that the field and the authors are considered as out of fashion. Lastly, reported speech is the pragmatic resource utilised by respondents to enact in discourse how semiotics is ‘being talked’ by others.

32At different moments of the interaction, different respondents, with no elicitation from the interviewer, oriented themselves towards this D-discourse. This fact points to the ‘naturalisation’ of this D-discourse of semiotics as if it was a taken-for-granted norm. As such, these features point out to the existence of a shared belief among the community. Either as a norm, or as a belief, the two of them are characteristics of D-discourses (Gee, 2015).

33Notwithstanding, this D-discourse is also constructed by others, and this was linguistically represented by dint of other voices’ reported speech—indirect reported speech, mostly. So, through this pragmatic resource, respondents discursively enacted what others think of the field and reconstructed ways in which semiotics is ‘being talked’ by others.

34The last linguistic device that feeds off this D-discourse is what we have called a membership categorisation of semioticians as being ‘different’. This categorisation marks a paradigmatic shift in the D-discourse since it focuses on practitioners and not on the field. This categorisation emerged when respondents repeatedly evoked some semioticians’ features and represented them in their conversations. It is composed of representations regarding:

  1. The performance of actions that seek to reduce agency levels. For example, being at odds with other factions (Peirceans versus Saussureans), or lacking the capacity to establish dialogue with researchers from other fields.

  2. The ascription of negative attributes: semioticians, as a disconnected community of inquiry.

  3. Indexical links with respondents’ contexts that point to either of the two previous representations.

35So far, the discussion has focused on the linguistic devices that contributed to constitute this Discourse (or the ways whereby it became ‘talked’, i.e., another feature of a D-discourse). However, it is necessary to look at larger macro-contexts in order to show how this D-discourse operate.

36The fact that a D-discourse of semiotics is shared is an outcome of its naturalisation among the community members. Besides, it is grounded on larger discourses about higher education that includes three main aspects. Firstly, the institutionalisation of academic disciplines in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Secondly, issues regarding the acceptance of inter- and transdisciplinary research and thirdly, the lack of consensus among early practitioners to organise the institutionalisation of semiotics. All three aspects follow a continuum that starts with the first aspect.

37The first dimension that we will briefly address now is related to the emergence of organised knowledge in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Globally speaking, the current state of semiotics needs to be understood in relation to the emergence of disciplines in modern sense at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century. This process, which contributed to the disciplinarisation and specialisation of different ‘forms of scientific knowledge’, left semiotics out. Mainly due to the absence of a collectivity of organised researchers who were able to develop valid criteria to get it recognised as a discipline and to integrate it into the university curricula (Rastier, 2001). Disciplines were thus a new mode of organisation and ordering of knowledge that was a direct outcome of the limitations of the classificatory systems of knowledge.

38In this manner, there was a gradually developing process of academic-disciplinary splitting from which have emerged natural sciences, social sciences, and what we currently know as disciplinarised humanities (Li, 2006). Nonetheless, at this moment and as Deely argues, modern science became so specialised that academics ‘felt threatened by the entry of semiotics upon the intellectual scene’ (Deely, 2015b: 84). Therefore, its holistic, boundary-crossing character did not contribute to its entrance in the disciplinary market. As knowledge became more and more specialised, communities of scholars looked for additional disciplinary organisational modes of science. Thus, the original disciplines were compartmentalised and did not remain any more to be ‘the crucial frames for orientation for the delineation of subject matters and the formulation of research problems’ (Weingart, 2010: 12). This takes us to the second aspect of this discussion which addresses interdisciplinarity.

39Broadly speaking, interdisciplinary research privileges the convergence between disciplines, fields or knowledge bodies, and features: a) the articulation of two disciplines with a simpler research object, as well as: b) its systematicity, i.e., more than two disciplines with a more complex research object (Posner, 2003). Inter- and transdisciplinary research objects emerge due to two main reasons according to Haidar (2006). First, the continuously growing epistemological developments in science obliges a more explicative progress of scientific theories, as well as the complexity of historical, social, cultural and political processes. Second, the continuous ‘flux’ of humanities and natural sciences oblige them to set a constructive dialogue. Weingart (2010) adds a third motive that lies in the promotion by funding agencies in the interest of linking political goals with the development of certain types of inquiries. Consequently, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity are responses to simultaneous epistemological and historical constraints.

40A matter that needs to be added here pertains semiotics’ heterogeneity of research objects and epistemological shifts. To put it briefly, semiotics addresses all objects from the viewpoint of their functioning as a meaning-process and as Posner argues, ‘it has a value-free perspective which also determines a domain that is studied in its totality’ (Posner, 2003: 2366). Nevertheless, this conceptualisation of semiotics may be at odds with a stricter understanding of academic disciplines that divides the world in concrete domains, and that encourages the regulation of academic practices in the humanities and social sciences in order to become rigid.

41Currently, despite strong political pressure is put to cross disciplinary boundaries, interdisciplinary research is still regarded as dubious due to a seeming lack of epistemological standards. This finds a response in the prevailing academic model in which excellence needs to be demonstrated. Ironically, as Huutoniemi (2010) has pointed out, there is still a need to develop further ways to evaluate the many phenomena of interdisciplinarity. This means that interdisciplinary research is still being assessed on traditional standards of disciplinarity. Something that endangers fields like semiotics which intend to cross academic boundaries.

42Now, we will discuss the last macro-context of the D-discourse of semiotics regarding the lack of consensus among semioticians to define the institutional organisation of the field. Early practitioners of semiotics in the late 1960s and 1970s were concerned with the endowment of an epistemological identity to the field (see: Greimas, 1976; Sebeok; 1976; Eco, 2004). Yet, they disregarded the organisation of the field in the academic systems and did not take into consideration how the lack of organisation would affect the practitioners’ as well as the field’s identities. Sebeok, going beyond Saussure’s attempt to establish ‘the study of life of signs within society’ (Saussure, 1916: 33) and heavily drawing upon both the medieval and Peirce’s conceptualisation of semiotics as a doctrine—‘the doctrine of the essential nature and fundamental variable of semiosis’ (CP 5.488), considered semiotics as a ‘doctrine of signs’ and refused to call it a science or a theory (Sebeok, 1976). By choosing this term, Sebeok intended to establish semiotics as a comprehensive, ‘global’ approach (see Deely, 2015a and Cobley et al., 2011) that was way beyond disciplinary constraints. In addition, it was supposed to fulfil the explicative and federative role of what later Posner would define as ‘a metadiscipline of all academic disciplines’ (Posner, 2003: 2366). Similarly, Greimas conceived of semiotics as a scientific project that encompass all manifestations of meaning in the form of a ‘science of meaning’ whose main aim was supposed to provide a link between all the humanities and social sciences so that a scientific revolution could take place in humanities (Greimas, 1976; Greimas & Courtés, 1983). At this point, and even though semiotics internally differentiated itself and became specialised in branches (cultural semiotics, semiotics of art, cognitive semiotics and so forth), it was poorly organised in the national academic systems. In consequence, it was assigned a different status in each country that was far from the status of an institutionally recognised discipline.

43Once that we have shown the larger contexts of this Discourse, we just want to conclude this discussion by considering its implications with regard to respondents’ identifications. We argue that this group of researchers constructed themselves this D-discourse as a way to convey multiple ways of talking about semiotics from a subjective perspective of inhabiting a marginal field. Those respondents who vindicated this Discourse were the ones who distanced themselves from the field, whereas those who reject it cast themselves a more durable sense of engagement in the field.

44In order to briefly illustrate one aspect of this D-discourse, we can see the example of an anecdote below, in which the respondent constructed a feeling of ‘otherness’ vis-à-vis his colleagues in the workplace. Furthermore, the respondent associated this feeling in relation to perceptions of the field of semiotics by others.

Extract 1 (I04)
B: Quite often they’d say, ‘Well, why, (name)? What do you do? You know, what’s your work?’ and I would say something about, ‘Well, I’m interested in English and biology, Buddhism, and semiotics.’ And they’d say, ‘Oh, semiotics? What, you mean (.) Umberto Eco and stuff like that?’ I would say, ‘Well, there’s more.’ So, I gave a talk on biosemiotics to try and explain, because I was writing something for well, I think I wrote something for the festrichft for (name).
I: Oh, yeah, it’s in (name of publication), I think.
B: That’s it.
I: Yeah
(4 lines omitted in which the respondent regains the topic of the talk)
B: I don’t think anybody (.) had any purchase on it at all. They didn’t (2.0) know what I was talking about. And they were in that rather (.) awkward position when somebody gives you a talk, you don’t understand a bullet, and sometimes you think, it doesn’t matter because there wasn’t anything to understand. There wasn’t anything there really.

45In this extract, the respondent locates himself as a character in the telling (positioning level 1) in order to convey an image as himself as ‘not popular’. The respondent thus draws on the enactment of two reported dialogues to position some characters in the telling. The metapragmatic verb ‘to say’ is what opens the reported dialogue in which the discursive formulations of these characters in the narrated world give shape to the narration of this event: I04 being interpellated by his colleagues. Actually, the temporal adverb ‘often’ remarks the frequency of the quoted interpellation (lines 1–2).

46Then, in the second reported dialogue (lines 3–4), I04 attempts to enact the ironic tone of his colleagues as a positioning strategy: ‘Oh, semiotics? What, you mean (.) Umberto Eco and stuff like that?’ In this utterance, the evaluative indexical ‘stuff like that’ preceded by the name of Umberto Eco is presupposing something of the context of its use, i.e., the existence of a field called semiotics and, under these particular conditions, entailed something in the context of its use: I04’s engagement in this field. This evaluative indexical contributes to characterise the respondent as an ‘esoteric researcher’ vis-à-vis his colleagues, while they are positioned as ‘rigid researchers’ who reduce semiotics to the name of Umberto Eco. Then, by making reference to an event in which he failed to engage the audience (lines 11–14), he cast himself as a ‘non-understood researcher’ because of his work with semiotics (Level 2 positioning). Here it is noticeable that the respondent draws on a high level of granularity of representation to implicitly depict his colleagues’ degree of incomprehensibility.

47In the same way, this anecdote also emphasises the difference aspect of the similarity/difference relation in the principle of relationality when the respondent constructs himself as an outcast. Not only does this anecdote show I04’s tense relationship vis-à-vis his colleagues (when enacting reporting dialogues), it also helps to illustrate the representation of semiotics as related to the name of Umberto Eco, which can be interpreted as a link with something that is not fashionable anymore. Furthermore, this story gives us a glance of I04’s identity work with regard to the differentiation of others.

5.2. Different identities for an heterogenous group

48In this section we will discuss some issues concerning this group of semioticians’ choice of identities. Interviewees do not possess a single identity. Instead, they constantly (re)present themselves by selecting from an inventory of identities that either intersects or contradicts according to the moment of the interaction. In addition, a few respondents also showed more dynamic identities. Especially, those who have a clear sense of moving around in different fields, or the senior scholars who have participated in the development of this field since the 1970s.

49The first identity affordance to be discussed is when semioticians chose to construct a sense of being equal in the group.

5.2.1. Being an accepted member of the community

50A group of twenty-one respondents openly conveyed positive perceptions vis-à-vis the community of semioticians. The representation of a sense of being equal among members of the group was constructed when speakers established the commonality between the members of the community. This is more operatively articulated through the notion coined by Brubaker & Cooper (2001: 20) called groupness, i.e., the sense of belonging to a distinctive group. However, groupness was only ‘engendered’ when respondents linked two features: commonality and connectedness. The former is related to the sharing of a common semiotics metalanguage to talk about semiotics’ research objects, a set of theoretical discourses about the field, and a positive sense of being an accepted academic: having good feedback by other members of the group, or performing certain activities in associations or journals that help to give consistency to the group. The latter includes relational ties that link people, for instance when making relevant a network of fellow researchers to interact with.

51Linguistically, the sense of being the same within members of the community was constructed by means of two ways that imply the similarity dimension in the principle of relationality: 1) through the consistent use of inclusive deictics (‘we’ in English, ‘nous’ in French and ‘nosotros’ in Spanish) with stable referents to display a position from the perspective of the community of semioticians. This indicates a higher degree of these speakers’ involvement with the field, as well as their relationship to other members of the community. 2) when respondents draw on the commitment modality (De Brabanter & Dendalle, 2008) in their discourse and assert certain epistemic positions regarding their actions regarding the building, maintenance and legitimisation of the field of semiotics.

52An additional strategy to enact a sense of being the same in the group was displayed by some respondents when highlighting a concrete subject position that contributed to cast themselves as particular type of persons (a concerned educator, a committed journal editor, or a critical voice).

Extract 2 (I36)
B: Other semioticians, we do great together because we’re actively engaged in a common language where we can discuss the kind of things that we’re discussing here and it’s meaningful.
I: Yeah.

53In this sequence, I36 explicitly highlights the good terms of his relationship with other semioticians by dint of an evaluation. In the same line (line 1), I36 stresses a set of shared traits (a common language), to display alignment in this community of inquiry. The constant use (thrice) of the inclusive personal deictic ‘we’ indexes membership feelings in relation to other individuals since it conveys ‘empathy’ due to a particular property of encoding meaning between speaker and the addressee. This empathy is an index of similarity.

Extract 3 (I27)
Il me semble que dans la communauté sémiotique (.) Je ne suis pas accueilli avec opposition, mes recherches sont acceptées, elles sont bien reçues, au sens, enfin (.) Je veux pas de me faire d’auto-éloge, hein, d’autocélébration, mais il n’y a pas de sentiment de ma part de dissension. On a l’impression, je suis sur la même longueur d’onde que mes interlocuteurs sémioticiens.

I think that in the semiotics community (.) I’m not received with opposition. My research is accepted and well-received, okay. (.) I don’t want to praise myself, to celebrate myself, but there’s no sense of dissension by my side. There’s the impression that I am on the same wavelength that my semioticians interlocutors.

54In this sequence, I27 makes a series of reflexive comments oriented to evaluate his relationship with his fellow semioticians. This fragment clearly shows how the respondent aligns himself with the community. Plus, he highlights the fact that his research is welcomed.

55Finally, we can also notice that in both sequences the respondents convey a quick, yet positive sense of being framed as passive recipients by other semioticians.

5.2.2. Disengaging from the community of semioticians

56Another group of four respondents openly expressed disengagement feelings towards the field of semiotics. These respondents’ identity-negotiation and presentation was nuanced and contradictory. In some narratives, they showed a few glimpses of their identification as semioticians. However, in other moments, respondents preferred to stick to their home field.

57The claims of being different from the members of the group emphasised the difference dimension in the principle of relationality. In this manner, these interviewees fully disengaged from the field by establishing what differentiated from semioticians: participating in certain events over semiotics-related events, adopting eclectic theoretical approaches that challenge the tenets of some semiotics school or framing it as a toolbox/method to draw upon.

58In discourse, these respondents displayed difference from the community of semioticians by dint of: a) categorisation and b) pronominal choice.

59Rather than using a category for self-description, a researcher negatively oriented towards the category ‘semiotician’ and refused to be ‘labelled’ under this category by stressing the negative implications this term has in her country of work. The implications behind the respondent’s action connects semioticians with the performance of certain activities that are rejected by the interviewee.

60These respondents expressed their desire to distance themselves from the field of semiotics by means of a consistent use of the third plural personal deictic (‘they’ in English, ‘ils in French’ and ‘ellos’ in Spanish) which builds up a frontier between the enunciator and ‘them’. The use of these deictics can be regarded as linguistic markers of demarcation of the field. On one hand, speakers consciously—or unconsciously, emphasised roles and actions which semioticians perform and which suggest a clash with their norms and beliefs. The use of the deictic ‘they’ can be seen as encoding a contrast between semioticians and non-semioticians, as a delimitation of the field of semiotics. Moreover, pronominal shift is displayed when they veered towards self-referencing (De Fina, 1995), i.e., the constant use of the first person deictic ‘I’ to index their own lack of participation in the group, as well as the lack of commitment in the community through the performance of intentionally motivated actions such as claiming membership in the field they are institutionally attached to.

61Lastly, this group of respondents also attributed these values to both pronouns on the basis of the parameters which are imposed by larger discourses, namely the D-discourse of semiotics. In this way, they displayed a positive orientation with this Discourse as a strategy to construct difference from the community of semioticians.

Extract 4 (I13)
Moi je dis que c’est l’énorme avantage de mon parcours et du fait d’être en sciences de l’information et de la communication c’est que je ne suis pas empêtrée dans les querelles de chapelle (.) parce qu’en (country) la sémiotique y a ceux qui sont peirciens, ceux qui sont greimassiens, ceux qui sont barthésiens (.) et c’est la ((laugh))
I : (laugh))
B : c’est la guerre entre tout le monde (.) quand on est dans une discipline autre comme moi en fait on fait ce qu’on veut (1.0) et on peut à un moment donné sans que tout le monde m’assassine dire que finalement (.) dans la perspective de Barthes y a déjà des choses qui sont proches de ce qu’on va retrouver chez Umberto Eco plus tard et ça c’est impossible de le dire quand on est (.) étiqueté pour uniquement sémioticien ou sémioticienne.
B : Mm
I : Donc ça me donne une grande liberté d’approche et une sorte de d’œcuménisme.

I say is the great advantage of my career path, plus the fact of being in information and communication sciences, means that I’m not entangled in parish squabbles (.) because in semiotics in (country) there are those who are peirceans, those who are greimasians, those who are barthesians (.) and it’s ((laugh))
I: ((laugh))
B: it’s war between everyone (.) When you are in another discipline like me in fact, you can do whatever you want (1.0) and at any given moment (.) without everyone trying to kill me. The thing is, in the end (.) in Barthes’ perspective, there are already things that are closer to what you come across later in Umberto Eco and that’s impossible to say when you are (.) labelled exclusively as a semiotician.
B: Mmm
I: So that gives me great freedom of approach and a sort of ecumenicism.

62At Level 1, the speaker positions her actions in terms of taking distance from the local community of semioticians, as well as showing alignment in another field: information and communication sciences. (lines 1–2). Notice that I13 frames semioticians in her country of work as being immersed in factional squabbles and a war between everyone (line 7). By pointing to these disputes (lines 2–4), the respondent disengages from ‘peirceans, greimasians and barthesians’. In this expression of disengagement, the difference dimension arises. In the interactional world (Level 2), I13 takes up an explicit act of positioning, i.e. she places herself within other discipline and positively evaluates her present situation in terms of freedom (lines 6–7). An additional positioning act of disengagement takes place in the utterance at lines 14–15: I13 rejects to be categorised under the name ‘semiotician’. The respondent is thus presupposing that being categorised under this etiquette would mean a disadvantage inasmuch as she would not be allowed to talk about certain things.

63At Level 3, I13 draws on the relation between the storyworld and the interactional world to convey a more complex sense of identity as a disengaged scholar. Namely, she made reference to a dimension of the D-discourse that depicts semioticians as lacking positive qualities e.g., being constantly enmeshed in squabbles (lines 6-7) and enacted a deconstructive identity. In doing so, she chooses to remain in the information and communication sciences and to be identified as a communication scholar who practices semiotics, something that affords her interacting with member of the semiotics community in her country of work and have her own semiotic approach.

5.3. National issues in semiotics

64In our interviews, several researchers accounted for the general situation of semiotics in their countries of work. Given that semiotics’ organisation degree is contextually contingent, we found that there were well-demarcated national semiotics orientations. In this manner, France-based researchers reported multiple tensions in their national academic system. In fact, respondents enacted a collective positioning when eight out of ten individuals oriented to a main issue in current French semiotics: the recognition of the field vis-à-vis the national academic system. Furthermore, they also stressed two additional issues framed as: 1) A generational gap between Greimas’ students and younger researchers; 2) A tendency to frame semiotics theory in the Greimas-oriented strand solely.

65All three tensions are inseparable from Greimas’ figure, so we will address them in inverse order, starting by what one respondent considered as ‘greimasianism’ (greimassisme in French).

  • 1 In France the affiliation to a department refers to a professor’s teaching activities and the affil (...)

66This ‘greimasianism’, or the tendency of multiple France-based scholars to remain in the zone of influence of Greimasian thought, harkens back to the work and figure of Algirdas Julien Greimas, the main pivotal figure of French semiotics in the twentieth century. Most of French semiotics theory has been dominated by greimasian, or ‘post-greimasian’ research, i.e., problematics in Greimas’ theory that have been developed after his death in 1992 (Broden, 2017). Greimas’ framework modelled French semiotics at different levels. For instance, the only French semiotics research centre (located at the University of Limoges) was founded by a former student of Greimas. Moreover, this laboratoire1 follows a heavily-oriented greimasian model and still publishes the outlet Actes Sémiotiques (founded and edited by Greimas and his collaborators in the 1980s). Lastly, a Paris-based seminar intending to recreate the old Greimas’ seminar held at the university is still convened every year. This event either gathers Greimas’ surviving students or an audience that is mainly interested in post-greimasian approaches. ‘Greimasianism’ thus points to the reproduction of a continuous self-referential discourse around this author’s figure.

67Now, we will briefly discuss the second issue in French semiotics pointed out by our respondents: the generational gap between Greimas’ students and younger researchers. With regard to this matter, we also need to draw on Greimas’ persona. After his death, French semioticians lost their ‘lodestar’ and remained uninterested about a possible federation of the field and the organisation in the local institutions. In this way, no leadership model emerged, a factor that contributed to the consolidation of this greimasianism. Furthermore, the current situation is insecure (in terms of having a stable academic position) for young researchers in semiotics either since a great deal of the most prominent French semioticians are already retired or are about to retire and their chairs are being closed. Therefore, there is a gap in the renovation of academics and the transmission of knowledge that could affect the maintaining of semiotics in France in the future. Yet, French semioticians still need to determine the impact of Greimas’ influence in the upcoming state of their field.

68Lastly, we will touch upon the main issue that pertains to the institutional organisation of this field in France in two academic sections at the National Council of Universities (CNU), as well as how researchers are constrained by these sections. This subject has been addressed by Ablali (2007) when explaining how semiotics was compartmentalised in two disciplinary sections at the CNU level (sections 07 language sciences and, 71 information and communication sciences). In fact, Ablali simultaneously frames it as an historical and epistemological problem in which Greimas played a main role. That is, while Greimas was intending to define semiotics as a comprehensive scientific project beyond disciplinary boundaries (Greimas, 1976), he found another theoretical and methodological niche in communication sciences (Infocom) for anchoring semiotics beyond the realm of the language sciences (discipline he was institutionally attached to). On the other hand, Jeanneret (2007) suggests that several scholars who had been interested in semiotics have turned to the section 71 in order to find a theoretical or methodological refuge due to the interdisciplinary character of their research objects—which no longer fits in the disciplinary constraints of the seventh section.

69Having scholars institutionally attached to both sections in our pool of respondents (plus another researcher who is attached to a different section) gave an overview of the situation of semioticians in France. Those eight respondents, out of the ten respondents, enacted this institutional separation as a drawback for the French community since they are not able to compete for funding on domestic levels and cannot be evaluated by semiotics experts when competing for grants. Instead, they are evaluated by non-specialised peers who disregard it as a competitive and reliable field. Thus, they are framed as not having an ‘authentic’ position. All these tensions cast the aforementioned recognition issue (in section 2) from the institutions that can be framed as unrecognised identity (Ricœur, 2004) insofar as practitioners are not able to be acknowledged by the institutions of their own domestic academic system.

70Let’s see the examples below in order to illustrate this issue:

Extract 5 (I19)
B : On est- nous sommes (.) c’est un métier très marginal au niveau du CNU. C’est pas la faute du CNU, c’est le fait que comme (.) toutes les disciplines qui veulent exister (.) on a besoin de leaders. On a vraiment besoin d’un leader et depuis la mort de Greimas on n’a pas eu beaucoup de leaders. On a eu des (.) leaders scientifiques comme (name) (1.0) mais au niveau de la reconnaissance institutionnelle, on n’a pas eu grand monde. Et c’est un vrai problème (2.0) je crois que la sémiotique peut contenter de petits débats (.) scientifiques entre sémioticiens (xxx) et personne ne s’est jamais occupé d’études en France tout au moins (2.0) du développement de la sémiotique en tant que discipline. Ce n’est pas le cas ailleurs.

(8 lines omitted comparing the situation of semiotics in 2 other countries)
Et ça (.) je suis assez dur avec ça parce que (.) je crois que personne ne s’est vraiment donné la tâche de s’occuper de cette question, qui est fondamentale, parce que (.) à partir du moment où elle est reconnue comme une discipline (2.0) nous avons des étudiants qui veulent faire la sémiotique.
B: We are (.) it’s a very marginal profession as regards the CNU. It’s not the CNU’s fault. It’s the fact that since (.) all disciplines want the right to exist (.) we need leaders. We really need a leader and since the death of Greimas we haven’t had many leaders. We have had (.) scientific leaders like (name) (1.0) but at the institutional recognition level, we haven’t had many people. And that’s a real problem (2.0) I think that semiotics can settle for small scientific debates between semioticians (xxx) and nobody has ever taken charge of these studies in France, at least (2.0) of developing semiotics as a discipline. This is not the case in other countries.
(4 lines omitted talking about semiotics in 2 other countries)
B: And that (.) I’m pretty hard on this because (.) I think nobody has really taken on the task of dealing with this question, which is fundamental, because (.) from the moment it is recognised as a discipline (2.0) we’ll have students who want to do semiotics.

71In this extract we can see the respondent’s representation of semiotics in the context of the CNU (lines 1–3). In this account, I19 unveils what he considers an identity issue, since it affects semioticians’ status and identity in the French context. This conflict is framed in terms of lacking a leadership figure in the domestic community of semioticians (lines 3–5). At level 1 positioning, I19 takes issue against semioticians and firstly position them as marginal with regard to the CNU.

72Secondly, he frames them as incompetent since they have not managed to find a leading figure for the field in France (lines 3–4). At Level 3, I19 navigates local and macro contexts by going beyond the interactional positioning in which he constructs himself as a critical voice vis-à-vis his fellow semioticians. At this level, he makes relevant a macro discursive context for the field of semiotics: as being a marginal field in academic institutions, and also mentioning the fact that there is a lack of students in France.

6. Concluding remarks

73In this paper we have discussed some of the experiences narrated by of a group of forty researchers who work in the field of semiotics. Each respondent’s story was co-constructed with us as interviewers in the context of a research interview. Throughout our interactions, they performed identity work by alluding to different academic roles, as well as making relevant different facets of their identity (as semioticians, professors, members of one ethnic group or another community) as well as conveying, through narratives, their subjective stance of working in a peripheral field.

74We have also showed how respondents made relevant different facets of their identity in narratives and across the interviews as well as how they coalesced around particular subject positions at the local level or, when making relevant larger macro-contexts to present themselves in the ways they want to be perceived. Participants put considerable work into staging particular versions of themselves, within the context of having previously available identities.

75Semioticians’ biographical accounts are distinct but sometimes remarkably similar. They come from diverse backgrounds, so no two stories are the same and each academic believes they embody a non-typical and unique story. In these stories, several aspects of their biographies are visible: expectations, choices made, encounters and characters. At the interactional level (level 2), respondents carried out local, interactional work. At this level, positioning can be seen as a parallel to the macro ascriptions of identity in the field of semiotics and this work is accomplished through the course of their encounters with other semioticians when constructing sameness or difference. However, as much as this set of identities has been foregrounded in the data, some of them might also be resisted by other participants who openly disengaged from the field of semiotics.

76We connected the interactional level to macro level discourses by drawing on level 3. Thus, positioning level 3 is used to look across the interviews to pull together momentary acts of positioning as more durable locally-produced identities. Respondents construct identities that reflect the way they want to see the field of semiotics in order to maintain their role within it as they identify as a particular type of person. This could also include how respondents negotiate difficulties in taking up specific positions, with reference to how certain academic struggles are understood and the contraposition between seeking to remain in semiotics or working in other fields. Interviewees navigated between locally-constructed claims and what Gee (2008) called D-discourses. A prevailing Discourse emerged and was shaped as ways and shared conventions in which working in the field of semiotics (as a marginal field) is talked about.

77This research tried to understand how practitioners negotiate and construct multiple facets of identity (sometimes contradictory) in stories which tell about the struggles they face vis-à-vis the legitimation of the field. Furthermore, it produces insights in the ways in which these individuals experience and produce representations of the field by linguistically enacting them in discourse.

78Despite the fact that these respondents’ participation was precious for the study, future research needs to be conducted with other semiotics scholars working in Latin America and China. This is because these regions are currently the world’s main spots where semiotics is more active and produces novel research outputs.

Haut de page


Ablali, Driss (2007), “Sémiotique et Sic: je t’aime, moi non plus”, Semen, 23. Retrieved from

Andrews, Molly, Squire, Corinne & Tamboukou, Maria (2008), Doing Narrative Research, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage.

Bamberg, Michael (1997), “Positioning between structure and performance”, Journal of Narrative and Life History, 7, pp. 335-342.

Bamberg, Michael (2004), Considering counter-narratives: Narrating, resisting, making sense. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Bamberg, Michael & Georgakopoulou, Alexandra (2008), “Small stories as a new perspective in narrative and identity analysis”, Text & Talk, 28, pp. 377-396.

Bamberg, Michael, De Fina, Ana, & Schiffrin, Deborah (2011), “Discourse and identity construction”, in K. Luyckx, S. Schwartz & V. Vignoles (eds.), Handbook of identity theory and research, Berlin, Germany: Springer, pp. 177-199.

Beacco, Jean Claude & Moirand, Sophie (1995), “Autour des discours de transmission des connaissances”, Langages, 29 (117), pp. 32-53.

Becher, Tony & Trowler, Paul, R. (2001). Academic tribes and territories: Intellectual enquiry and the cultures of the Disciplines, Milton Keynes: SRHE/ Open University Press.

Benwell, Bethan, & Stokoe, Elizabeth (2006). Discourse and identity, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Beyaert-Geslin, Anne (2017), “La sémiotique et les sciences de l’information et la communication”, in A. Biglari (ed.), La Sémiotique en interface, France, Éditions Kimé, pp. 183-194.

Biglari, Amir (2014), Entretiens sémiotiques, Limoges: Lambert-Lucas.

Boutaud, Jean Jacques (2004), “Sémiotique et communication. Un malentendu qui a bien tourné”, Hermès, 1 (38), pp. 96-102.

Broden, Thomas (2017), “Introduction: From A.J. Greimas to romance semiotics today”, Semiotica, 219, pp. 3-12.

Brubaker, Rogers. & Cooper, Frederick (2000), “Beyond identity”, Theory and Society, 29(1), pp. 1-47.

Bruner, Jerome S. (1990), Acts of Meaning, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bucholtz, Mary, & Hall, Kira (2005), “Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach”, Discourse Studies, 7, pp. 585-614.

Cobley, Paul, Deely, John, Kull, Kalevi. & Petrilli, Susan (2011), Semiotics continues to astonish. Thomas Sebeok and the doctrine of signs, Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Clifton, Jonathan & Van De Mieroop, Dorien (2016), Master narratives, identities and the stories of former slaves, John Benjamins, Amsterdam.

Colley, Helen, & James, David. (2005), Unbecoming tutors: Towards a more dynamic notion of professional participation, Paper presented at Changing teacher roles, identities and professionalism, May 16, at King’s College London.

Darras, Bernard (2012), “Qui sont les sémioticiens et que font-ils ? Enquête sur leurs relations avec le design et des médias”, Signata, 3, pp. 27-46. URL:; DOI:

Davies, Bronwyn. & Harré, Rom (2001), Positioning: the discursive production of selves”, in M. Wetherell, S. Taylor & S. Yates (eds), Discourse theory and practice, London, Sage.

Deely, John (2015a) Semiotics ‘Today’: The Twentieth-Century Founding and Twenty-First Century Projects”, in P.P. Trifonas (ed.), International handbook of semiotics, New York: Springer, pp. 29-114.

Deely, John (2015b), “What semiotics is”. Language and Semiotic Studies, 1(1), pp. 63-94.

De Brabanter, Philippe. & Dendale, Patrick (2008), “Commitment: The term and the notions”, Belgian Journal of Linguistics, 22, pp. 1-14.

De Fina, Ana (1995), “Pronominal Choice, Identity and Solidarity in Political Discourse”, Text – Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse, 15(3), pp. 379-410.

De Fina, Ana (2003), Identity in narrative: A study of immigrant discourse. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

De Fina, Ana (2009), “Narratives in interview – The case of accounts. For an interactional approach to narrative genres”, Narrative Inquiry, 19(2), pp. 233-258.

De Fina, Ana (2013), “Positioning level 3. Connecting local identity displays to macro social processes”, Narrative Inquiry, 23(1), pp. 40-61.

De Fina, Ana, Schiffrin, Deborah, & Bamberg, Michael (2006), “Introduction”, in A. De Fina, D. Schiffrin & M. Bamberg (eds.), Discourse and identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-23.

Deppermann, Arnulf (2015), “Positioning”, in A. De Fina & A. Georgakopoulou. The handbook of narrative analysis, UK: Blackwell, pp. 369-387.

Eco, Umberto (2004), “History and historiography of semiotics”, in R. Posner, K. Robering & T.A. Sebeok (eds.), A Handbook on the Sign-Theoretic Foundations of Nature and Culture, Berlin-New York: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 730-746.

Foucault, Michel (1966), Les Mots et les choses: une archéologie des sciences humaines, Paris: Gallimard.

Foucault, Michel (1969), L’Archéologie du savoir, Paris: Gallimard.

Foucault, Michel (1971), “Histoire des systèmes de pensée. La volonté du savoir”, Annuaire du Collège de France, 71, pp. 245-249.

Gaines, Elliot (2015), “Everyday Semiotics: The Paradox of a Universal Discipline”, The American Journal of Semiotics, 31(3-4), pp. 1-17.

Gee, James Paul (2008), Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses, Abingdon and New York: Routledge.

Gee, James Paul (2015), Literacy and education, London, UK: Routledge.

Greimas, Algirdas J. (1976), Sémiotique et sciences sociales, Paris: Seuil.

Greimas, Algirdas. J. & Courtés, Joseph (eds., 1983), Sémiotique. Dictionnaire raisonné de la théorie du langage, Paris: Hachette.

Haidar, Julieta (2006), Debate CEU-Rectoría. Torbellino pasional de los argumentos, Mexico City: UNAM.

Hall, Stewart (1996), “Introduction: Who Needs Identity?, in S. Hall & P. du Gay. Questions of cultural identity (pp.3-16). London: Sage.

Holmes, Janet (2006), “Workplace narratives, professional identity and relational practice”, in A. De Fina, D. Schiffrin & M. Bamberg (eds.), Discourse and identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 166-187.

Huutoniemi, Katri (2010), “Evaluating interdisciplinary research”, in R. Frodeman, J. Thompson Klein & C. Mitcham (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 309-320.

Jeanneret, Yves (2007), “La prétention sémiotique dans la communication”, Semen, 23. Retrieved from

Kull, Kalevi. & Välli, Katre (2011), “Semiotics for university: semiosis makes the world locally plural”, Chinese Semiotic Studies, 5 (1), pp. 246-272.

Kull et al. (2015), “A hundred introductions to semiotics, for a million students: Survey of semiotics textbooks and primers in the world”, Sign Systems Studies, 43 (2/3), pp. 281-346.

Labov, William (1972). Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular. Philadelphia, PA: University of Philadelphia Press.

Li, Youzheng (2006), “The epistemological turn in semiotic strategy: From signs in the natural/cultural world to the semantic institutions of academic discourses”, Semiotica, 162 (1/4), pp. 175-193.

Lucius-Hoene, Gabriele. & Deppermann, Arnulf (2000), “Narrative identity empiricized: A dialogical and positioning approach to autobiographical research interviews”, Narrative Inquiry, 10(1), pp. 199-222.

Mann, Steve (2016), The Research Interview: Reflective Practice and Reflexivity in Research Processes, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.

Mishler, Elliot G. (2006), “Narrative and identity: the double arrow of time”, in A. De Fina, D. Schiffrin & M. Bamberg (eds.), Discourse and identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 30-47.

Ochs, Elinor & Capps, Lisa (2001), Living Narrative. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Peirce, Charles. S. (1998), The Essential Peirce. Selected Philosophical Writings (1893-1913), Volume 2, USA: The Peirce Edition Project.

Posner, Roland (2003), “Semiotics and other interdisciplinary approaches”, in R. Posner, K. Robering & T.A. Sebeok (eds.), A Handbook on the Sign-Theoretic Foundations of Nature and Culture, Berlin-New York: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 2342-2374.

Posner, Roland, Robering, Klaus, & Sebeok, Thomas A. (2003), A Handbook on the Sign-Theoretic Foundations of Nature and Culture. Berlin-New York: Walter de Gruyter.

Potter, Jonathan (1997), Representing reality: Discourse, rhetoric, and social constructionism, London: Sage.

Potter, Jonathan. & Wetherell, Margaret (1988), “Accomplishing attitudes: Fact and evaluation in racist discourse”, Text, 8(1-2), pp. 51-68.

Rastier, François (2001) “Sémiotique et sciences de la culture”, Linx. Retrieved from

Ricœur, Paul (2004), Parcours de la reconnaissance, Trois études. France: Stock.

Richards, Keith. & Talmy, Steven (2011), “Theorizing qualitative research interviews in applied linguistics”, Applied Linguistics, 32(1), pp. 1-5.

De Saussure, F. (1916), Cours de linguistique générale, France: Payot.

Sebeok, Thomas A (1976), Contributions to the doctrine of signs, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Salupere, Silvi (2011), “Semiotics as science”, Sign Systems Studies, 39 (2/4), pp. 271-289.

Søreide, Gunn Elisabeth (2006), “Narrative construction of teacher identity: Positioning and negotiation”, Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 12(5), pp. 527-547.

Torop, Peeter (1998), “Semiotics in Tartu”, Sign Systems Studies, 26, pp. 9-19.

Weingart, Paul (2010), “A Short history of knowledge formations”, in R. Frodeman et al. (eds.), The Oxford handbook of interdisciplinarity, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 3-14.

Whitchurch, Celia (2009), “The rise of the blended professional in higher education: a comparison between the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States”, Higher Education, 58, pp. 407-418.

Wortham, Stanton & Reyes, Angela (2015), Discourse analysis beyond the speech event, New York: Routledge.

Haut de page


1 In France the affiliation to a department refers to a professor’s teaching activities and the affiliation to a laboratoire to the research aspect of their job. Laboratoires are divided in: ‘équipes d’accueil’ or EA in universities; ‘unités mixtes de recherche’ or UMR for research institutions such as Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. UMRs are both funded by the CNRS and universities (and sometimes by another institution). Consequently, their names refer to their sponsors: e.g., ‘UMR CNRS - Paris 3’. EAs are only funded by universities.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Eduardo Chávez Herrera, « Semioticians narrating a field »Signata [En ligne], 13 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2022, consulté le 02 juin 2023. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Eduardo Chávez Herrera

Eduardo Chávez Herrera is a postdoctoral researcher in the department of applied linguistics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He holds an MA in semiotics from the University of Tartu (Estonia) and a PhD in applied linguistics from the University of Warwick (UK). His research interests are general semiotics, semiotics of culture, discourse analysis, interactional linguistics, academic discourse and metapragmatics.
Email: keemunyunnan[at]

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur


Creative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International - CC BY 4.0

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search