Signifying code

A signifying code is a code used for communication.

For examples, language, Morse code, Braille, semaphore, deaf-and-dumb sign language, handwriting, and printing.


1   Function

2   Matter

A signifying code consists of:

  1. A set of signs
  2. A grammar
  3. A semantics

3   Properties

  1. Every code has a paradigmatic dimension and syntagmatic dimension.
  2. Every code is conventional.
  3. Every code is transmittable by appropriate media and/or channels of communication.
  4. Every code conveys meaning.
  5. Every code performs an identifiable social or communicative function.

4   Classification

  1. Analog & Digital
  2. Presentational & Representational
  3. Elaborated & Restricted

4.1   Analog & Digital

Two types of paradigms exist which give their names to types of code:

  1. Analog
  2. Digital

An analog code is a code that works on a continuous scale.

  • an analog watch has a continuous scale and only by putting marks on the dial can we read it 'digitally'
  • dance

A digital code is a code whose units (signifier and signified) are clearly separated.

  • a digital watch separates one minute from the next

Digital codes are easier to understand simply because their units are clearly distinguished.

Arbitrary codes are digital.

Digital codes are easy to notate. Analog codes are difficult to notate.

  • Music is potentially an analog code, though our system of notation has given it distinctive features (notes and scales) and thus imposed upon it a digital code
  • Dance is analog and hard to record

Nature is generally composed of analogs; in trying to understand it we impose digital differences upon it.

  • the seven ages of man
  • intimate, personal, semi-public, and public distances between people
  • putting sixty marks around the perimeter of a clockface is a metaphor of how we impose meaning upon reality

The search for significant differences or distinctive features is crucial to the textual side of meaning.

In arbitrary or symbolic codes, it is a straightforward process, for if the units of a paradigm are stated and agreed, the differences between them must be identified.

Codes composed of iconic signs pose problems.

The perception of reality itself is itself an encoding process.[3]

Perception involves making sense of the data before us: it involves identifying significant differences and thus identifying units. It then involves the perception of the relationship between these units, so that we can them as a whole-- in other words, it involves created paradigms and syntagms. Our perception and understand of reality is as specific to our culture as our language is. It is in this sense we talk of reality as a social construct.[3]

Related to measurement.

4.2   Presentational codes & Representational codes

#### Presentational codes

Presentational codes are indexical; they cannot stand for something apart from themselves and their encoder.

Presentational codes indicate aspects of the communicator and of his or her present social situation.

Non-verbal communication is carried on through presentational codes.

  • gestures
  • eye movements
  • qualities of voice

Presentational codes can give messages only about the here and now.

  • tone of voice can indicate present attitude to subject and listener; cannot send a message about feelings last week

Presentational codes are limited to face-to-face communication or communication when the communicator is present.

The human body is the main transmitter of presentational codes.

Ten codes classified by medium:[Argyle 1972]

01. Bodily contact 02. Proximity 03. Orientation 04. Appearance 05. Head nods 06. Facial expression 07. Gestures 08. Posture 09. Eye movement and eye contact 10. Nonverbal aspects of speech

  • Prosodic codes
  • Paralinguistic code
  1. Bodily contact

Convey information about relationship via:

  • Whom we touch
  • Were we touch
  • When we touch

This code and the next are ones that vary most between people of different cultures.

Fact: The British touch each other less frequently than members of almost any other culture

  1. Proximity
  • How closely we approach someone

Appears to be distinctive features that differentiate significantly different distances.

  • Withing three feet is intimate
  • Eight feet is personal
  • Over eight feet is semi-public
  • etc.

Actual distances may vary from culture to culture

  • the personal distance of Arabs can be as little as eighteen inches
  • Middle class distances tend to be slightly than the corresponding working class ones
  1. Orientation
  • How we angle ourselves

    • Facing someone indicate either intimacy or aggression.
    • Being at 90 degrees indicates a cooperative stance
  1. Appearance

Divide into two:

  • Aspects under voluntary control
    • hair, clothes, skin, paint, adornment
  • Aspects less controllable
    • height, weight, etc

In all cultures, hair is highly significant as it is the most flexible part of our bodes; we can alter its appearance most easily.

Appearance is used to send message about personality, social status, and conformity.

  1. Head nods

Head nods are involved mainly in interaction management, particular in turn-taking in speech.

A nod gives the speaker permission to carry on.

Rapid nods may indicate a wish to speak.

  1. Facial expression
  • Eyebrow position
  • eye shape
  • mouth shape
  • nostril size

In various combinations these determine the expression of the face.

It is possible to write a grammar of their combinations and meanings.

Facial expression show less cross-cultural variant than most other presentational codes

  1. Gestures
  • hand
  • arm
  • feet
  • head

Closely coordinated with speech.

Supplement verbal communicate

Indicate either general emotional arousal or specific emotional states.

  • beckoning
  1. Posture
  • way of sitting, standing, and lying

Communicate a limited but interesting range of meanings.

Frequently concerned with interpersonal attitudes.

Indicates emotional states; degree of tension or relaxation.

Posture is less well controlled than facial expression; anxiety that does not show on the face may be given away by posture.

  1. Eye movement and eye contact
  • when we meet
  • how often we meet
  • for how long we meet

sends message of dominance or affiliation

Staring someone out is a simple challenge of dominance Makeing eyes at someone indicates a desire for affiliation Makeing eye contact at the begining of a verbal statement indicates a desire to dominate the listener, to make him or her pay attention Eye contact toward the end of or after a verbal statement indicates a more affiliative relationship, a desire for feedback, to see how the listener is reacting

  1. nonverbal aspects
  1. prosodic codes
  • pitch and stress

    • "the shops are open on Sunday" can be made into a statement, a question, or an expression of surprise by the pitch of the voice
  1. paralinguistics codes
  • tone
  • volume
  • accent
  • speech errors
  • speed

Indicate speaker's emotional state, personality, class, social status, way of viewing the listener, so on

4.3   Representational codes

Representational codes are used to produce texts (messages with an independent existence).

A text stands for something apart from itself and its encode.

A text is composed or iconic or symbolic signs.

4.4   Functions

Presentational codes have two functions:

  1. Convey indexical information
  2. Interaction management
  1. Information about the speaker and his our her situation through which the listener learns about his or her identity, emotions, attitudes, social positions, and so on.
  2. The codes are used to manage the sort of relationship wants with the other. By using certain gestures, posture, and tone of voice, I can attempt to dominate my fellows, be conciliatory towards them, or shut myself off from them. I can use codes to indicate that I have finished speaking and it is someone else's turn or to indicate desire to terminate the meeting. These codes are still, in a sense, indexical, but they are used to convey information about the relationship rather than about the speaker.

These two functions of presentational codes can also be performed by the representational insofar as presentational codes can be present in representational message.

  • a written text can have a 'tone of voice'
  • a photograph can convey depression or joy

Representational codes have a third function:

  1. Convey information or ideas about things absent (cognitive or ideational)
  1. involves the creation of a message or a text that is independent of the communicator and situation.

Representational codes are the only ones that can perform the referential function.[3]

4.5   Elaborated & Restricted

TODO: Resume here, page 70, Introduction to Communication Studies

4.6   Broadcast & Narrowcast

Defined by nature of the audience.

TODO: Resume here, page 73, Introduction to Communication Studies

5   Operations

Encoding is the process of creating a message for transmission by an addresser to an addressee.

6   Grading

A good communication system is one in which communication (from production to comprehension) is optimally efficient. [2] This involves designing a code which balances efficiency of sending, efficiency of receiving, and fault tolerance.

6.1   Fault tolerance

Fault tolerance refers to the ability for a message to be received as intended over a noisy channel.

The central idea is that the sender can encoding his message in a redundant way by using an error-correcting code which allows the receiver to detect a limited number of errors that may occur anywhere in the message, and often to correct these errors without retransmission.

An example of a communication system designed to be fault-tolerant is the NATO phonetic alphabet.

6.2   Conciseness

Conciseness refers to ease of production. The opposite of conciseness is verbosity.

In systems where context is informative about meaning, conciseness may be enhanced by re-using efficient signs, provided comprehenders can efficiently and reliably disambiguate ambiguous signs. In language use, context disambiguates ambiguous signs so well, that when it is used we often consciously notice it as humorous. [2]

Language users do not appear to go to great lengths to avoid linguistic ambiguities, despite actively avoiding conceptual ambiguities. Ferreira, Slevc, and Rogers (2005) found that experimental participants chose to produce descriptions of objects that avoided conceptual ambiguities, such as saying "small bat" rather than just "bat" when a large bat was also present. However, speakers much less often went to similar lengths to avoid purely linguistic ambiguities (such as "baseball bat" when an animal bat was also present).

Levinson (2000) has argued explicitly that speaker articulation, not hearer inference, is the principal bottleneck in human language. Inference is "cognitively cheap": therefore, normal human communication requires the comprehender to make continual inferences about speaker intention, and does not require the speaker to fully articulate every shade of meaning.

Hypothesis: Language approximates an optimal code for human communication.

@SEE: Zipf 1949

  • Ambiguity fits withing framework of his unifying "principle of least effort"
  • Ambiguity can be understood by considering competing desires of speaker and listener
    • Speaker can minimize effort with a perfectly ambiguous language (a single word)
    • Listeners can minimize effort with a perfectly unambiguous language
  • Natural language would strike a balance between two opposing forces arriving at a middle ground.
    • Unification
    • Diversification
  • Balance between these forces can be observed in the relationship between word frequencey and rank frequency
  • "Law of meaning distribution" argues that the number of meaning a word has should scale with the square root of its frequency

Main factor determine ease for human language:

  • Words that are easy to process are likely short, frequent, and phonotactically well-formed

Waslow 2005:

  • Ambiguity reduces memory demands of storing a lexicon, though human memory is probably not a bottle-neck for vocabulary size
  • May be processing constraint against longer morphemes
  • May be useful in language contact situations
  • Sometimes ambiguity serves a communicative function when speakers intend to be ambiguous * Nothing is better than you're cooking
  • Waslow is unconvincing because ambiguity is so common[1]
Ferrer Cancho and Lotero:
  • Ambiguity is a necessary precondition of combinatorial systems, since combingin multiple units has no advantage when each unambiguously communicates a full meaning
  • Ambiguity is predicated to airse in any morphosyntactic system
Juba 2011:
  • Ambiguity allows for more efficient compressions when speakers and listeners have boundely different prior distributions on meanings

7   Remarks

No signifying code can be properly be divorced from the social practices of its users. [3]

8   References

[2](1, 2) Introduction To Communication Studies, Chapter 1
[3]Introduction To Communication Studies, Chapter 4


# Correspondence

TODO: This is really rough.. and wrong.

A modality is a constrained set of of strings of strings and symbols.

Two modalities, X and Y, are equivalent if there exist a bijective function from X to Y, or if X and Y are isomorphic.

A modality, X, is more powerful than another modality, Y, if there is a epimorphism from X to Y, but not from Y to X.

SEE: Algebra

A modality hole is the presence of an element in one modality that has no corresponding element in another modality.

Many modalities are not isomorphic to others. This is evident in the phrase, "A picture is worth a thousand words" as well as more particular examples, like descriptions of gestalt perceptual groupings.