On Mimicry, Signs and Other Meaning-Making Acts. Further Studies in Iconicity

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In an earlier paper, I set out to apply to animal mimicry the definition of the sign, and, more specifically, of the iconic sign, which I originally elaborated in the study of pictures, and which was then extended by myself and others to language, gesture, and music. The present contribution, however, while summarizing some of the results of those earlier studies, is dedicated to the demonstration that animal mimicry, as well as phenomena of the human Lifeworld comparable to it, are in a sense the opposite of signs. It has often been observed, not only within speech act philosophy, but also by the semiotician Luis Prieto, that as sign can only function as such once it is recognized to be a sign. Animal mimicry, camouflage, and the like, in contrast, only work as such, to the extent that they are not perceived as signs. Unlike what speech act philosophy claims, nevertheless, the “difference which makes a difference” is not the recognition of a purpose attributed to the subject producing the sign. A footprint, for example, has to be recognized as a sign in order to function as such. Nevertheless, to the extent that a purpose is attributed to the subject setting the sign, it may be considered a sign, but one that hides its nature, a fake footprint. Mimicry and camouflage, however, are similar to such “natural meanings” as footprints in entertaining a different relation to the agent initiating the act and the agent perceiving it. Classical studies of mimicry distinguish its varieties according to what is rather vaguely called function. In this paper, we will investigate whether these classifications can be recuperated from a semiotic point of view, or whether a semiotically valid classification should start from scratch.


Enheter & grupper

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Jämförande språkvetenskap och lingvistik
  • Övrig annan humaniora


Sidor (från-till)99-114
Antal sidor16
Utgåva nummer1
Tidigt onlinedatum2018 dec 21
StatusPublished - 2019
Peer review utfördJa