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A proposal for the study of perception: around cognitive semiotics/Uma proposta para o estudo da percepcao: em torno da semiotica cognitiva.

The semiotics's approach

By watching Greimas's scientific career, a career that is confused with French semiotics's own history, we could establish two phases in his academic background: a briefer matorean one, and a longer, hjelmslevian.

In a first instant, inspired by Georges Matore's social lexicology (1953), whose project was to develop a lexicology linked to society and to history, Greimas (2000) Pointed out in his doctoral thesis (main and secondary), defended in 1948 at the University of Paris Letters Faculty, that to deal with the vocabulary is fundamental to relate the lexical phenomena and the sociological data. Greimas's proposal, analyzing the trending vocabulary of the romantic period, was to describe society's history through the vocabulary bias. It claimed, therefore, a sociological perspective. As Broden observes (2000, p.XXXII), "[...] a more familiarized reader of Greimas's further works will be astonished by the genuine interest to language and cultural history that already enlivened his researches a decade before, and that confirmed his other texts published by him at that time."

Since 1956, when he publishes "L'actualite du saussurisme" (GREIMAS, 1956), although still defending a histone and structural linguistics simultaneously, we could say that the text, like a "hjelmslevized Saussure", is a milestone for a larger phase on his investigations inspired by Hjelmslev. Soon after that, in the early 1960's, with the article "Analyse du contenu: comment definir les indefinis?' (GREIMAS, 1963), the author distances himself from the historicism that marked his earlier works and moves towards the immanentism and to the development of his greater project: the semiotics.

In this greater phase, inspired by Hjelmslev (1), in his little history--five decades of scientific project--, it's amazing to observe how much, even after the death of its founder in 1992, the semiotics follows the path foretold by Hjelmslev (1975), inscribed in his last words of Prolegomenos a uma teoria da linguagem: the passage from immanence to transcendence, both ruled by immanence. Even if it's implied in the text the need of a redefinition of the "immanence' concept, the semiotics was born, lying on structuralism, on the pillars of immanence and sailing the seas of transcendence without getting lost in speculations, being guided by immanence. In these big sails, as portrayed by Ouellet (1997), there are three acts--action, passion, cognition, respectively, states of things, states of mind, body states (or incarnated feeling)--that reveal the thought of semiotics in its decades of existence, with these three moments--pragmatic, thymic, cognitive are anchored by the enunciation, "[...] that gives the active, the passive, to the cognitive, not only its meaning, but a direction to take in the world of values in which the discourses run [...]" (OUELLET, 1997, p.9).

We will name these three moments "approaches" (the inverted commas are needed, because the attempt to set phases is a mere methodological instrument, a crude reduction, once the construction of knowledge, in the semiotic field, happens in a continuous way, gathering discoveries without discarding past experiences) in the development of its methodologies: intelligible, sensible and cognitive.

Although we set three distinctive phases, it is needed to emphasize that such approaches aren't strictly exclusive and successive, because "[...] knowledge can be objective and subjective simultaneously." (LEVI-STRAUSS, 1997, p.54). Well, it is enough for us to observe in recent analysis, in which a structural or intelligible view interweaves with the sensible aspects of the discourse. Paraphrasing Fernando Pessoa (1999), to think with sensibility and to feel with thought (2). Furthermore, as we will see further along, the cognitive perspective was already present since the studies of elementary semiotics structure. Therefore--the reservation is once again validated--, to set three phases is a methodological tool and not a real fact of successive order.

Intelligible approach

In a phase in which body and sensible are strictly banished from theory, semiotics is characterized, in its meaning description, by a exclusively formal approach, trapped by the language and text system. In the intelligible phase, semiotics are strongly linked to linguistic structuralism. It is the orthodox phase in which Greimas built his "scientific project" based on Saussure's and Hjelmslev's teachings, a phase that is enshrined by his famous sentence "outside the text, no salvation" (GREIMAS, 1974, p.25).

In his founding discourse, Structural semantics, Greimas settles that the theory should ignore the text's expression plane to lay exclusively on the content plane. To do so, the semiotics releases the meaning generative path, main instrument used by the semioticists to work in the meaning investigations.

From the moment that semiotics notices that it couldn't fully handle its meaning only in the formal way, a new horizon is delineated: the pathematic dimension.

Sensible approach

The study of the sensible allowed the body, responsible for mediation between the outside and the inside, to intervene in the meaning description. Thus, semiotics of passions and tensile semiotics gave semiotics project a new look. But sensible is also linked to the new interest for semiotics: the expression plane.

Like Courtes says (1995), the signifier (EP) is what our eyes see, and the signified (CP), is what our spirit comprehends. Thus, we could state that EP is linked to sensation; CP to perception. Therefore, when semiotics starts to concern with EP, it enters the sensible field. In this approach, the plastic semiotics and the EP pertinence levels are highlighted, aside from the EP analyses attempts from verbal texts, as in poems (FIORIN, 2003; LOPES; ALMEIDA, 2011; PIETROFORTE, 2011), because both the text and the image belong to the visible order.

As to the proprioceptive, there is no way to make reference to aesthesis. "The works of Greimas reveal a continuous search and persistent preoccupations, even if it knows significant changes in direction." (BRODEN, 2000, p.XXXV). It is curious to notice that the essence of De 1'imperfection (GREIMAS, 2002) was already present in the thesis that Greimas defended in 1948, specifically on the chapter "Les caracteres exterieurs del'etat cTame romantique" from his secondary thesis:

The romantic--and we are referring to the social kind, not the romantic poet or painter, although both kinds coincide sometimes is not satisfied in being a depositary of the secret nature has revealed to him: to him, life around him must have a sign of this poetic or even dramatic mystery that he feels in himself and that flows through the cosmos. (GREIMAS, 2000, p.274, original emphasis).

By describing an important cultural space from the 1930's, Greimas also investigates the human spirit. His concern contained in the secondary thesis, by describing the romantic soul that seeks to distract from the boredom, is repeated in the end of his life, in his last book wrote by him alone, converting the aesthesia privileged moments in the poeticization of everyday life. As pointed by Ramalho and Oliveira (2009), Greimas distances himself from the Esthetics concept linked to beauty and approaching Esthetics like aesthesis (perception through the senses, of the outside world), an experience of pleasure, of the perception of the senses, of sensuality and sensibility.

Sensible semiotics, including the passion, aesthesis and tensiveness studies, came about out of a necessity, because "hard" semiotics, rooted in structuralism, couldn't handle the wide apprehension of the meaning. As stated by Greimas (2002, p.70), "cognitively inapprehensible", by referring to the esthetic accident.

The proprioceptive approach included the sensible sided with the intelligible. It is nothing new nowadays in the semiotic field the importance of the body in the apprehension of meaning. But the issue is that such approach is still insufficient, after all, it approaches the sensible in a peripheral way (more connected to the sensations), when, in fact, to fully understand the construction of this meaning, we depend on cognitive control, that produces the perceptive synthesis (gathering of all the information from the peripheral receptors with memory, attention, mental representations, etc.). That is where stems the necessity of advancing towards the central system, in a cognitive approach, also.

Cognitive approach

It is not unreasonable to state nowadays, in the semiotics field, that all meaning stems from the interface between language, society, history, culture. All the instances are interconnected. But how is this junction performed? How can these instances be gathered to form a synthesis? Fontanille (2011) says the body was excluded from semiotics theory by the formalism and especially by the logicism that prevailed in the structural linguistics from the 60's. As he says it himself, the body was hidden, but not excluded, because it represented a discriminating function. Taking as an example the generative process of meaning, Fontanille (2011) states that the passage from one level to another was always set as of logical nature, with no explicit operator. The process seems to run through the levels and to contain itself. But if these conversions are considered as phenomena and not as formal logical operations, they imply a subject that perceives the meaningful contents and that calculates and projects values into them. The same reasoning occurs when related to semiosis: both in the logical and reciprocal assumption between EP and CP relation, imply at least an implicit intervention of an operator. All of this leads Fontanille (2011) to propose an "impression semiotics" (originally "semiotique de Tempreinte").

If there is an operator in the construction of meaning, intervention that implies a subject that perceives, like stated by Fontanille, then it is not the body (sensorial organs, or peripheral system) that synthesizes perception, but the cognitive activity of the subject (central system), because the body is just the doorway to that which will be handled by the mind. Thus, sensible semiotics end up handling the subject metonymically, the body is reduced to the receptor level. Semiotics says that there is perception, there is intervention of a subject on the meaning construction, but it is not completely addressed by it.

Beyaert-Geslin (2004), when analyzing Henri Matisse's paintings, said that the observers are required two competences: the sensible competence, from the "body-flesh" that senses the multisensory perception and requests affects that escape the narrative description, and a cognitive competence, of the "cognitive body" that reconstructs the narrative scene: "[...] the matter with inter-sensory relations undoubtedly outweighs our study framework and approaches phenomenology and cognitive sciences questionings." (BEYAERTGESLIN, 2004, p.220).

Thus, considering the double competence required from the text's recipient, sensible and cognitive, we must defend a "embodied cognition" (VARELA; THOMPSON; ROSCH, 2001, p. 195), that is, a perception that depends of the embodiment. To feel is as important as to think: sentio ergo sum (I feel, therefore I am).

This "cognitive body" challenges semiotics to enter a new phase: the cognitive phase, this "non-linguistic place where is located the apprehension of significance" (GREIMAS, 1973, p. 15). Actually, the phase we named "cognitive" is nothing more than an extension of sensible semiotics. It fits in what some authors (GUIGNARD, 2012; KLINKENBERG, 2000, 2001, 2010; OUELLET, 1994; PETITOT, 1997) have been explicitly naming "cognitive semiotics" (3). Herein, semiotics is characterized, basically, by the description of meaning. And it has been covering this goal building, scientifically, models that seek to ground analysis. But there are other parameters, aside from the scientific, for a "really 'convincing'" analysis, falling to the recipient the final word (COURTES, 1995, p.262).

The analysis's scientificity is even frailer in the artistic field, "inaccessible to the scientific analysis methods" (EDELMAN, 1995, p.254). As stated by Greimas (2002, p.70), "[...] cognitively inapprehensible, this fracture in life is, later, susceptible of all interpretations." Entitling the first part (set of poems and narrative fragments analysis) de De l'Imperfection, the term "fracture" stands for aesthetic accident, constituting a isotopy rapture, a "momentary lightning in everyday life" (GREIMAS, 2002, p.26), a moment that, escaping the intellectualism logic, proposes himself to the unexpected of imperfection: esthesia.

This reassures us that analysis is not a unique, finished format, because meaning is, above all, a matter of perspective, also called "vantage point" by cognitive linguistics (FERRARI, 2011, p.67). "Meaning, in itself, is formless, that is, it is not subjected, in itself, by a formation, but it is susceptible to any formation." (HJELMSLEV, 1975, p.70). The same object can have two functions, practical and aesthetic (FONTANLLE; ZINNA, 2005), because it is not about a determination of belongings of the element of a class by its nature, it is mainly about a judgment. "From one side of the planet to the other, the significations change, sometimes, to the point of being opposites. That is the reason why diplomacy has always been a very subtle art of interpretation." (CYRULNIK, 1995, p.122).

Fiorin (2000) illustrates the issue of the point of view with the "Two shields apologue". Two knights, that came from opposite paths, found themselves in a crossroad where there was a statue holding a shield. While one of the knights stated that the shield was made out of silver, the other insisted it was gold. Facing this feud, the dervish reveals that both of them were fight and, at the same time, none of them, because, if each of the knights had walked to the opposite side, they would see the two distinguished sides. As the apologue metaphorizes, in a single issue, we can see many faces, in the same way that meaning is a point of view. Of course that doesn't give us the authorization to extract delirious interpretations out of a text, because "[...] saying that a text can allow many readings doesn't imply, in any way, to admit that every interpretation is correct nor that the reader can give the text the meaning that he sees fitting." (FIORIN; SAVIOLI, 1995, p. 104). Even though there are many possible readings, the text imposes boundaries.

The issue of the point of view implies a key point that bases cognitive semiotics: every description supposes an observing subject. In other words, cognitive semiotics deals with perception, which constitutes a kind of "metameaning" by explaining the meaning formation.

We have seen that the perception phenomena was already present in sensible semiotics. Well, if perception, worked upon even in the esthesic studies, is the object of cognitive semiotics, wouldn't we be complicating things by proposing an alternative nomenclature to that which sensible semiotics already dealt with? No! Because sensible semiotics is focused on sensation--further on, the elemental semiotic structure would reflect our cognitive activity--, while cognitive semiotics engulfed sensation and perception. It is needed a parenthesis to distinguish the terms.

Although many times took as synonyms, the terms "sensation" and "perception" present specificities. Even if the concepts are inverted, giving sensation a more subjective and interoceptive characterization, and to perception a more objective, exteroceptive one, linked to perceptive organs, Courtes (2005) states rightly that the sensible covers two orders: sensation and perception. Thus, even if semiotics has, from the passions, treated the sensible, the approach has resigned to the order of sensation, leaving perception merely presupposed. Always mentioned, the studies of perception are never developed, rebuilding the meaning apprehended by the senses (or by the receptor organs).

Generally speaking, sensation refers to the five senses (touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell), while perception is the synthesis promoted by mental activity.

As to sensation, "[...] it concerns the initial process of detection and decoding of the surrounding's energy [...], such as 'hard', 'hot', 'noisy', 'red', generally produced by simple stimuli, physically isolated." (SCHIFFMAN, 2005, p.2). As to perception, it " [...] involves organization, interpretation and meaning attribution to that which the sensorial organs initially process [...], it is the result of organization and the integration of the sensations that lead to a consequence of the objects and environmental events." (SCHIFFMAN, 2005, p.2).

Of course that this work, once again, it is about a methodological procedure, because it is difficult to make a clear segregation between sensation and perception, because they are unified and inseparable processes. As highlighted by Schiffman (2005, p.2): "When we take a familiar object, like a book or a pencil, can we feel the pressure on the fingers and palms, independently of how we perceive the object?". The answer is no.

Therefore, cognitive semiotics justifies itself as the study of perception by addressing, in Ganascia's (1999, p.82) terms, the "superior faculties of the spirit".

The cognitive sciences

It is almost a trend to use the term "cognitive sciences" or "cognitive science". But what does all of this mean? The term "cognitive" derives from "cognition": from the Latin expression cognoscere (to know, that is, relative to knowledge). With this meaning, the term "cognition" presumes a science that addresses to the general study of knowledge. However, today the term has another connotation, because "not all knowledge is cognitive!" (GANASCIA, 1999, p.82). Currently, sciences named cognitive do not include all of the set of the fields of knowledge, such as geophysics, chemistry, engineering etc. The addition of the adjective "cognitive" represents something more, it denotes "[...] the superior faculties of the spirit that produce and use knowledge, much like perception, action, comprehension or memorization." (GANASCIA, 1999, p.82). Therefore, cognitive science is also referred to as "mental science (4)" (VARELA; THOMPSON; ROSCH, 2001, p. 15).

To the term cognitive is, thus, related the double meaning: one, ancient, in which "cognitive" would cover the entirety of knowledge; and another more frequently adopted, when the term is restricted to particular approaches that would bring together the cognitive sciences as "spiritual disciplines".

For the treatment of cognition, cognitive sciences call upon many disciplines (5), making of the investigation a multidisciplinary task. Uniting physical and psychical, matter and spirit, mind and body, extracting the laws of biology and of the psychism, cognitive sciences "are situated in the intersection between natural sciences and human sciences" (VARELA; THOMPSON; ROSCH, 2001, p.36), gathering three poles (GANASCIA, 1999): psychical knowledge (spirit), physiological knowledge (body, matter, brain nervous system) and plural knowledge (gathering and relating communication, language, society, economy), each of them corresponding, respectively and briefly, to the psyche, to the brain and to society.

As observed by Ganascia (1999), it's not the disciplines (6) themselves that are "cognitive", but the interaction between them. Cognitive sciences have to do with the family meeting and the trades made possible by it.

Because of its origin, cybernetics and artificial intelligence, cognitive sciences deal with cognitive activity erroneously, by dealing with cognition objectively, as an information process, comparing man and machine, more specifically, to the computer. Like stated by Aamodt and Wang (2009), there are no way to compare the brain with a computer, because machines are designed by engineers to operate like a factory, in which actions follow a general plan, sequential processing of information and following a logical order, while the brain works in different parallel information channels, "[...] like a crowded Chinese restaurant--always full and chaotic, with people running around one side to the other with no apparent reason, but, somehow, in the end everything gets done." (AAMODT; WANG, 2009, p.40). Instead of the simple input to output passage, there is a set of determinations that rule cognition: metabolism, neural regrouping, electrical and chemical signs, blood flow, oxidation rate, experiences, memories, meanings ...

Upon this complexity, a questioning rises: how to study cognition? Scientists present different answers according to their specialty: "[...] the molecule to the biochemist, the cell to the physiologist, the lobe or the sulcus to the neurophysiologist, the perception and intention to the psychologist, the computer to the computer programmer [...]" (GANASCIA, 1999, p.43). In the case of semiotics, already being inaugurated by the studies of the sensible, the focus is in perception. Perception, in reality, is the focus of innumerous approaches: rationalism, empirics, constructivism, computational approach, neurophysiology, cognitive neuroscience etc.

To address perception, subject of interest of cognitive semiotics to understand how meaning is formed, approaches some questions that relate to it: how it's formed, in Elderman (1995) terms, the spirit? How do we acquire knowledge and conscience? Ultimately, how perceptions in formed?

Perception: innate or acquired?

The question above not only involves perception, but also language acquisition, construction of knowledge and the formation of consciousness. Although it is an old controversy, it is still unresolved. For some, knowledge is innate; for others, it is acquired.

Rationalistic approaches defend the innatism. For the generative grammar, that includes linguistics in biology, "[...] to consider language a human faculty and not a social phenomena means to focus it as a psychological/biological phenomena." (ROSA, 2010, p.54). The individual would already be born with the faculty of language, with a minimal level of knowledge (initial stage called universal grammar), an "[...] innate base that will make possible to develop any language [...]. In cognitive terms, it is possible to comprehend innate as 'that which is not learned' or, even better, 'that is shown impossible to learn' [...]" (ROSA, 2010, p.54-55).

Opposing the inatism, there are the schools that preach knowledge acquisition. Empiricism, for example, is a philosophical movement originated in the 17th century that believes in experiences as a formatter of ideas, with the mental content being the summing of sensorial experiences. Dehaene (2012) contests the idea of cultural relativism, says that the brain would be such a flexible organ that wouldn't restrain human activities in the least. With that in mind, "[...] the human brain would be compared to a virgin slate, where would be printed, through the filters of the five senses, data on the natural and cultural environment alike." (DEHAENE, 2012, p. 19). To the author, our brain doesn't blindly absorb everything presented to it, it is not a clean slate where cultural constructs are accumulated: it is a strongly structured organ that does new things with the old.

For most disciplines (7) it has already been proved that no pole has the primacy, once that both of them work together in the construction of knowledge. Rosa (2010) shows that the dichotomy makes no sense, as it makes no sense to wonder how much the musician and the flute contribute to music, since music comes from both. Or, to barrow Varela, Thompson and Rosch's (2001, p.37) metaphor, nature and culture "could be compared to two legs which, without them, would be impossible to walk". Darwin's evolutionary theory (2008), despite the criticisms and the possible incoherence, lies in that relation, by showing that the species genetics modifies according to the environment.

To Dehaene (2012), the old antagonism between innate and acquired is a trap, once learning itself lies on an innate and rigid machinery. To him, human nature is limited, learning being limited, not accepting "[...] the image of a virgin brain, infinitely malleable that would content in absorbing the data of its cultural environment. With all evidence, the acquired is supported by the innate." (DEHAENE, 2012, p.19-20). By analyzing the reading process through the brain, the author defends the hypothesis that of "neural recycling', showing, based on the evolutionary theory that compares the human brain with that of other primates, that men didn't possess the reading ability. What happened was an adaptation of the brain. It is the synaptic plasticity that authorizes a partial reconversion of the primate's visual cortex architecture to the particular case by the recognition of letters and words.

Despite these controversies (innate vs acquired, mind vs body), cognitive sciences recognizes the joint role of nature and culture in perception, for the spirit (consciousness) is not built from above (idealism), but from below (relating mind and body). "Consciousness requires a body and a mind in conjunction [...]: maybe consciousness is primarily sensorial; maybe it is primarily mental." (VARELA; THOMPSON; ROSCH, 2001, p.155).

For a long time there was an opposition between biological and cultural, nature and culture, but the role of contemporary neuroscience has been showing "[...] that in men, the cultural cannot be considered without the biological and that the cerebral does not exist with a powerful influence of the environment." (CHANGEUX, 2012, p.9).

After reflecting about cognitive sciences, it is necessary to observe their influences on cognitive linguistics, especially the concept of categorization, that will be important in cognitive semiotics.

Cognitive linguistics

In the 70's, Cognitive Sciences considered the spirit as a computational machine. Thus, cognition would be a process that would function as a machine, preset to receive and produce information in a biologically determined way. As a way to find other alternatives for this paradigm of the mind as a machine, the cognitive linguistics (CL) theorists emerged.

Currently, as linguistics relies on the contributions of cognitive science, it is more and more common to hear the expression "cognitive linguistic", "cognitive grammar", cognitive semantics", "cognitive semiotics". Approaching the basic principles of meaning construction, CL defends the idea that meaning is constructed cognitively, hence the correspondence between language and cognitive operations, considering mental operations subjacent to the use of language. Indeed, an important part of the works on CL refer to the semantic dimension of language, therefore sometimes CL is called "cognitive semantics".

Maybe due to its double object (language and cognition), of complex and interdisciplinary character, CL is still dispersed, lacking a real unification of its results. "More than a real articulate model, it constitutes a current that gathers a set of works with common perspectives and principles." (GUIGNARD, 2012, p.62-63). Because of its plurality, CL must respond to the complex demands of language, cognition and categorical phenomena (GUIGNARD, 2012).

Although the initiative that would place Linguistics among the cognitive sciences has as a landmark the works of the North American Noam Chomsky (ROSA, 2010), CL is established during the 1980's in the USA as a response to the generative grammar, adopted by a group of scholars unsatisfied with the Chomskyan semantics: George Lakoff, Ronald Langacker, LeonardTalmy, Charles Fillmore, Gilles Fauconnier.

Even though these authors break with the generative perspective, they continue with the cognitive commitment. While the generative theory proposed the language cognitive module that is independent of other cognitive modules (such as mathematical reasoning, perception, etc.), CL "[...] adopts a non-modular perspective, that foresees acting of general cognitive principles shared by language and other cognitive capabilities, as well as the interaction between language modules, more specifically, between linguistic structure and conceptual content." (FERRARI, 2011, p.14).

What the non-modular perspective tells us is that "[...] language is not an autonomous faculty in relation to the other human faculties like sight, hearing, memory, the capacity to think and to feel." (ABREU, 2010, p.9-10). Language is, before that, an integrated and complex system.

By substituting the non-modular perspective to the integrative perspective, cognition becomes rooted in sensorimotor and bodily experiences. Hence the importance of the body, an instance with which sensible semiotics is concerned. As a result of this empiricist and bodily anchorage, CL is directly linked to the study of perception, "the most anthological and also the most psychological side of semiotics" (SANTAELLA, 1993, p. 16), through the bridge that it establishes between language, brain and the natural world.

Roughly speaking, CL starts from the general hypothesis that language constitutes itself from the cognitive capacity of the human being. With such a proposal, CL works, generally, with the following themes: categorization, prototypical theory, embodied language, imagistic schemas, metaphor, metonym, iconicity, frames, scripts, blending, integration network, mental space theory, and so forth. Hereafter, we will underline only one of these schemas: categorization.

Categorization is one of the most important topics in CL. To Guignard (2012), the phenomena of categorization occupies the role of interface between language and cognition. Categorizing is the process by which we gather entities (in the broad sense of the word, including objects, animals, people, and so forth.) in given categories. By listening to a song, for example, we categorize it as rock, classical music, samba, and so forth. As observed by Klinkenberg (2000), categorization is a trait of scientific procedures, that distinguish, for instance, living and non-living things; in the living, distinguishes, animals and vegetables, and so forth.

The categories can be divided in two groups: conceptual categories and linguistic categories (DELBECQUE, 2008). The conceptual categories stem from the idea of "concept", a kind of notion that we extract from fictional or actual reality. Each individual and culture will perceive this reality in a unique way. Based on sensible experience, each individual forms concepts and names, because "[...] a same reality can have many different names, according to the point of view prioritized in the representation." (BORBA, 2006, p.83).

An example of denomination: the concept of "horseshoe" in different languages (DELBECQUE, 2008, p.33): "fer a cheval" (French): "horse's iron"; "hufeisen" (German): "hoof iron". In French and English it is as if the protection instrument is connected to the whole horse; in German, it is connected to the body part. French and German highlight the substance that is used to make the instrument; English, the protective function.

With these examples, we deduced that the categorization is linked to the culture, for each community presents different categorizations, each culture has its own particular way of representing or interpreting the extralinguistic reality. "It seems substantially proved the thesis that the visualization of reality takes place, mostly, through a perspective provided to us by the social group in which we are inserted." (PENNA, 1982, p.169). Thus, "all of the receptive act is a social entrepreneurship" (PENNA, 1982, p.39), once that it happens according to the culturally constructed models.

Levi-Strauss (1997), in "La Pensee Sauvage", when mentioning the highly advanced indigenous taxonomy, demonstrates how hard it is to address categorization: "The truth of the matter is that the principle underlying a classification can never be postulated in advance. It can only be discovered a posteriority ethnographic investigation, that is, by experience." (LEVI-STRAUSS, p.58, italics added) (8). Categorization, like conceptual systems that constitute ways of thinking, involves two types of difficulties: (I) extrinsic: lack of knowledge of the observations--real or imaginary--of the facts and principles in which classifications are inspired; (II) intrinsic: the polyvalent nature of logics which appeal simultaneously to several types of connection. The name of a plant, for example, could be originated from the shape of the leaves, from the color, from the habitat, from the size, from the dimension, from the flavor, from the smell, and so forth. In other words, logics work simultaneously.

When conceptual categories are inscribed in the language, they become "linguistic categories". Linguistic categories could be exemplified by grammatical categories: number, genre, grade, time, etc. Words classes (adjective, substantive, verb, and so forth) would also be another example.

Klinkenberg (2010) considers categorization a key-concept in cognitive semiotics, by deeming it as a synonym of signification (articulate sense). To categorize would be a way of turn the discontinuous into continuous. "Our finitude, facing an infinite world, obligates us to take this finite world, under the intention of manipulating it. And this simplification is categorization [...], as simplification allowing manipulation [...]" (KLINKENBERG, 2010, p. 198).

Although categorization can be helpful in the mechanics of cognitive activity, it is necessary to be cautious not to think of them as rigid concept of truth. We have already seen the insufficiency of the discontinuous (or of the discreet) in the reformulation of semiotic picture. Tensile semiotics, continuing the discussions raised by the studies of the passions, represented an opening to the questions regarding the part of the continuous elements in the construction of meaning, incorporating gradations.

In the semiotic square, there is a semantic, firstly, binary formed in the relations of contrariety, contradiction and implication. But in the discursive level, however, there is a complex semantics, with many values. While comparing these two levels, it is easy to understand why a text brings so many gradual semantic possibilities. While the intensive approach brings the contrast "hot vs cold" (extreme opposite terms), the extensive model brings gradual terms: hot/ warm/ fresh/ cold/ glacial. That is, many intermediary positions. Maybe this passage from discontinuous to continuous might help us in future approaches.

Cognitive Semiotics

The expression "cognitive semiotics" leads us into thinking in the concept of "cognition". At this point, we face an issue, because everything is a matter of perception.

As previously mentioned, "cognition" (from the Latin expression cognoscere, to know) concerns knowledge. Despite the simple nature of its definition, the word "cognition" is quite complex. It involves schools and points of view. In certain circumstances, it is difficult to differentiate cognition, consciousness and perception.

In the pedagogical context, for instance, "cognitive" is an equivalent to "intellectual", in opposition to affective. The same definition follows semiotics. Greimas (2002, p.70) considers "cognitive" as an opposite to affective. Beividas (2000) relates them as the similar pairs sensible versus intelligible, affectivity versus cognition, to feel versus to comprehend. Petitot (1997) refers to cognitive signification as intelligible signification. Greimas (2000, p.374), as a matter of fact, would already address this dichotomy in "L'actualite du saussurisme" (GREIMAS, 1956) as "thought order" (intelligible) and "lived order" (sensible).

In the case of cognitive semiotics, these oppositions do not sustain. Firstly, because in our brain there are only two entrances (VINCENT, 2010): nervous and humoral. Nervous concerning to the stimuli detected by the receptive organs; humoral concerning the mood ("thymia", or "to feel", psychiatric jargon adopted by semiotics) that regulates our emotions.

Both of them, nervous and humoral, regulate our way of being, our "central fluent state" (VINCENT, 2010, p.39-40), characterized by three dimensions: bodily (flesh); extra bodily (the individual's own world) and temporal (traits accumulated throughout the individual's development, from birth to death). Secondly, in the complex psychophysical of perception (nervous stimuli, memory, emotion, and so forth) reason and affection, sensible and intelligible are involved. Thus, it would be more coherent to consider "cognition" not as an oppositive, but an encompassing expression. As stated by Abreu (2010, p.9), "[...] human cognition encompasses language, memory, logical reasoning, emotions and motivation." Thus, cognition would be a synonym to perception. Hence the reason why "cognitive semiotics" could also be called "perceptive semiotics", as Jimenez (2002, p. 128) claims: the equality of the two adjectives, by refering to the representation as a result of a "cognitive or perceptive process".

But the great mystery that provokes cognitive semiotics is the issue pointed out by Gibson (1950) as the fundamental problem with perception: how does the synthesis of perceptions occurs, or in semiotic terms, how is meaning constructed? Klinkenberg (2010, p. 189) makes this same question: "What is the mysterious bond established between a meaning that seems to have no physical bases and the physical stimuli stemming from the outside world, stimuli that, as such, seem to be deprived of meaning?"

To answer these questions, we must start from the assumption that perception is a complex of physical or anatomical, physiological, psychological, social and cultural origins. Upon this complexity, the solution to find answers is to meddle in interdisciplinarity.

The cognitive semiotics proposal is not to surrender itself to the allure of natural disciplines, that seem to be close to explaining the phenomena of the sense through synaptic modifications, as Beividas criticizes (1996). To comply with neuroscience's hypothesis that states that matter exerts great influence on the spirit is not the same as stating that it takes two neurons and a synapse to form a spirit. Cognitive sciences are aware that it is not so simple to turn the dull black box of cognition into a glass box in which you can clearly see the turn of the gears, to borrow Ganascia's (1999) metaphor. Neuroscientists do not know exactly how many levels are involved in the mental processes, maybe the "[...] molecular levels, cellular levels, organic levels (the being as a whole) and transorganic levels (that is, communication can be of many kinds).", as suggested by Edelman (1995, p.22). Clearly observed in this passage, neuroscience does not deny the importance of the environment in the formation of our consciousness, a social consciousness. The importance of the social environment is what Gazzaniga (1995, p.10) tries to demonstrate in his work O cerebro social'. "Metaphorically speaking, we, human beings, are more of a sociological entity than a single unified psychological entity. We possess a social brain." The notion that the mind is a social construction stands correct "[...] because our concepts arise from our discourse and shape the way we think." (HARRE; GILLETT, 1999, p.26).

The access key to the phenomena of the mind is still a challenge. As emphasized by Edelman (1995), due to the complexities that involve the human being (mental, historical, social and so forth.), human knowledge cannot be completely reducible to any description. Only hypothesis are possible for this description.

The first step has been given by sensible semiotics by attributing to the body fundamental importance in the description of meaning. With this acknowledgement, semiotics studies naturally "invite" the neurophysiological explanation of the monistic agreement, vetorizing from body to mind or the "bottom-up processes to the top-down processes" (SCHIFFMAN, 2005, p. 114-115).

It is not about going from a "logic of meaning" to a "biology of meaning", but about trying to reconcile the two approaches, pretty much the same as cognitive sciences do (linguistics, sociology, psychology, neurobiology, ultimately, human and natural sciences), in order to semiotize perception. We cannot repeat the extremism that characterized the dichotomies "mind-brain" and "innate-acquired". What we must do, following the principles of diplomacy (HAAG, 2012), is to turn our frontiers from the classic separation-frontiers into the modern cooperation-frontiers.

Interdisciplinarity is a trait of semiotics. Of course its origins are marked by its entrenchment in linguistics: Saussure,Brondal,Terniere, Trubetzkoy, Jakobson, Martinet, Benveniste and, especially, Hjelmslev. As stated by Zilberberg (2011, p.95), "[...] as broad as the inflections may be, the gremasian semiotics' epistemology owes greatly to Hjelmslev's teachings." Semiotics relies on "Saussure's founding insight and Hjelmslev's organizing insight." (ZILBERBERG, 2006, p. 19, emphasis added). But in its route, the extensive genealogy, receiving contributions from anthropology (Levi-Strauss, Propp, Dumezil), philosophy (Husserl, Merleau-Ponty) and from artistic and literary pieces as well Tatit (2010), while referring to the relations between Jacques Fontanille and Marcel Proust, between Zilberberg and the artistic reflections of Paul Valery and between Ignacio Assis Silva and Pablo Picasso and Rene Magritte to study the metamorphosis predicted in the figures.

Why does semiotics rely so much on interdisciplinarity? Because it is the "new academic culture delicacy", as stated by Barthes (1984, p.131)? Maybe it is because semiotics doesn't have its own object, investigating, instead, areas of knowledge in search of clarity and consistency. In this search of that which is challenging, the meaning, once again semiotics is inspired by Saussure, that inaugurates a contemporary linguistics no longer centered in the object, but in a perspective on it.

Of course our intention in this paper, by defending interdisciplinarity, is not to turn semiotics into a "jack of all trades" of science, but to search disciplines "that allow to fill the bothersome gaps and advance towards discovery" (PAIS, 1976, p.VII-VIII), after all, "[...] the interdisciplinary coexistence is not a good neighborly charm, but the requirement for the theories survival." (BEIVIDAS, 2002, p. 16). It is not about losing the leash, it doesn't mean that we will turn human sciences into a biological science. The proposed path is not the introduction the psychophysical complex of cognitive sciences into semiotics, but on the contrary, semiotics into the natural sciences to provide a specifically linguistic contribution to a domain that is not ours. As suggested by Greimas (1995, p. 123) himself, it would be beneficial the "methodological injection" from the language sciences "[...] in domains where its role stands inexistent, unknown or underrated." He even cites, as an example, the contribution that semiotics could provide to the researches on artificial intelligence.

Thus, instead of a random interdisciplinarity, the goal is to approach common issues through a coordinating methodological instrument: semiotics, after all, perception is not just an issue in neuroscience, but also in semiotics to the extent that it interferes in the construction of meaning. Therefore, to see with other lenses the "regional ontologies" (BEIVIDAS, 2000, p.35) cut by the disciplines does not mean that the linguistic origin will be abandoned. To avoid the risk of amateurism, the solution is to consider semiotics as a coordinating methodological instrument, as suggested by Greimas (1995), and to stand strictly in the role of "scrutator of language" (LAPAIRE, 2008, p.10). As stated by Pais (2000), all research inter or multidisciplinary comprises one or two dominating disciplines that define the source perspective. In the case of cognitive semiotics, involved with the complexity of perception, the dominant subject will be the studies of linguistics. Therefore, it is necessary to preserve the semiotic concepts and methods and take the structure of the language as the starting point of the reasoning of other domains. That is what we will seek to adopt by proposing a semiosis of perception, as we will see further on.

Semiotizing perception

To apply the principles of semiotics to the study of perception, we propose as the guiding method the scheme of semiosis of perception.

Such scheme is based on the Hjelmslev (1975, p. 121) concept of "connotative semiotics", a complex sign that stems from a denotative semiotics (junction of expression and content) that becomes in its entirety the EP of a new semiotic, with a new CP. "A new connoted system is a system whose expression plane is, itself, constituted by a system of signification." (BARTHES, 1975, p.95).

Even though the study of perception involves the language facts (relation between language, subject, society, culture and history), we start from a semiotic scheme to address transcendence through immanence: "[...] the linguistic theory must recognize not only the linguistic system in its scheme and its usage [...], but also man and human society present in language and, by it, to attain the acquirement of human knowledge in its entirety." (HJELMSLEV, 1975, p. 133).

The proposed scheme is also based in Pais' (2000, p.28) "Generative route of enunciation of coding and decoding", more specifically, in the enunciatee's route of interpretative doings:


We can simplify this route, by reformulating it in the following way:

(i) enunciator's route: episteme (set of perceptions), perception and text (semiosis);

(ii) enunciatee's route: text (semiosis), perception and episteme (set of perceptions)

Pais' model (2000) helps us to understand how language establishes itself in a cyclical functioning. The text forms perception, and perception, in turn, forms the text. As Gregolin (2001, p.65) puts it, "the author is always a reader that appropriates texts to compose a new text". This is why, in an enunciative approach, it is possible to construct both the images of the enunciator as that of the enunciatee of the text, once that, the text, possessing a significant and communicative character, "[...] you cannot mention signification if it is not the result of a dialogue", for the text "only acquires meaning insofar as it is directed toward another subject that, because it is the recipient of the message, it interferes in it." (CORTINA, 2006, p.27). As Bakhtin puts it (1992, p.113), "[...] every word possesses two faces. It is determined for both the fact that proceeds from someone, as by the fact that is directed at someone."

The scheme of semiosis of perception here proposed is an attempt of sketching a possible global architecture of cognition, describing perception as a syncretic content resulting of the exteroceptive, proprioceptive and interoceptive instances. All of these instances interrelate to form a perception. Thus, the meaning is the result of a perceptive syncretism: physical proprieties (sound, image, text, smell), memory and so forth.

Previously, we used the exteroceptive-proprioceptive-interoceptive triad to address the three semiotic macro-phases (or approaches). We rely, now, on the same triad not to employ it in the description of historical or methodological phases, but to include them as instances of the semiotization of the perceptive system.

Expression plane:

--Exteroceptive instance: text

--Proprioceptive instance: sensation

--Interoceptive instance: mental representation

Syncretic content plane:

--Synthesis (multimedia or syncretic) of perception

The first instance (exteroceptive), having the text as its starting point, would be the "provoker" or all cognitive activity. Reminding that to semiotics the text "[...] doesn't address only linguistic texts, as commonly believed, but to everything that is materialized in any sensitive order (visual, hearing, tactile [...])." (TATIT, 2011, p.132, emphasis added). The instance of sensation (proprioceptive), through the body, would be the responsible in promoting the connection between the exteroceptive and the interoceptive: the meaning proceeds of the meanings. There is nothing new about the fact that currently in semiotics the importance of the body in the apprehension of meaning, because since "The Semiotics of Passions" (released in 1991), the mediation of the body in the meaning is highlighted. It is the body that "[...] makes the sensible sensed, [...] that gives us immediate clarity of our existence in the world." (DORRA, 1997, p.187). But the issue is that such approach is still insufficient, after all, it approaches the sensible peripherally (strongly linked to the sensations), when in reality to fully comprehend the construction of this meaning we depend on the cognitive domain. Hence the need to advance towards the central system: the interoceptive instance. As Klinkenberg (2010, p. 189-190) puts it, "the cognitive semiotic thesis is that meaning and cognition are tightly connected." The perceptive thesis, directly linked to the categorization, is the discontinuous extracted from the continuous, is formed by the gathering of the instance's totality: (i) text (information derived from the peripheral receptors); (ii) sensation (apprehends the text and converts it into stimuli); (iii) mental representation (memory, experiences, emotion, reason).

The concept of "mental representation" serves to exclude any kind of hypothesis in which cognitive activity is the result of a mere decoding of physical stimuli, treating the mind in a statically, devoid of any historical link to its own past, patiently waiting for a new physical stimuli, derived from the outside world, to decode the information. On the contrary, cognition, even upon a primary sensorial stimuli, involves the combination of many factors (NICOLELIS, 2011), hence the reason why we characterize as synchetic:

(i) internal dynamic state of the brain in the moment of encounter with new stimuli;

(ii) evolutionary and perceptual history accumulated that summarizes the multiple previous encounters of the nervous system with similar and distinguished stimuli;

(iii) adaptive ability of the brain, that allows it to modify its internal expectations from the encounter with a new perceptual experience;

(iv) emotional value associated with stimuli.

That is the reason why, based on the three instances, we can say that the meaning (perception or categorization) of a text is ruled and influenced by three factors:

(i) sensation: perception varies according to the sensory systems;

(ii) mental representation: here we would be close to that which Klinkenberg (2010, p.200) calls ideology, "[...] an useful categorization to a certain social group, and that this group tries to impose to every semiotic community according to its own interests.";

(iii) attention or interest: acting as a central manager, attention promotes a selection of that which our senses receive. "The attention span allows the human being to keep the objective, the necessary data and the strategies of processing to reach the final goal present (in his mind)." (JOU, 2001, p.22). Attention would be a cognitive mechanism that controls other mechanisms. During our state of consciousness, something dominates: it is our "focal consciousness" (FIUZA, 2011, p. 142), coordinated by attention. There are two types of attention (FIUZA, 2011): (i) automatic attention: that which stands out, something new that arises (for example, an animal running in the street, the fire department siren); (ii) voluntary attention: when we seek, for example, an object among many others, a search mechanism and so forth.

These factors that influence perception help us to understand the cycle of perception, following the example to what Pais's (2000, p.28) "Generative process of enunciation of codification and decoding." relative to the cyclical functioning of language. Perception is an update of meaning, is a reconstruction of meaning. If perception is perception of perception, it is our sensorial experiences that feed and modify (update) our mental representations. Thus, perception is the passage of a state of virtualization (mental representation), passing through the update (sensation), until it reaches realization (perception).

What the perception studies try to demonstrate is that meaning is not only constituted from the transmission of nervous impulses by the sensory system to specific regions of the brain. There is a lot to be discovered! The study of perception seems to leave us empty-handed, as if everything we try to reach out for slipped through our fingers, leaving us under the impression that there is nothing to reach out for. Then, a question rises again: how to study perception?

The issue with this "spectrum" is comparable with enunciation. Enunciation, a psychological-social-historical-linguistic complex, a presupposed reality that can only be accessed through the enunciate. Likewise, the complex of perception can only be accessed by the text ("board" in which our experiences are recorded) and by the sensations that apprehend it.

The semiotics stood for a long time in the "primary significance" (textual meaning), a description of universal nature and formulated in algorithmic patterns. Until the intertextual level, it can offer effective instruments Generative Process for the textual level; levels of pertinence of Fontanille's EP (2011) and Edward Lopes' theory of interpretants). But, if even in the intertextual level it was able to "calculate", the great issue is the perceptive sense, the "secondary significations" referred by Courtes (1995, p.144), already pointed out by Gibson (1950) on the synthesis of perception. There are procedures and schemes, but all of that in a quite disperse manner. Maybe this is the great challenge of semiotics today.

In this ascending scale of freedom, in the words of Jakobson (1973), from the lexical to the perceptive sense, there is a decrease in the possibilities of formalization of meaning. In every level they are present in the dimensions of the system, of the subject and of the history, the three places of meaning referred by Mari (2008), but in more elevated levels the incidence of these dimensions is more direct, hence the difficulty in systematization.

Thus, in the perceptive level, all of the other levels are presupposed, after all, cognition presupposes a speaking, social, cultural, historic being. In the same way that a gymnast unites many skills (strength, flexibility, motor coordination, mental state, and so forth), a text is composed of many elements: system, subject, history, culture, after all, "the material of a work is not the work" (FLOCH, 2004, p.154), but all of its complexity involved.

Finding a formula to systematize the perceptive level is the same as finding a formula to end with the global crisis. This is not our proposal. We are aware of our limitations.

Final remarks

We believe that, in the sensible semiotics, the issue of perception, referred by Gibson (9), constitutes a great issue to be resolved by semiotics.

The scientist is then leaded, naturally, into dedicating himself to the interdisciplinary projects, ground to a fertile and slippery time, in which the frontiers are barely delineated--if they really exist -, seeking in the related disciplines the epistemological grounding, the methodological instrumentation and the complementation of the models, that allow to fill the bothersome gaps and advance toward discovery. (PAIS, 1976, p.VII-VIII).

Considering the theoretical path of semiotics, interspersed with interdisciplinarity, the aforementioned excerpt points a path to the resolution of this deadlock. This path could be in the relation of semiotic with cognitive studies. With the semiotics being the "lighthouse of sciences", paraphrasing Bouquet (2009), it must take charge of everything it touches to the construction of meaning, intimately connected to perception.

Therefore, in our research, instead of restricting ourselves to report just about the developments of what has been called "Cognitive Semiotics" (that follows the tendency of great growth due to the influences of cognitive sciences, a current concern), we sketch a preliminary way of understanding the issue with perception suggesting the "scheme of semiosis of perception".

Inspired in Greimas' suggestion--of introducing semiotics in other domains--and based in some specifically semiotic propositions that study perception (PAIS, 2000; KLINKENBERG, 2000,2010; OUELLET, 1997,1994; PETITOT, 1997), cognitive semiotics emerges, to prophetically take the last words that Greimas employed in his doctorate thesis in 1948, like "a stone to the gigantic work that awaits the future researchers" (GREIMAS, 2000, p.8).


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Recebido em novembro de 2013.

Aprovado em fevereiro de 2014.

Fernando Moreno da SILVA, UENP--Universidade Estadual do Norte do Parana. Centro de Letras, Comunicacao e Artes. Jacarezinho--PR--Brasil. 86400/

(1) In a less formal way, we could organize, chronologically and following a family structure, the following patriarchs of the French semiotics: the "great-grandfather" Saussure, the "grandfather" Hjelmslev and "father" Greimas.

(2) "That which, I believe, produces in me the deep feeling, In which I live, of Incongruity with others, Is that most think with sensibility, and I feel with thought." (PESSOA, 1999, p.85).

(3) In this text, we approach cognitive semiotics in the light of French semiotics. But there Is also a greater exploration of cognition In the peircean semiotics. For more details on this approach, see: Santaella (1993,2012), Perception laboratory ( and the Cognitive semiotics and arts philosophy study group, linked to CIEP--Centro Internacional de Estudos Peirceanos (International Center of Peircean Studies)--PUC-SP (

(4) Definition of mind, according to Edelman (2005, p.159): "The totality of the conscious and unconscious processes stemming from the encephalon and giving direction to all behavior."

(5) "Discipline" as in a branch of knowledge.

(6) Same as footnote 5.

(7) Same as footnote 5 and 6.

(8) Translator's note: English version found In LEVI-STRAUSS, C., The Savage Mind, trans. George Weidenfeld and Nicholson Ltd. Letch worth, Hetfordshire, The Garden City Press Limited.

(9) "If all of which we perceive comes to us upon the stimulation of our sensory organs, and If, despite that, certain things do not have counterparty In the stimulation, It Is necessary to assume that these latter are, somehow, synthesized. How this synthesis happens, Is the Issue with perception." (GIBSON, 1950, p.24).
Table 1--Semiosis of perception scheme

                        EP                             CP =
     Text            Sensation        representaton
(exteroceptive)   (proprioceptive)   (interoceptive)

  EP      CP        EP       CP        EP      CP

Source: Made by the author.

Table 2--Connotation scheme

        Signifier         Signified

Signifier    Signified

Source: Made by the author.

Figure 2--Ways of existence

Status of the latent content      Potentiated    Virtualized

Status of the manifest content      Updated        Realized

Source: Made by the author.
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Title Annotation:texto en ingles
Author:da Silva, Fernando Moreno
Publication:Alfa: Revista de Linguistica
Article Type:Ensayo critico
Date:Nov 1, 2015
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