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The dialectics of indexical semiosis: scaling up and out from the “actual” to the “virtual”

Authors
  • Silverstein, Michael1
  • 1 University of Chicago, USA , (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
International Journal of the Sociology of Language
Publisher
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Nov 13, 2021
Volume
2021
Issue
272
Pages
13–45
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/ijsl-2021-2124
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

Conventional indexicality is semiotically effective when regimented by its meta-indexical (or “metapragmatic”) interpretant, a conceptual scheme presumed upon by participants in communication that determines the categories of possibility for a relevant “here-and-now” of indexically signaled co-presence, just as, conversely, such an interpretant is an emergent consequence of the sign’s pointing to its object. In the more general case of non-denotational indexicality – forms indicating everything from perduring demographic characteristics of participants in interaction to their role incumbencies, voicings of identity, and momentary relational attitudes and affects (loosely termed “stances”) – the culture – and thus group-specific metapragmatics (or “ethno-metapragmatics”) is central to how indexicals entail the mutual (il)legibility of interlocutors and the (in)coherence of interactional projects in which they are engaged, the “interactional text” of what is happening. This inherent metapragmatic functionality of models of indexical signs and their contexts is, in general, itself influenced by genres of metapragmatic discourse about social life that “circulate” among networks of people who participate in certain sites of sociality. Such “circulation” is a virtual reality that comes into being via chains of interdiscursivity, allowing us to imagine an “ideological” plane with its own order of virtual semiotic dialectic that, notwithstanding, we experience in actual interactional context by its effects on the ever-changing what and how of indexicality.

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