Phonology, Diacrisis, and Abstraction

  • Robert E. Innis


Bühler was one of the first to understand the immense theoretical importance of phonology and of the abstractive procedures underlying the grasp of phonemes not just for language theory but also for the theory of knowledge as a whole. In Sprachtheorie Bühler wrote, “The phenomenon of abstraction holds a key position in sematology [Bühler’s term for semiotics] , to which we will have to return time and again” (ST 45). Indeed, “it is a general sematological principle that all things or events in the world which we use as signs are used according to the principle of abstractive relevance” (ST 224) . The key axiom of the sign character of language, based on this principle, not only pointed, as Karl Popper (1963: 293 ff) saw quite clearly, to the impossibility of a purely physical approach to the phenomena of signs and meanings, but also, by extension, furnished a paradigm for constructing a model of human cognitional process, involving the primacy of an intentional set’ in semiosis. In his earliest book-length semiotically oriented work, Die Krise der Psychologie, Bühler insisted on the central idea of “the clearly recognizable and never mistaken duality of phonic image and g word meaning . . . ; this analogy and the complex relation between sign and meaning which is derived from it is ever to be found in the most complex variations in all sense-filled experiences” (KP 14) .


Language Theory Word Image Marked Oscillation Sound Structure Abstractive Procedure 
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  1. 2.
    Bühler’s discussion of the issues of physiognomic and pathognomic valences was his way of handling the notion of suprasegmental phonemes. The general sense of the two categories is explored in great detail in Ausdruckstheorie, where their pertinence to the expressive dimension is primarily focused on. Still, it is clear from the discussions in Sprachtheorie that what we now call suprasegmental features also have a representational valence. In Ausdruckstheorie, moreover, Bühler also showed himself to be well aware of the delicacy of hermeneutical procedures in the matter of mime and pantomime.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Bernard Lonergan has given a paradigmatic and quasi-definitive account of the medieval problematic in Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas(1967). He has attempted a modern reconstitution in Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (1957). Lonergan has been especially concerned about fusing the insights of Aquinas’s epistemology with the results of a sophisticated reflection on contemporary scientific methods.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    English-language readers can find interesting and authoritative discussions of Husserl’s positions on abstraction in the two books of Robert Sokolowski, The Formation of Husserl’s Concept of Constitution (1970) and Husserlian Meditations: How Words Present Things (1974).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert E. Innis
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LowellLowellUSA

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