Clarifying Language by Contrast

  • Robert E. Innis


There are two principal places in Sprachtheorie where Bühler undertook a comparison arison between language and other representational sign systems. The first is in §12, “Symbol Fields in Nonlinguistic Representational Instruments,” and the second in §26, “Anaphora.” Bühler’s goal was not a systematic phenomenology of sign artifacts and their comparative grammar but a clarification of the specificity of language. The various nonlinguistic representational systems are used as analyzers (Analysatoren) of language, are confronted with language with the intent of primarily clarifying language, even if the true analogies between language uage and the other systems are plain as pikestaff (ST 180). In spite of the very real analogies, however, Baler thought that there was something sui generis about language that would be revealed by such a comparative undertaking, whose primary goal was the construction of a model of language.


Language Theory Index Sign Note Paper Semiotic Theory Silent Film 
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  1. 17.
    Galvano della Volpe’s Critique of Taste (1978) is one of the most consistent, and contentious, modern attempts to carry on Lessing’s comparative undertaking by means of an application of modern linguistic and semiotic theory, principally derived from de Saussure and Hjelmslev.Google Scholar
  2. 18.
    Baler devoted two early chapters of his Ausdruckstheorie to reconstituting the work of Engel and Piderit on pantomime and mime. There he was able to show that there exist a true lexicon and grammar of pantomimic and mimical gestures and movements, and that the actors and the spectators are both engaged in either producing or discriminating true, fruitful gestural moments, which have an expressive coherence and inner logic. Thus Bühler could recount the famous line of Garrick, when he characterized an actor’s portrayal of Falstaff as perfect except that the ’left foot was too sober.Google Scholar
  3. 19.
    Here Bühler approached very closely the linguistic field theories discussed earlier. It is clear that Bühler had no truck with naive realism. Note that one of the chief differences between a linguistic and a material mediator is the particular fusion of the sorter with the sorted in the first case and the permanent radical distinction between the two in the second. See also Sapir ( 1921) and (1970).Google Scholar
  4. 20.
    Later theoreticians of the film will no doubt demur here. To argue the issues would take us too far afiield. Jurij Lotman in his Semiotics of the Cinema (1976) gave, however, a modest and restrained exploration of the relevance of the semiotic model to understanding the film as a sign artifact. It seems to me quite acceptable to seek out the semiotic meaning of such categories as shots, cinematic phrases, sentences, and so forth, looking for an analogical relationship rather than a strict isomorphism. See also Metz, Film Language (1974).Google Scholar
  5. 21.
    I found it a rewarding enterprise to read Balázs’s The Theory of Film (1970) after studying this section of Sprachtheorie. There are many semiotically oriented comments, as well as fruitful intersections between his analysis of the film and Bühler’s, and it becomes clear how Bühler appropriated Balázs’s work and integrated it into his own project.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

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

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