Re: Social Constructionism

Esteban Laso (
Thu, 4 Jun 1998 12:17:56 -0500

Devi wrote:

>I get tangled up
>between signifiers as internal held, publicly available representations;
>the meanings they stand for; and the external signifieds to which both
>refer. So, for example, I can't make up my mind if Saussure, who asserts
>the arbitrariness of the signifier-signified relationship but draws
>attention to the importance of contrast between different signifiers in
>understanding meaning, has or hasn't anything to offer Kellian
>constructivists- who make inferences about meanings by looking at the
>relationship between constructs. When a construct is expressed, as in a
>rep grid- not the same thing as the internal construing which it
>represents, remember!- is it in fact a signifier in Saussure's sense?

I would say "yes, it is, but not precisely". A language, to Saussure, is a
system composed of simbols which are meaningful only because a given group
has chosen to use them; there is no connection between the simbols and the
objects they stand for. But the spoken language, or parole, can be used to
communicate because of the system itself, the langue, which is in turn a
system of differences. No sign has a positive meaning; they mean because
each one is different from the others. This is somewhat parallel to Kelly's
notion of a system of dichotomic constructs where the meaning of any given
pole is defined by his opposite.
So anything that can be a difference is a sign, but only by being part of a
system of differences. Since the words used by your subject in expressing a
construct are the material form of his concepts, they are signifiers -not
necessarily signs. But signifiers, for Saussure, were the mental acoustic
images of words, not words themselves; so it's a signifier, but not

Esteban Laso