11 May 2013

Mimologiques - II

Outline of Gérard Genette's Mimologics. This is part II in a series; see part I, part III or part IV.

Chapter 5 – Mimographisms
  •  Besides vocal mimesis (adequacy of sound to object), one can also consider mimography: the symbolism of the shape of the written word, which can correspond to either:
    • directly the represented object (hieroglyph) — ideomimography
    • or to the pronounced sound, for phonetic alphabets (e.g. the letter "o" suggests the shape of the mouth when pronouncing the corresponding sound) — phonomimography. In a second step, the sound itself can of course achieve vocal mimesis.
  •  Phonomimography can concern either the resulting sound or the phonation process that engenders it (the position of the organs of speech).
  •  For Rowland Jones, English was an example of ideomimeography, based on a symbolic interpretation of the alphabet. His project is significant for (in Genette's terms): "joining, via graphism, the Cratylian dream of a mimetic intepretation of actual language and the more modern project of a 'philosophical' artificial language". Words are self-contained and transparent, showing their meaning by direct analysis, without recourse to etymology.
      Chapter 6 – Painting and Derivation
      • In his Treatise on the mechanical formation of languages and on the ohysical principles of etymology (1765), Charles de Brosses developed a vocal mimesis analysis applied to a putative primitive and universal language, "organic, physical and necessary" deduced by a comparison of "all known languages".
      • de Brosses proposes a phonomimographic alphabet, "organic and universal", representing the position of the speech organs during articulation. This is an example of secondary mimologism (as for Socrates) but an active one, insofar it attempts to correct the imperfect actual language.
      Chapter 7 – Generalized Hieroglyphics
      • Unlike de Brosses, Antoine Court de Gébelin is a contented Cratylist: names are necessarily analogous to the objects. The diversity of languages is due to their emphasizing one aspect or the other of the object to be named. Names are exclusively nouns; verbs are derivative and unworthy of attention.
      • The voice is a musical instrument (similar to the organ). There are seven vowels, as many as the musical notes, and fourteen consonants (seven strong and seven weak).
      • The alphabet he proposes is hieroglyphic, rather than phonetic.
      Chapter 8 – Onomatopoetics
      • With Charles Nodier, Genette starts discussing the relation between mimesis and poetry, as suggested by the chapter title (which alludes to Nodier's Explanatory dictionary of French onomatopoeia, published in 1808). This connection is (at least) twofold:
        • The resemblance obviously confers suggestive power to the words.
        • More subtly, it provides grounding for the metaphor as "analogy by transposition" (in Genette's terms). For instance, the couples piercing/sound and red/color share the attribute of intensity. The permutation: piercing/colour and red/sound yield metaphors (e.g. "the red sound of the trumpet".)

      Chapter 9 – White Bonnet/Bonnet White [as translated by T. E. Morgan; the French title "Blanc bonnet versus bonnet blanc" is close to the expression "bonnet blanc et blanc bonnet", meaning roughly "Tweedledum and Tweedledee".]
      • So far, the discussion mainly occurred on the level of individual words. One can also consider the whole phrase and ask whether there is a natural word order in sentences. This order can have various justifications:
        • Logical precedence: the agent must appear before the action, the subject before the object etc.
        • Chronology or hierarchy: veni, vidi, vici; the president and the minister.
        • Adequacy to the thought order, either to reflect its production or to facilitate its reception.
      • This argument has a strategic importance in the debate concerning the advantages of modern languages over Latin (related to the quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns).
      •  For Frain de Tremblay, a conventional language can only by of divine origin: men could not define it without the use of a natural (spontaneous) language. Frain adopts both conventionalism (at the level of the names) and mimetism (for the phrase structure). The latter point requires minimizing the difference between languages, in contrast with the distinctive "spirit of the language" position of Gabriel Girard (and later the Romantics). Girard takes this distinction as far as denying the filiation between Latin and Romance languages, based on the syntax differences (considering the common vocabulary irrelevant).

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