Iconicité et diagrammatization
selon Peirce et Jakobson

Mis à jour le 22 avril 2012

Michael Shapiro, [Compte rendu de Raffaelle Simone,] Iconicity in language [1995], Language, Vol. 71, No. 4 (December 1995), pp. 815-820 (shapiro_on_ simone_ iconicity.pdf) définit très clairement la problématique de l'iconicité dans le langage:

(p. 815) How is it that, by their perceptual dimensions, the phonological oppositions of language are associated with and mirror other perceptual dimensions, a process known as synaesthesia? What sorts of relations between form and content lie behind the familiar phenomena of onomatopoeia, and ideophones, or of word affinities?

Shapiro attribue la paternité du concept d'iconicité à Roman Jakobson:

(p. 816) The concept, if not necessarily the term, was introduced into linguistics by Roman Jakobson, whose 1965 Diogenes article, with its Peircean characterization of language structure as essentially a '"system of diagrammatization, patent and compulsory in the entire syntactic and morphological pattern of language" (Jakobson 1971: 357) came to serve as a point of departure for most subsequent writers on the subject.

En français à cause de Baudelaire, on peut dire que l'iconicité est un «système de correspondances». En anglais à cause de Peirce, on dira que c'est un «système de diagrammatisation».

Le texte inaugural de Jakobson


Roman Jakobson, "Quest for the essence of language," Diogenes, 51 (1965); Selected Writings, II: Word and Language, The Hague, Mouton, 1971, pp. 345-359.

Texte de grande importance historique.

(p. 352) Not only the combination of words into syntactic groups but also the combination of morphemes into words exhibits a clear-cut diagrammatic character. Both in syntax and in morphology any relation of parts and wholes agrees with Peirce's definition of diagrams and their iconic nature.

(p. 357) […] Pope's claim: "The sound must be an echo to the sense.

When postulating two primordial linguistic characters — the arbitrariness of the sign and the linearity of the signans — Saussure attributed to both of them an equally fundamental importance. He was aware that if they are true, these laws would have "incalculable consequences" and determine "the whole mechanism of language". However, the "system of diagrammatization" [Peirce], patent and compulsory in the entire syntactic and morphological pattern of language, yet latent and virtual in its lexical aspect, invalidates Saussure's dogma of arbitrariness, while the other of his two "general principles" — the linearity of the signans — has been shaken by the dissociation of phonemes into distinctive features. With the removal of these fundamentals their corollaries in turn demand revision.

Thus Peirce's graphic and palpable idea that "a symbol may have an icon or [let us rewrite this conjunction in an up-to-date style: and/or] an index incorporated into it" opens new, urgent tasks and far-reaching vistas to the science of language. The precepts of this "backwoodsman in semiotic" [éclaireur en sémiotique] are fraught with vital consequences for linguistic theory and praxis. The iconic and indexical constituents of verbal symbols have too often remained underestimated or even disregarded; on the other hand, the predominantly symbolic character of language and its /358/ consequent cardinal difference from the other, chiefly indexical or iconic, sets of signs likewise await due consideration in modern linguistic methodology.

Diagramme et diagrammatization

Le diagramme est la chair vivante d'un concept, a concept is the living influence on us of a diagram, or icon, disait Peirce cité par Michael Shapiro, The Sense of Change. Language as History, Bloomington, Indiana UP, 1991, p. 60:

The idea, finally, that graphic signs, marks, and diacritics tend toward a "rationalized variety" (6.101) is supported by Peirce's comments about the foundational role of diagrams: "A concept is the living influence upon us of a diagram, or icon, with whose several parts are connected in thought and ideas. The law of mind is that feelings and ideas attach themselves in thought so as to form systems" (7.467). Given enough time to work itself out, even an apparently arbitrary system such as an orthography will tend toward diagrammatization. Its drift is, in other words, determined by a movement with an explicit telos.

L'une des définitions de Diagramme chez Peirce:

A Diagram is an Icon of a set of rationally related objects. By rationally related, I mean that there is between them, not merely one of those relations which we know by experience but know not how to comprehend, but one of those relations which anybody who reasons at all must have an inward acquintance with. This is not a sufficient definition, but just now I will go no further, except that I will say that the Diagram not only represents the related correlates, but also, and much more definitely represents the relations between them, as so many objects of the Icon (Prolegomena for an Apology to Pragmatism, NEM 4:316, c. 1906).

Autres définitions dans Commens, Digital Companion to C. S. Peirce:

Commentaire de Michael Shapiro, The Sense of Grammar. Language as Semiotic,
Bloomington, Indiana UP, 1983, p. 4:

Jakobson's discussion of such correspondences in Quest for the Essence of Language represents a major achievement in the search for principles of organization in the structure of language. His recognition that a system of sound units may diagram relations in the corresponding system of meaning units establishes in a most concrete way that the content system of language is indeed a structure, not just a purely additive code like an alphabet or Morse code. The use of the word 'diagram' here is not fortuitous, for one of the important methodological advances Jakobson made in this programmatic essay was to couch his strictly linguistic analysis in terms of the semeiotic, or theory of signs, of the American philosopher-scientist Charles Sanders Peirce, who gives 'diagram' a precise definition: a species of sign in which the relations of the parts of a sign are represented by analogous relations in parts of the sign itself. The main aspect of this definition of diagrams is the representation of relations by relations. For linguistics, this means the reflection of the relations at the content level (the level of meaning) in relations at the expression level (the level of sounds).

Le système des sons reflète le système des sens (Cratylisme).