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Richard L. W.

Clarke LITS3304 Notes 02B

ROMAN JAKOBSON, SHIFTERS AND VERBAL CATEGORIES (1957) Jakobson, Roman. "Shifters and Verbal Categories." On Language. Ed. Linda R. Waugh and Monique Monville-Burston. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1990. 386-392. Shifters and Other Duplex Structures Jakobson begins by pointing out that any message sent by its addresser must be adequately perceived by its receiver (386). The message is encoded by its sender (386) and decoded by its addressee (386). The more closely the addressee approximates the code used by the addresser, the higher is the amount of information obtained (386). The message (M) and the underlying code (C) are vehicles of linguistic communication (387) and are both utilised and referred to (= pointed at). The message may refer to the code or another message (387) while the general meaning of a code unit may imply a reference to the code or the message (387). This results in two kinds of CIRCULARITY message referring to message (M/M) and code referring to code (C/C) (387) and two kinds of OVERLAPPING message referring to code (M/C) and code referring to message (C/M) (387). M/M: Jakobson quotes Valentin Volosinovs view that reported speech is speech within a speech, a message within a message, and at the same time it is also speech about speech, a message about a message (qtd. in Jakobson, 387). What Leonard Bloomfield calls related or displaced speech may prevail in our discourse since we are far from confining our speech to events sensed in the present by the speaker himself (387). We quote others and our own former utterances, and we are even prone to present some of our current experiences in the form of self-quotation (387). There is a multiplex scale of linguistic processes for quoted and quasi-quoted speech: direct speech, indirect speech . . ., and various forms of represented discourse (387). C/C: Proper names take a particular place in our linguistic code: the general meaning of a proper name cannot be defined without reference to the code (387). For example, Jerry means a person named Jerry (387) but the circularity is obvious: the name means anyone to whom this name is assigned (387). To paraphrase Bertrand Russell, there are many dogs called Fido, but they do not share any property of Fidoness (387-388). M/C: Any message referring to the code is in logic terms an AUTONYMOUS [sic] mode of speech (388). Hence, the difference between a sentence like The pup is a winsome animal (388) and Pup is a noun which means a young dog (388). Any elucidating interpretation of words and sentences whether intralingual (circumlocutions, synonynms) or interlingual (translation) is a message referring to the code (388); it is closely related to quotation, the repetition of speech (Bloomfield, qtd. in Jakobson, 388), and plays a vital role in the acquisition and use of language (388). C/M: Any linguistic code contains a particular class of grammatical units which Otto Jespersen labelled SHIFTERS: the general meaning of a shifter cannot be defined without a reference to the message (388). Alluding to C. S. Peirces view that a symbol . . . is associated with the represented object by a conventional rule (388) and an index (such as the act of pointing) is in existential relation with the object it represents (388). Shifters combine both functions and belong therefore to the class of INDEXICAL SYMBOLS (388). The pronoun I, for example, means the person uttering I. Thus on one hand, the sign I cannot represent its object without being associated with the latter by a conventional rule, and in different codes the same meaning assigned to different sequences

Richard L. W. Clarke LITS3304 Notes 02B

such as I, ego, ich, and ja: consequently I is a symbol. On the other hand, the sign I cannot represent its object without being in existential relation with this object: the word I designating the utterer is existentially related to his utterance and hence functions as an index. (388) Edmund Husserl, among others, believed that the peculiarity of the personal pronoun and other shifters (388) consisted in the lack of a single, constant, general meaning (388), the I designating a different person each time it is used in an utterance. For this alleged multiplicity of contextual meanings, shifters in contradistinction to symbols were treated as mere indices (388). However, Jakobson argues, every shifter possesses its own general meaning (388) in that I means the addresser (and you, the addressee) of the message to which it belongs (388). Shifters, what Russell termed egocentric particulars (388), are distinguished from all other constituents of the linguistic code solely by their compulsory reference to the given message (389). Where Humboldt and his followers considered shifters as the most elementary and primitive stratum of language (389), Jakobson argues that they are a complex category where code and message overlap (389). This is why pronouns belong to the late acquisitions in child language and to the early losses in aphasia (389). In the case of the former, the child who has learned to identify himself with his proper name will not easily become accustomed to such alienable terms as the personal pronouns: he may be afraid of speaking of himself in the first person while being called you by his interlocutors (389). (389). This is why he sometimes tries to monopolise the first person pronoun (389), or use indiscriminately either I or you both for the addresser and the addressee (389), or while he readily names any person of his surroundings (389), he stubbornly refuses to utter his own name (389). This attitude may persevere as an infantile survival (389) (e.g. Guy de Maupassant who found his name sounded quite strange to him when pronounced by himself [389]). The sentence Jim told me flicks means movies (389), for example, includes reported speech (M/M), the autonymous form of speech (M/C), a proper name (C/C), and shifters (C/M), namely the first-person pronoun and the preterit, signalling an event prior to the delivery of the message (389). Jakobson argues that the classification of grammatical, and especially verbal, categories requires a consistent discrimination of shifters (389). Attempt to Classify Verbal Categories Jakobson contends that two basic distinctions (389) are necessary in order to classify verbal categories (389): 1) speech (s) itself and its topic, the narrated matter (n) (389) and 2) the event itself (E), and any of its participants (P), whether performer or undergoer (390). Four items are to be distinguished: a narrated event (En), a speech event (Es), a participant of the narrated event (Pn), and a participant of the speech event (Ps) (390). Any verb is concerned with a narrated event (390) and verbal categories may be subdivided into those which do and those which do not involve the participants of the event (390). Categories involving the participants may characterise either the participants themselves (Pn) or their relation to the narrated event (PnEn). Categories abstracting from the participants characterise either the narrated event (En) or its relation to another narrated event (EnEn). Jakobson reserves the term DESIGNATORS (390) to refer to categories characterising only one narrated item either the event (En) itself or its participants (Pn) themselves (390). He terms CONNECTORS (390) those categories which characterise a narrated item (En or Pn) with respect to another narrated

Richard L. W. Clarke LITS3304 Notes 02B

item (EnEn or PnPn) (390). Designators indicate either the quality or the quantity of the narrated item and may be termed QUALIFIERS and QUANTIFIERS respectively (390). Designators and connectors may characterise the narrated event (procs de lnonc) and/or its participants without or with reference to the speech event (procs de lnonciation) (.../Es) or its participants (.../Ps) (390). Those categories implying such a reference are to be termed SHIFTERS; those without such a reference are NONSHIFTERS (390). Jakobson contends that any generic verbal category can be defined (390) with respect to these basic dichotomies (390): Pn: Among categories involving the participants of the narrated event, GENDER and NUMBER characterise the participants themselves without reference to the speech event (390), the former qualifying and the latter quantifying the particpants. Pn/Ps: PERSON characterises the participants of the narrated event with reference to the participants of the speech event. Thus first person signals the identity of a participant of the narrated event with the performer of the speech event, and the second person, the identity with the actual or potential undergoer of the speech event (390). En: STATUS and ASPECT characterise the narrated event itself without involving its participants and without reference to the speech event (390): the former (in Whorfs terminology) defines the logical quality of the event (390) while the latter quantifies the narrated event (390). EnEs: TENSE characterises the narrated event with reference to the speech event (391). Thus, in the sentence quoted earlier, the preterit informs us that the narrated event is anterior to the speech event (391). PnEn: VOICE characterises the relation between the narrated event and its participants, without reference to the speech event or to the speaker (391). PnEn/Ps: MOOD characterises the relation between the narrated event and its participants with reference to the participants of the speech event (391); Jakobson alludes to Viktor Vinogradovs view that mood reflects the speakers view of the character of the connection between the action and the actor or the goal (qtd. in Jakobson, 391). EnEn: Jakobson contends that there is no standardised name for this category (391), though Bloomfields term order; or rather its Greek model taxis seems to be the most appropriate (391). TAXIS characterises the narrated event in relation to another narrated event and without reference to the speech event (391). There are, according to Gilyak, three kinds of independent taxis one requires, one admits and one excludes a dependent taxis, and the dependent taxes express various relationships with the independent verb simultaneity, anteriority, interruption, concessive connection, etc. (391-392). EnEns/Es: EVIDENTIAL is a tentative label for this verbal category which takes into account three events a narrated event, a speech event, and a narrated speech event (Ens). The speaker reports an event on the basis of someone elses report (quotative, i.e. hearsay evidence), of a dream (relative evidence), of a guess (presumptive evidence), or of his own previous experience (memory evidence) (391).