Abstract: Cognitive semiotics is a term increasingly being used for a field combining some of the insights, theories, findings and methods of classical semiotics and of cognitive science. The notion of memory plays an important part in at least one of the theories of classical semiotics, that of Lotman, which can be connected both to earlier philosophical (notably phenomenological) reflection and to psychological theories. It can also be related to ideas of distributed and situated cognition in contemporary cognitive science. Memory is also fundamental to at least one of the initiators of cognitive semiotics: Donald’s scale of evolution, which identifies phylogeny with a series of stages defined by different kinds of memory, brings cultural evolution directly into the definition of human specificity. In other respects, Donald’s work may be mistaken or at least incomplete, and part of this paper will be dedicated to some of the ways in which it might need to be amended to comply with exigencies from semiotics. Finally, we will look at a particular artefact, the photograph, as a memory aid manifesting a threefold indexical relation.


Keywords: Memory, phenomenology, intentionality, evolution, photography

The aim of the present paper is to bring together some ideas from semiotics, phenomenology, and cognitive science, in a form that is “essentially armchair speculation, casual observations, and fruits of intuition” (Tulving 1983, 32). A more prestige-laden term for this is “meta-analysis”, at least if it is taken in the sense of Bouissac (1999:4), as applying not only to the comparison of statistics, but, more broadly, as “consist/ing/ in reading through a large number of specialised scientific publications, selected among the published literature in one or several domains of inquiry, and of relating the partial results within a more encompassing model than the ones that are held by the various specialists concerned” (Cf. Sonesson 2012). In any case, the task is not only to find out whether these different specialities talk about the same thing, using different names, but more importantly, to investigate whether by bringing them together, we may in fact be able to isolate different phenomena, which are nevertheless intricately connected, as Peirce puts it in his definition of phenomenology (later re-baptized phaneroscopy; CP 1.286).

southern semiotic review sonesson table 2 2014