English grammar as a stratified system of signs
Edmiston, Cynthia Denise
Lamb, Sydney M.
Doctor of Philosophy thesis
Linguistic information, representing the knowledge that a speaker has of his or her language, can be uniformly represented as a system of signs. In addition to the traditional linguistic signs, the connections between morphemes or morphemic words and their meanings, syntactic constructions, idiomatic expressions, discourse phenomena, all types of linguistic information, are treated as meaningful and therefore capable of being represented as signs. A four-strata version of linguistic structure is adopted, with graphic, morphemic, lexemic, and sememic levels. The signs mediate between the information at the different levels, such that the expression and content of each sign is "local", and expression and content in the more general sense (all the way from graphemes to sememes) are related indirectly. The signs which constitute a core grammar of English are formalized and set forth. This formalization, the major goal of the dissertation, is not simply a description of texts, however. Rather, it is an attempt to construct a cognitive model which accounts for those texts. Two points of theory are: (1) there is a distinction between relations (signs) and processes (encoding and decoding), and (2) language is an adaptive system subject to continuous modification. The linguistic information in the semiotic format is shown to be useable to produce and decipher texts, and to be readily modified when new information is encountered.