World Report

The Sixth China Semiotics and Linguistics Conference

By Zhang Delu

The Sixth China Language and Semiotics Conference was held at Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China from November 5 to 7. More than 100 participants from more than 30 universities in China such as Beijing University, Fudan University and Shandong University, etc. attended the conference. At the Opening Ceremony, presided by Professor Zhang Delu, Dean of the Foreign Languages College, Ocean University, Vice-President of Ocean University of China made a welcome speech, and then Professor Hu Zhuanglin, from Beijing University, gave a brief survey of the former five semiotics conferences held in China as it was now the ten years anniversary of the founding of the conference.

The Theme of the conference is Interaction Between Linguistics and Semiotics, which includes the following seven subtopics: (1) The construction and development of semiotic theories; (2) The role of linguistics in semiotics, (3) The theoretical models and methodologies of difference branches of semiotic theories;(4) The role of semiotics in the development of linguistics; (5) Studies on the iconic nature of the linguistic signs; (6) signs and sign systems; (7) The prospect of the application of semiotics to other fields.

On the basis of these topics, the following areas were focused on by participants interested in different branches of sciences: studies on the theories of Saussure or Pierce as pioneers of modern semiotic theories; semiotic studies from the point of view of functional linguistics or cognitive linguistics; the application of semiotic theories to the study of Chinese; the relationship between linguistic signs and the internet; English syntax and semiotics; the study of the semiotic systems other than language, such as painting; and the application of the semiotic theories to other fields, especially translation studies.

There were altogether 64 papers presented at the conference, which were delivered in three sections of plenary speeches and two sections of sessions in three groups, and a special session was organized for such hot topics as whether the linguistic signs were arbitrary or not, the nature of the difference aspects of the linguistic and other signs, etc.

In a plenary speech, Professor Hu Zhuanglin, chairman of China Language and Semiotics Society, reported on a special topic entitled: "Orality,literacy,and Hypertext: Changes in the Relationship between Language and Perceptive Mode." He showed that the way for people to know the world and transmit knowledge in the earliest days is by way of orality. Due to the development of tools and technology,orality was gradually replaced by literacy. The mass production of printing materials leads to widespread transmission of information on the one hand ,and gradual decreasing of memorizing ability on the other. The mode of thinking is marked by linearity.

After giving an introduction of Walter Ong's classic work Orality and Literacy--The Technologizing of the Word (1982), the paper deals with views held by different scholars,represented by the Great-divide Theory and the Continuum Theory. A comparative study is made between the features of orality based on audial perception and literacy based on visual perception. Since the end of the last century,the electronic age has emerged due to advances in information technology,thus starting the hypertext culture. It has exerted a great influence in our mode of thinking, that is,moving from linear thinking onto non-linear thinking. It is argued that the nature of technologization is a matter of touch perceptively. Studies concerning orality,literacy and hypertext are closely related to those issues such as compulsory education,foreign language education, individualized learning,collaborative learning,network learning,etc.

From the papers presented at the conference, we can see clearly that semiotics in China is moving in two directions. One is theoretical innovation and the evaluation of the existing theories. The scholars in China do not only introduce semiotic theories developed in the Western countries any more, but are trying to develop or evaluate them. The other is the application of the existing theories to many practical fields, such as translation, language teaching, discourse analysis, stylistics, etc. There were investigations on the macro-theoretical constructs, and there were also those on the micro-linguistic phenomenon. Some theoretical aspects at some deeper levels were explored, such as the issues on to what extent and at what level a linguistic sign is arbitrary or motivated, what the relationship is between semiotics and linguistics, whether the primeval signs were meaningful or not; how the new semiotic media, such as multimedia and internet, can influence human communication and modes of thinking, and finally how we can apply the semiotic theories to foreign language teaching, translation and mother tongue study.

It is decided that the next conference will be held in Nantong University, Jiangsu Province, China in 2006.

All the participants agreed that the conference was a great success as they could exchange freely their ideas, discussed the most popular topics, presented their own achievements on semiotic studies and developed their friendship.

Zhang Delu, The Convenor, Professor and Dean of Foreign Languages College, Ocean University of China

Foreign Languages College
Ocean University of China
23 Hong Kong East Road
Qingdao, Shandong, China,
Tel: 86-532-5901716