Semiotica Indica is the first attempt to describe the semiotics of Indian culture. It is meant to provide some basic ideas, concepts and material for the study of nonverbal communication in India. It draws from works on semiotics but revolves around the core concept of communication.
The book is about Indian actions, how actions become gestures and how gestures transmit messages. It covers much of the literature in Sanskrit and modern Indian languages on nonverbal communication and organizes it in a fashion useful for three purposes: (a) to provide an "ancient overview" of the nonverbal communication; (b) to map nonverbal continuity in India from Bharata's time to the present day; and (c) to establish a conceptual base into which new findings may be integrated.
This Encyclopaedic Dictionary is a survey of Indian semiotics from Rgvedic times to the present day sketching the theoretical (Sastra) and practical (Prayoga=loka) approaches of the leading semioticians with respect to their differing objectives: classifying the Sastra and the loca; establishing the philosophical sign system for canonical representation of human thought; devising Purahas for the creation of new ideas; gaining insight into the conditions of human knowledge; increasing the efficiency of sahitya, sangita, citra, vastu, ayurveda, jyotisa, darsana and the various branches of the arts; extending communication into agama, nigama, tantra, yonija and ayonija species. The underlying world-view has crystallized in certain concepts, reflecting the understanding of body and soul, of space and time, of indriya and atindriya, of the part and the whole, of the body and the senses.
This book contains nearly 6000 terms, the complex ones are supported by illustrations. The entries are ordered alphabetically, but each of the reference is guarded by numerous cross-references. The main focus is on producing penetrating insights into semiotics in general and nonverbal communication in particular.
Written in simple elegant prose and strikingly illustrated, this Encyclopaedic Dictionary is full of practical insights for the understanding of theoretical and practical aspects of body-language in India.
Professor H.L. Shukla is a Brilliant luminary in the firmament of linguistics and Indology. He has written around 45 books including Modern Sanskrit Writing (6 Vols.), Dictionary of Kalidas (5 Vols.), Tribal Folklore (3 Vols.) etc.
At Present, Prof. Shukla is the chairmen of the Board of Studies of Sanskrit and Linguistics, apart from being the Head of the Department of Comparative Languages and Culture, Barkatullah Vishwavidyalaya, Bhopal.
This book is meant to provide some basic ideas, concepts and material for the study of nonverbal communication in India. It draws on work from semiotics but revolves around the core concept of communication.
The book covers much of the literature in Sanskrit and modern Indian languages on nonverbal communication and organizes it in a fashion useful for three purposes: (a) to provide "an ancient overview" of the nonverbal communication; (b) to map nonverbal continuity in India from Bharata's time to the present day; and (c) to provide a conceptual base into which new findings may be integrated.
This Encyclopaedic Dictionary of nearly 6000 terms relating primarily to social semiotics was compiled as much for my own benefit as for anyone else's. Quite frankly, I was becoming increasingly overwhelmed by the proliferation of terms that has inevitably accompanied the development of semiotics and other disciplines of relevance to linguistic analysis since the 1980s; and I was becoming increasingly frustrated by the semantic problems in the terminology that have resulted. And while there are dictionaries of critical terms and linguistic terms in the market, there is not even a single reference work for guidance in the close analysis of nonverbal communication that incorporates terms from paralanguage, kinesics, haptics, oculesics, olfaction, gustation. proximics, chronemics, speech behaviour, discourse analysis, communication theory — in a word semiotics.
I hope this volume provides enough groundwork for readers to pursue some of the topics raised in more depth, and especially to 'decode' one of the most ubiquitous and tenacious forms of communication and ideology in Indian society. I hope this volume contributes in some way to that topic and will help people become more aware of the images and values perpetuated by body semiotics, and the forms and structure which carry and determine what they mean.
This book is also a trip into the ancient past. On remote islands and interior parts of India there are people who are extremely backward in terms of civilization. Until recently they did not have their written languages and did not know metals. The life of these primitive people has much in common with the life of our Vedic ancestors. In order to gain a better understanding of their life I went to the places of Central India where they still live. I tried to win their trust gradually learning their languages and adopting their way of life and thereby gaining an opportunity to study their nonverbal behaviour. It was as if I found myself in the distant past. The study of the backward people's life enabled me to better understand how our Vedic and Puranic ancestors lived.
I am obliged to Verrier Elwin, Richard Lannoy, Kapila Vatsyayana, S N Ghosal Shastri, Sadashiv A Dange, N N Bhattacharya, S K Ramachandra Rao and others whose works are used by me in connection with the translation of the texts wherever necessary. Many other authors and friends also helped me in various ways by providing illustrations and sending me information connected with different entries. I am indebted to them. The line-drawings are by Bhasha and Abhisheka. I thank them for their sense of involvement. I must thank M/s Aryan Books International of Delhi, who accepted and carried out the publication of this book so willingly.
Modern India is perhaps unique, historically, in that its twentieth -century existence is still fashioned on traditions laid down thousands of years ago. Yet it has by no means trapped in the rigid mould of an archaic civilization, in fact, its present evolution in the industrial field shows to what an extent its national equilibrium and coherence are based on an admirable continuity. The slow pace at which changes of all kinds have taken place in India is the necessary accompaniment of this continuity, and reflects accurately the rhythm of rural life, which has always provided the essential framework of the country's structure.
For all these reasons we have been obliged to choose an exceptionally lengthy period, almost eight thousand years, in order to give necessary breadth of detail to the present study. There has been no escaping these extended time limits in this instance: any attempt to shorten the period would have resulted inevitably in an incomplete impression of nonverbal communication in India.
This is a survey of Indian semiotics from the Rgveda (6000 B.C.) to the present day sketching the theoretical (astra) and practical (prayoga = loka) approaches of the leading semioticians with respect to their differing objectives : classifying the sastra and loka ; establishing the philosophical sign system for canonical representation of human thought; devising Purapas for the creation of new ideas; gaining insight into the conditions of human knowledge; increasing the efficiency of sahitya, sangita, citra, vastu, ayurveda, jyotisa, darsana and the various branches of the arts; extending communication into agama, nigama, tantra, yonija and ayomja species. The underlying world-view has crystallized in certain concepts, reflecting the understanding of body and soul, of space and time, of indriya and atindriya, of the part and the whole, of the body and senses. So far most indological or semiotic research has been done in single disciplines or in limited area, but a serious investigation into the inter - relatedness of all these fields is still a desideratum. A semiotic approach is the first prerequisite to understanding the relationship between the ancient sciences and the various branches of the arts. Considering that semiotic research itself is semiosis, we present here the compilation of different signs from Vedic period to the modern age.
The science that deals with the dynamics of signs is called semiotics. The science of semiotics or the theory of signs and symbols studies the language of animals, our own human language, and the numerous and diversified language systems of signs and symbols like road signs, signal systems, displays, maps, diagrams and the like. The process through which signs function is called semiosis.
In ancient India Sanskrit scholars laid special stress on the pragmatic nature of signs. While dealing with yuktisastra, Mahabharata (V. 30.49) resorts to its pragmatic interpretation. Later on Dasarupaka (1.43) commenting on karyayukti explains that it is the "study of appropriateness or suitability of action or sign in a drama". These seminal ideas of Mahabharata and Dasarupaka were further nurtured in the yuktidipika with an outline of five broad sub-fields of semiotics pertaining to the secret codes. The meanings, however, have undergone some change as the term semiotics is now used for the study of signs in general. Although major contributions to the study of signs have emerged from the West, we should credit the major impetus toward the emergence of this concept to the influence of work conducted a millennium ago by Dhananjaya (an Indian dramaturgist who wrote Dasariipaka). Classical Indian arts were rife with symbols and signification prior to Dhanaiijaya (974 - 995 A.D). Some of these arts mentioned by Kautilya (300 B.C. - 100 B.C.), Bharata (2nd B.C.), Vatsyayana (1st c. A.D.) and Banabhatta are as follows:
(i) alapayojanam : art of discourse design.
(ii) kavyasamasya purnam : art of completing a verse whose one part has been supplied.
(iii) calitayoga : tricky and critical communication to delute others.
(iv) tarkakarma : art of disputation.
(v) desabhasajnana : knowledge of dialects.
(vi) nimittajnana : art of signs and omens.
(vii) pratimala : art of reciting verses beginning with the letter with which one recited by one's adversary ends.
(viii) prahelika : art of riddles.
(ix) mlecchitavikalpa : art of speaking by changing the forms of words, learning of various foreign codes, symbolic scripts and speeches.
(x) vacika : art of oral communication; also known as vak-dilsa.
(xi) vainayiki : art of submission or discipline.
(xii) samvadana : art of entertaining in conversation.
(xiii) sarvabhasakausalam : art of knowing all the languages.
(xiv) sarvalipikausalam : art of knowing all the scripts.
Today, semiotics is vast beyond measure. Umberto Eco, who himself holds a professorship of semiotics, has conservatively listed multiple sub-fields; zoosemiotics, olfactory signs (codes of scents), tactile communication, codes of taste, paralinguistics (supplementary codes during speech events), medical semiotics, kinesics and proximics (gesture codes), musical codes, formalized languages, written languages, unknown alphabets, secret codes, natural languages, visual communication, systems of objects, plot structure, text theory, cultural codes, aesthetic texts, mass - communication and rhetorics (A Theory of Semiotics, 1976, 9-14). Even then there are many ancient arts or codes which are still to be enumerated as sub-fields of semiotics.
It is necessary to specify the object of study of semiotics in our approach. As students of linguistics, we are interested in semiotics to help us in making progress toward greater comprehension of what people are doing when they communicate. As Roland Barthes (1964) pointed out, any social object can become the sign of its own function. Social systems of use- such as kinshop systems, manners, clothing, shelter and any system of object and/or actions - have a semiotic, communicative aspect. The symbolic or conventional use of language has been readily indentified in Dharmasastras in such acts as greetings, leave takings, introductions, memorized rituals, marriage proposals and other different rites. Etiquette books are concerned with conventional expressions and polite phrases. Manu (3.18) points out differences between phrases, which express real condition and conventional phrases. Conventional signs and gestures are freely used in all our institutions.
The universality of symbolic speech acts and NV act is yet to be explored. There are suggestions that palm-presentation is universal among humans and some other primates. Other possibilities of universal symbolic acts are hand-raising and eye avoidance. The hand-raising has been ritualized in parliamentary proceedings when a speaker (chair person) does not want to give the floor to a member of parliament.
Verbal and nonverbal expressions of status (reflecting the economic systems) and male/female differences are the most important features of differentiation in the dynamics of human interactions.
Very intense emotions are usually dealt with euphemistically by means of symbolic acts. Direct speech is not the modality of such communications as "I hate you". Even "I love you", said in so many words, can be meaningless. Insulting and obscene gestures replace speech act as a means of rejecting and repelling in the interactional behaviour. There is no other way to understand the deep -rooted culture of this country other than semiotics. Since expression and content, differences and significance are dialectically united, there is need for the formation of a new science and hence yuktisastra or semiotics which has its long tradition in this country. To know the Indian system of symbolization, therefore, is to know the culture of the Indian people who created it.
Semiotics is an approach which has adopted some concepts and tools of analysis from structural linguistics, which attempts to uncover the internal relationships which give different languages, their forms and functions. Although language is a basic model, semiotics has cast its net wider, and looks at any system of signs whether the substance is oral, written, visual, aural, verbal or nonverbal or the complex mixture. Thus, speech, myth, folktales, novels, drama, comedy, mime, paintings, cinema, comics, news items and advertisements can be analyzed semiotically as systems of signification similar to languages.
This approach involves a critical shift from the simple interpretation of objects and forms of Indian communication to investigations of the organization and structure of cultural artefacts of India, in particular, to enquiry into how they produce meaning. It is argued that the meaning of Indian culture is not something there, statically inside the Great Tradition, waiting to be revealed by a correct interpretation. What Indian culture means depend on its continuity - how it operates, how signs and its ideological effects are organized—internally within its continuous flow, and—externally in relation to its production.
In order to clarify the contribution that semiotics (structuralism) can make to the analysis of Indian culture as signs and sign systems, I will describe some of the basic features and concepts of the structural model that may be applied to Indian culture.
Structuralism (and I am taking this word to be more or less synonymous with semiotics) usually makes a distinction between the systematic and social part of signifying practices/structural systems - the material, conditioning and determining aspects of culture - and the resulting individual signifying practice. The former is usually referred to as langue (bhasa ) and it consists of structural rules and conventions, which are independent of the individual use of them. The individual use is called parole (yak), and is the manifestation of the selected, combined and articulated elements of langue (language). In language itself, the distinction between langue and parole (speech) is perhaps more clear-cut than in a system like nonverbal (NV) communication. Nevertheless it could be argued that NV is a parole - the ordered combinations of NV signs into messages - and that verbal communication is the means (codes) which allow the messages to function. Langue conditions and is conditioned by parole and consists of a diverse set of social constraints, references, images, formal techniques and rhetorical figures which the NV communication draws upon.
A second distinction, which is important for understanding how sign systems work, is that made between the two parts which make up the sign, be it visual or verbal. A sign is made up of the signifier, a material vehicle, and the signified, a mental concept or reference. A signifier has potential but not actual meaning whereas the signified is the concept or meaning which the signifier refers to. The two are materially inseparable, although it is useful to distinguish between them for the purpose of analysis in order to see how the sign works.
The important thing to remember about signs is that their meaning can only be assessed in relation to their structure and their structural relationships with other signs. A sign not only means in and for itself but also through its place in other signifying systems. The signified does not exist except as a function of a particular signifying system. Meanings are organized in "chains" of signification and signifieds can become signifiers for further chains of signification.
Culture, like language, is a system of distinct signs. It is a system of differences and oppositions which is crucial in the transfer of meaning. The most obvious way of creating a distinction between cultural artefacts and make one stand out from the rest is to give it a distinctive image.
Icon, Index and Symbol
Signs being the bedrock of communication, may be divided into three broad categories :
(a) Iconic signs (natural signs)
(b) Indexical signs (copy signs)
(c) Symbolic signs (conventional signs).
Iconic signs are nonconventional signs manifested through objective nature, independent of human will. These include weather signs, climatic symptoms, geographical contour of an area, animal signs, smells, odour, taste, medical symptoms and other signs pertaining to behaviour of the elements of nature. Photographic images look like the thing, place or person being represented. This makes them iconic signs, and the signifier - signified relationship one of the resemblance or likeness. A portrait of a person is an obvious example of an iconic sign, because the picture resembles that person.
Indexical signs are very akin to iconic signs. They are duplicated by means of which a message regarding the original is encoded. Indexical signs indicate their entities through existential relationship in situations of usage, frequently take on conventional associations such that they are used when the signalled entity does not occur contiguously in the utterance situation. A little boy who pretends to hit his finger while pounding with a toy hammer and screams "Ouch" is not indexing a real pain, but rather symbolizing a nonexistent pain in conventional manner. The school teacher who shouts "Fire" during a fire - drill is not drawing attention to a fire in the situation of his or her utterance but is using a conventional index in simulating what would happen in the event of a real fire. And the boy who cries, "Wolf' uses a cultural convention in conveying a danger that does not actually exist in the context of his shouting.
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