chapter  Chapter 2
30 Pages

A General Theory of Signs

WithM. Jimmie Killingsworth, Michael K. Gilbertson

A general theory of signs that sketches paths among expert fields and between any specialized field and the common ground of public discourse offers a logical starting place for a theory of technical communication. The concept of the sign is broad not only to apply to various fields of communication practice but also to include all the elements of a technical text: words, pictures, graphics, headings, even white space. The sign may be a word, an image, a thing, but so may its object and even its interpretant. The relationship is understood to be inviolably triadic; that is, one of the three parts of the sign can only be defined and distinguished as it relates to another. Retaining sign to designate the full relationship helps to emphasize that the three parts of the sign must always work together. When simple signs —triadic relationships among objects, representamen, and interpretants—form into a complex chain of semiosis, the chain remains open at both ends.