A Composition of Contextual Symbols

My definition of the word “text”: A text is a composition of « socially contextual symbols » that form a language and from which conveys meaning to be communicated.  Nevertheless, the text does not exist without its interaction with the world.

To make my definition of the word “text”, I thought about literacy and look up at its definition.  In literacy, meanings can take place depending on the person’s ability to make connections between knowledge, the ability of interpreting, which may vary from one person to another.  A text is a medium by which the message is transmitted, which does not refer necessarily to a written piece, but could possibly be oral, or take a different form (e.g. a hypertext).  The most important part is the meaning; the interrelated symbols unify to create a unique and understandable ‘language’.  Hence, a text takes its own sense by its transmission and then becomes valuable.

Roland Barthes, a French literary theorist, has made interesting distinctions between what he called “readerly and writerly texts”.  Briefly, he stated that ‘Readerly texts’ were those in which the “meaning is fixed and pre-determined so that the reader is a site merely to receive information” while ‘writerly texts’ would be the ones where “the reader, now in a position of control, takes an active role in the construction of meaning.  The stable meaning, or metanarratives, of readerly texts is replaced by a proliferation of meanings and a disregard of narrative structure” (Roland Barthes: Understanding Texts).  In fact, Barthes suggested that the ideal text corresponds to the one where there is no distinction between the reader and the writer.  Along with the author of Roland Barthes: Understanding Texts, hypertext, which concurs with the event of new technology, allows this non-linear representation of text that can be read and interpreted by the reader who can take any direction he wants.

In an interview about his book called Le plaisir du texte (The Pleasure of Text), Barthes (1973), stated that “le texte est un langage” (text is a language) and that this language should be constantly renewed since our society is mobile.  And according to him, novelty in literature is what the society needs to go further and beyond.


Definition of Literacy. Retrieved from http://www.bridgew.edu/library/cags_projects/ldubin/Definition%20of%20Literacy.htm

Literacy.  Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/literacy

Roland Barthes. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_Barthes

Roland Barthes «  Le plaisir du texte ». Video. Retrieved from http://www.ina.fr/art-et-culture/litterature/video/CPF10005880/roland-barthes-le-plaisir-du-texte.fr.html

Roland Barthes: Understanding Texts. Retrieved from http://www.arts.uwaterloo.ca/~raha/700_701_web/BarthesLO/readerly.html

Text. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/text?show=0&t=1347768533

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2 Responses to A Composition of Contextual Symbols

  1. mcquaid says:

    I think that is a very smart observation / idea… that text is inherently social, and meant to be transmitted. For, if it were not, it wouldn’t exist.

    You got me to thinking, though… how does thought get translated into text / social communication? I know it’s learned, but it must be an interesting neural process to turn internal thought into external expression. It must be something “simple”, as many organisms communicate.If we’re hardwired to be social and to communicate, though… if it’s natural… does that mean text is essentially thought? We think in images and words and ideas, and that’s all text… hmm…

    • Thank you for your nice reply Stephen,

      I wonder sometimes if thoughts can really be translated into text in their total integrality. I believe, a writer or a story teller (oral) must be extremely good in coding language in order not to lose any subtility during the translation. The auditor, in the other hand, must listen carefully and be open mind to what it is written or said. Nevertheless, the meaning of the text will get all its essence at its reception. As well, it can be construct or deconstruct; it depends of the receptor’s ability to read or listen, sometimes within the lines.


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