Facets of Semantics, Semantics of the Face


  • Massimo Leone Università di Torino, Università di Shanghai, Università di Cambridge, Fondazio- ne Bruno Kessler, Trento




Semantics, semanticizing, de-semanticizing, re-semanticizing, face


The article summarizes the development of the first disciplines devoted to the study of meaning, mainly concentrating on the genesis, characteristics, differences, and contradictions of French sémantique, German Semasiologie, British English sematology, American English semiotic, and French sémiologie. It dwells on the intricate and unsystematic development of the notions of ‘sémantisation’ (in French), ‘semanticizing’ (in English), and ‘semantizzazione’ (in Italian), as well as on the connected notions of ‘desemantization’ and ‘resemantization’. It then focuses on a case-study, the problem of the survey of the semantic field of the face, in the dialectics between etymology and semasiology, history and semiotics, and diachrony and synchrony. The article concludes that the semiotic semantics of the face, that is, the systematic study of its meaning in both verbal and non-verbal languages, as well as of its being semanticized, de-semanticized, and re-semanticized, is fraught with the same difficulties, multiplied by the variety of discourses and the issue of their representativeness. It proposes that a semiotics of the face must cultivate its semantics through combining contextual awareness and structural sensibility.