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A symbol is something such as a particular mark that represents some piece of information. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for "STOP". On a map, a picture of a tent might represent a campsite. Numerals are symbols for numbers. All language consists of symbols. Personal names are symbols representing individuals.

Psychoanalysis and archetypesEdit

Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who studied archetypes, proposed an alternative definition of symbol, distinguishing it from the term sign. In Jung's view, a sign stands for something known, as a word stands for its referent. He contrasted this with symbol, which he used to stand for something that is unknown and that cannot be made clear or precise. An example of a symbol in this sense is Christ as a symbol of the archetype called self.[1] For example, written languages are composed of a variety of different symbols that create words. Through these written words, humans communicate with each other. Kenneth Burke described Homo sapiens as a "symbol-using, symbol making, and symbol misusing animal" to indicate that a person creates symbols in her or his life as well as misuses them. One example he uses to indicate his meaning behind symbol misuse is the story of a man who, when told a particular food item was whale blubber, could barely keep from throwing it up. Later, his friend discovered it was actually just a dumpling. But the man's reaction was a direct consequence of the symbol of "blubber" representing something inedible in his mind. In addition, the symbol of "blubber" for the man was created by him through various kinds of learning. Burke emphasizes that humans gain this type of learning that helps us create symbols by seeing various print sources, our life experiences, and symbols about the past.

Burke goes on to describe symbols as also being derived from Sigmund Freud's work on condensation and displacement further stating that they are not just relevant to the theory of dreams, but also to "normal symbol systems". He says they are related through "substitution" where one word, phrase, or symbol is substituted for another in order to change the meaning. In other words, if a person does not understand a certain word or phrase, another person may substitute a synonym or symbol in order to get the meaning of the original word or phrase across. However, when faced with that new way of interpreting a specific symbol, a person may change their already formed ideas to incorporate the new information based on how the symbol is expressed to the person.

Jean Dalby Clift says that people not only add their own interpretations to symbols, they also create personal symbols that represent their own understanding of their lives: what she calls "core images" of the person. She argues that symbolic work with these personal symbols or core images can be as useful as working with dream symbols in psychoanalysis or counseling.[2]

EtymologyEdit

The word symbol came to the English language by way of Middle English, from Old French, from Latin, from the Greek σύμβολον (sýmbolon) from the root words συν- (syn-), meaning "together," and βολή (bolē), "a throw", having the approximate meaning of "to throw together", literally a "co-incidence", also "sign, ticket, or contract". The earliest attestation of the term is in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes where Hermes on seeing the tortoise exclaims σύμβολον ἤδη μοι μέγ᾽ ὀνήσιμον "symbolon [symbol/sign/portent/encounter/chance find?] of joy to me!" before turning it into a lyre.

Role of context in symbolismEdit

A symbol's meaning may be modified by various factors including popular usage, history, and contextual intent.

Historical meaningEdit

This history of a symbol is one of many factors in determining a particular symbol's apparent meaning. Consequently, symbols with emotive power carry problems analogous to false etymologies.

For example, the Rebel Flag of the American South predates the American Civil War. An early variant of the crossed bars resembled the Scottish Flag.[3]Template:Check

ContextEdit

The context of a symbol may change its meaning. Similar five–pointed stars might signify a law enforcement officer or a member of the armed services, depending on the uniform.

See also Edit

Notes Edit

  1. Psychological Types, C. G. Jung, (trans. Baynes), p. 601.
  2. Jean Dalby Clift, Core Images of the Self: A Symbolic Approach to Healing and Wholeness. Crossroad, 1992.
  3. http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ERsyiUOYI4kC&oi=fnd&pg=PA15&dq=confederate+flag+extremist+groups+ku+klux+klan&ots=7IgVGRosTS&sig=YhygSgtlzsU_fFvgxzTHN11ZPUI

External links Edit

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