John Maynard Smith’s typology of animal signals

Sign Systems Studies 37 (3-4):477-495 (2009)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Approaches to animal communication have for the most part been quite different in semiotics and evolutionary biology. In this context the writings of a leading evolutionary biologist who has also been attracted to semiotics — John Maynard Smith — are an interesting exception and object of study. The present article focuses on the use and adaptation of semiotic terminology in Maynard Smith’s works with reference to general theoretical premises both in semiotics and evolutionary biology. In developing a typology of animal signals, Maynard Smith employs the concepts of icon, index and symbol to denote distinct signal classes.He uses “indices” or “indexes” to express a signal type where the relation between signal properties and meaning is restricted because of physical characteristics. Such approach also points out the issue of the motivatedness of signs, which has had a long history in semiotics. In the final part of the article the usage and content of the concepts of signal form and meaning in Maynard Smith’s writings are analysed. It appears that in evolutionary biology, the “signal” is a vague concept that may denote a variety of things from an animal’s specific physiological status to artificial theoretical constructs. It also becomes evident that in actual usage the concept of signal often includes references to the receiver’s activity and interpretation, which belong rather to the characteristics of sign process. The positive influence of Maynard Smith’s works on semiotics could lie in paying attention to the role of physical necessities in animal communication. Physicalconstraints and relations also seem to have a significant role in semiotic processes although this is not always sufficiently studied or understood in semiotics.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,164

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

John Maynard Smith’s notion of animal signals.Ulrich E. Stegmann - 2005 - Biology and Philosophy 20 (5):1011-1025.
Maynard Smith on the levels of selection question.Samir Okasha - 2005 - Biology and Philosophy 20 (5):989-1010.
Modelling Strategies: Creating Autonomy for Biology's Theory of Games.Sergio Sismondo - 1997 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 19 (2):147 - 161.
Introduction: A Dynamic View of Evolution.Brett Calcottt & Kim Sterelny - 2011 - In Brett Calcott & Kim Sterelny (eds.), The Major Transitions in Evolution Revisited. MIT Press. pp. 1--14.
Optimization Theory in Evolution.John Maynard Smith - 1994 - In E. Sober (ed.), Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology. The Mit Press. Bradford Books. pp. 91.
Commentary on Kerr and Godfrey-Smith.John Maynard Smith - 2002 - Biology and Philosophy 17 (4):523-527.
Costly signalling: A work in progress.Stewart Saunders - 2009 - Biology and Philosophy 24 (3):405-416.

Analytics

Added to PP
2013-04-04

Downloads
42 (#359,513)

6 months
4 (#678,769)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

The Semiotic Species.Silver Rattasepp & Kalevi Kull - 2016 - American Journal of Semiotics 32 (1/4):35-48.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Metaphors we live by.George Lakoff & Mark Johnson - 1980 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Mark Johnson.
Metaphors We Live By.George Lakoff & Mark Johnson - 1980 - Ethics 93 (3):619-621.
Metaphors We Live by.Max Black - 1980 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 40 (2):208-210.
A Theory of Semiotics.Umberto Eco - 1977 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 10 (3):214-216.

View all 23 references / Add more references