Burghard B. Rieger:

On Simulation and Realization.

Procedural models of sign functions in computational semiotics.

Invited paper presented at the 7th Intern. Congress of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Association Internationale de Sémiotique (ISAS/IASS-99), October 5-12, 1999, Dresden, Germany


In systems theory, it is common to look at systems in two ways: externally by its behavioral characteristics, i.e. the way how the system performs in processing (some controlled or known) input and producing (observable or measurable) outputs, and internally by the structural characteristics, i.e. the number and kind of variables in the system and how these variables are connected to each other, and how they interact.

Computational Semiotics is inspired by information systems theory according to which human beings may be taken as living systems whose knowledge based processing of represented information makes them cognitive, and whose sign and symbol generation, manipulation, and understanding capabilities render them semiotic. Whenever cognitive processes are modeled as being based upon information processing structures whose representational status is not a presupposition to but a result from such processing, then these models - being able to simultaneously initiate and modify the structures they are operating on - may qualify as being part of computational semiotics.

For cognitive models of natural language processing the systems theoretical view suggests to accept natural language discourse as analyzable and empirically accessible evidence for tracing such processes.

Following the systems theoretical paradigm of information processing and accepting the cognitive point-of-view, human beings appear to be very particular cognitive systems whose outstanding plasticity and capability to adapt to changing environmental conditions is essentially tied to their use and understanding of natural languages in communicative discourse. Consequently, analyzing the complexities of natural language discourse in the aggregated form of pragmatically homogeneous text (PHT) corpora, communicatively performative natural language texts provide a cognitively revealing and empirically accessible collection of traces of processes whose resultant multi-faceted structuredness may serve as guideline for the cognitively motivated, empirically based, and computationally realized research in meaning constitution.

In accordance with the theory of information systems, functions like interpreting signs and understanding meanings translate to processes which extend the fragments of reality accessible to a living (natural and possibly artificial) information processing system beyond reality's material manifestations. This extension applies to both, the immediate and mediate relations a system may establish according to its own evolved adaptedness or dispositions (i.e.innate and acquired structuredness, processing capabilities, represented knowledge).

Modeling semiotic cognitive information processing (SCIP) systems' performances, the concept of representation is considered fundamental. To realize – instead of simulating - the experiential distinction of semiotic processes (of cognition) from their results (as representational structures) is - due to the traces these processes leave behind – the emergence of discernable forms of (interpreted) structures or knowledge.

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