Wittgenstein, Translation, and Semiotics

Dinda L. Gorlée
University of Bergen, Norwa and Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Abstract

Wittgenstein discusses interlingual and intersemiotic translation, both in its own right and, more often, as an object of comparison. In his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922), he puts forth a pictorial view which can be construed in Saussurian terms. This rule-governed notion of translation is, in Wittgenstein's later work, dynamized and based upon the use of signs. Translation is one of the language-games in Philosophical Investigations (1953). Wittgenstein's language-game of translation approaches Peirce's semiosis. Language-games are thirds which, in their nonverbal aspects, also partake of secondness and firstness. The language-game of translation occurs, at least theoretically, in three stages corresponding to the three logical interpretants.

Table of contents

One hundred years ago, on 26 April 1889, Ludwig Wittgenstein was born in Vienna, Austria. To commemorate this event, I will in this article look at Wittgenstein's views on translation. Wittgenstein's remarks on this phenomenon, though numerically rather modest, are, as I intend to argue, significant in that they reflect the various stages of his thought. Wittgenstein used them to illustrate and clarify key notions in his language-philosophical thought, such as rule, use, and language-game. The language-game issue will be the pièce de résistance of this discussion. Subsequently, I will venture a 'translation' of Wittgenstein's concepts into the framework of a Peircian semiotics. While there is little likelihood that Wittgenstein and Peirce knew each other's publications, their works reveal remarkably similar views of language. This conceptual connection will add a new dimension to the study of translation. At the same time, it will, it is hoped, broaden and enhance both the Wittgensteinian and the semiotic perspectives.

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