This article will be analysed under the title “Building an epistemology for
semiotics in 1966”
A.J Greimas, in the effervescent atmosphere of the structuralism of the sixties (1966, annus mirabilis, “light year” of structuralism), is conscious that the
algebraic modelling of his “scientific semantics” must be directed by a rigorous
method capable of metalinguistically reconstructing the signifying universe in its
totality, and must be founded by an epistemology which justifies the stratified immanentism of meaning and at the same time condemns the so-called “humanist”
orientations in the sciences of language. Even if Greimas never explicitly indicates
the intellectual and scientific context of his remarks, we can assume that Structural Semantics is duly inscribed in the network of philosophical and ideological
positions of this enthusiastic period. I propose to circumscribe the area of epistemological relevance of structural semantics and to perfect the contextualization of
the structural paradigm of Greimas in three phases.
First, I will reconstruct the Greimassian epistemology using a synthetic reading of the passages of Structural Semantics in which the positioning, often more
suggestive than explicit, of this epistemology reveals itself in its options, anxieties
and contradictions. Then, I will indicate how this epistemological doxa of Greimas is related to and distances itself from other structuralist opinions, not so much
in semio-linguistics (Propp, Brondal, Tesnière, Jakobson, Benveniste, Hjelmslev)
but rather in philosophy (Merleau-Ponty) and in logic (Blanché) and in other human sciences (especially Barthes, also Lévi-Strauss). Finally, I will be interested
in the way in which the Greimassian epistemology was received and reformulated,
immediately after the publication of Structural Semantics in 1966 (Ducrot), and
with some retreat (Foucault, Derrida, Ricoeur).
Structuralism, structural semantics, science of language, semiotics, epistemology, A.J. Greimas.