In an editorial (“The Geopolitics of Signs”, The Semiotic Review of Books Vol. 2.3 September 1991) Milena Doleželová-Velingerová opens with the following observation:
Every culture, in order to become a culturally distinctive entity, must start by staking out the frontier of its semiotic space. The boundary may separate the dead and the living; the town and countryside; French culture and Russian culture. It could be a river, a gesture, a script, a concept of time and space, or a natural language. No matter how diverse the culture, the boundary has nevertheless one and the same function: to divide the world between “our” space, where communication is possible, and the space of the “others”, where communication is not accessible.
She goes on in the editorial to summarize the work of Yuri Lotman on semiospheres and cross-border hotspots. She quotes:
The boundary is a mechanism for translating texts of an alien semiotics into “our” language, it is the place where what is “external” is transformed into what is “internal”. It is a filtrating membrane which so transforms foreign texts that they become part of the semiosphere’s internal semiotics while still retaining their own characteristics. (Lotman, 1990 [Universe of Mind: A Semiotic Theory of Culture translated by Ann Shukman]
I like how she set this up. It is obvious the borders exist not by words alone but other signs as well. As we read it is good to keep this area (of non-words but signs) in mind as the texts discussed by Yori Lotman are secondary modelling systems — a reminder that the membrane to the alien may traversed within a semiosphere hence all the scare quotes around external and internal.
And so for day 1993