Transcripts from Postcards From Writing by Sally Pryor


Summary of Integrationism
Roy Harris 2000

Integrationism is a (post-structuralist) semiology of communication. It stands opposed to segregationist semiologies, which assume that communication systems (codes) exist autonomously as social facts, independently of their users.

Segregationism has been the dominant view throughout the Western tradition and in modern linguistics. A typically segregationist approach to language is that of Gleason (1961: 374 ): ' A code, an arbitrary, prearranged set of symbols. A language is merely one special variery of code.' [ NB1. 'arbitrary' and 'prearranged' preclude a code of natural signs. NB2. 'prearranged' in relation to the act of communication]

By contrast, the Axioms of Integrational Semiology are:

Axiom 1. What constitutes a sign is not given independently of the situation in which it occurs or of its material manifestation.

Axiom 2. The value of a sign (i.e. its signification) is a function of the integrational proficiency which its identification and interpretation presuppose.

Integrational proficiency is the ability which human beings bring to their first-order task in communicating with one another. That task is the creation of signs. Creating signs always involves the contextualized integration of activities within parameters of just three kinds: biomechanical, macrosocial and circumstantial.

Whenever I want to communicate with another person, I have to integrate my own activities with that other person's activities within the prevailing parameters. Nothing I do is of any communicational value unless and until that integration takes place. It follows from this that even if I am proposing to communicate with that other person by means of agreed signals, as Paul Revere did, integration is still a necessary condition of our communication. It is necessary anyway, whether I am using a code or not. In fact, codes always presuppose contextualized integration of activities for their operation. Thus the integrationist's guiding principle in the analysis of communication might be summed up as: context before code.

see also: The International Association for the Integrational Study of Language and Communication