Jakobson, Roman Osipovich (18961982)
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Russian linguist and semiotician, who further developed Saussure's semiotics, by differentiating between strictly linguistic and wider, semiotic, systems of signs. The elementary contrast between phonemes ("h" vs. "wh"), may bear an arbitrary relationship to the meaning it carries in words ("hut vs. "what"), but when we are dealing with complex, cultural meanings ("father" vs. "mother"), the situation is far less simple. The aggregation of arbitrary linguistic meanings, produces non-arbitrary semiotic meanings. During the Second World War, Jakobson lived in New York, where he met, among others, Claude Lévi-Strauss, who at the time was developing his later influential theories, and Jakobson had a profound impact on the younger man's thinking.