Solomon Marcus
and the Interconnection
of Semiotics and Mathematics


The fields of mathematics and semiotics share a lot of common ground, given that both are based on the nature of the representation of ideas in the form of signs (symbols, diagrams, texts, and so on). In short, there is no mathematics without representation, and semiotics is, fundamentally, the study of representation. Yet, rarely have mathematicians sought insights from semiotic theory in order to conduct their investigations into the nature of mathematics, and vice versa, rarely have semioticians sought insights from mathematics in order to grasp and study the nature of semiosis (the production and comprehension of signs). There have been a few notable exceptions to this, of course. French mathematicians René Thom and Jean Petitot are two well-known ones, both of whom saw mathematics as a semiotic enterprise. But perhaps the most notable of all is the late Solomon Marcus, as will be discussed in this tribute, whose approach to the semiotics-mathematics interface made it obvious to scholars in both fields that the two are intertwined ontologically and epistemologically, following on the coattails of structuralists such as Roman Jakobson, Charles Hockett, and Zellig Harris, who focused more on the mathematics-language interface, rather than on the strictly semiotic one.[…]

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