Hall, “Representation, Meaning and Language”

Hall explores a definition of the notion of “representation” essentially via a constructionist approach to language (wherein “meaning is constructed in and through language”)—as opposed to a reflexive (“language simply reflect[s] a meaning which already exists out there in the world of objects, people and events) or an intentional (“language only express[es] only what the speaker or writer or painter wants to say, his or her personally intended meaning”) (p. 15). With the constructionist approach, “[r]epresentation is the production of meaning through language” (p. 28).

According to constructionists, Meaning is produced by the practice, the ‘work,’ of representation. It is constructed through signifying—i.e. meaning-producing—practices” via “two related but different systems of representation”:

  1. “the concepts which form in the mind [that] function as a system of mental representation which classifies and organizes the world into meaningful categories.”
  2. Language—which “consists of signs organized into various relationships” (p. 28).

These two systems are highly interdependent—so much so, in my mind, that it can be very difficult to draw the line between them, really.


  • Hall states that “The relationship between these systems of representation between the sign, the concept and the object to which they might be used to refer is entirely arbitrary” (p. 21). But what about the deep etymologies of words, as in way-back-to-Sanskrit-and-the-like? Didn’t all words originally have some more significant meaning?
  • Is there any space outside of language, which Sapir and Whorf seem to ultimately trap us in (p. 22)? Can we think of something like emotional-spiritual experiences “outside of language”?

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