|French: chaîne signifiante, chaîne du signifiant|
- 1 Jacques Lacan
- 2 Meaning
- 3 The subject
- 4 Miscellaneous
At first, in 1956, he speaks not of the signifying chain but of the symbolic chain, by which he denotes a line of descendence into which each subject is inscribed even before his before and after his death, and which influences his destiny unconsciously.
In the same year he speaks of "the chain of discourse."
Chain of Signifiers
Metonymy and Desire
A signifying chain can never be complete, since it is always possible to add another signifier to it, ad infinitum, in a way which expresses the ternal nature of desire; for this reason, desire is metonymic.
Metonymy and Signification
Linearity Versus Circularity
"The linearity that Saussure holds to be constitutive of the chain of discourse applies to the chain of discourse only in the direction in which it is oriented in time."
Metonymic Axis of Language
On the one hand, the idea of linearity suggests that the signifying chain is the stream of speech, in which signifiers are combined in accordance with the laws of grammar -- which Saussure calls "syntagmatic" relationships, and Lacan, following Jakobson, locates on the metonymic axis of language.
Metaphoric Axis of Language
On the other hand, the idea of circularity suggests that the signifying chain is a series of signifiers linked by free associations, just one path through the network of signifiers which constitutes the symbolic world of the subject -- which Saussure calls "associative" relationships, and Lacan, following Jakobson, locates on the metaphoric axis of language.
Diachronic and Synchronic Dimensions
In truth, the signifying chain is both of these things.
The two cross over:
"There is in effect no signifying chain [diachronic chain] that does not have, as if attached to the punctuation of each of its units, a whole articulation of relevant contexts [synchronic units] suspended 'vertically', as it were, from that point."
Lacan thus combines in one concept the two types of relationship ("syntagmatic" and "associative") which Saussure argued existed between signs, though for Lacan, the relationship is between signifiers, not signs.
The term 'signifying chain' (French:chaîne signifiante, chaîne du signifiant) is introduced by Jacques Lacan in 1957 to describe a network of signifiers (which are linked together) which constitute the symbolic order.
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX: Encore, On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge 1972-1973. Trans. Bruce Fink. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998. pp. 111, 125-28, 135