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slippage of meaning

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In contrast to the stability of the relationship between signifier and signified in Saussure's structuralist conception of language, as Lacan puts it, there is ‘an incessant sliding of the signified under the signifier’: a signifier leads only to another signifier, never to a signified. For Derrida, there is thus an inherent indeterminacy of meaning (see différance). However, sanity and communication depend on at least the provisional illusion of the stability of meaning. Lacan argues that there are anchoring points (points de capiton) in a discourse which make interpretation possible, albeit retrospectively. See also deconstruction; freeplay; transcendent signified; unlimited semiosis.

Subjects: Media studies

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