Schweizer, Prof. Dr. Harald
Fakultaet fuer Informatik, Tuebingen

Prof. Dr. Harald Schweizer
Fakultaet fuer Informatik
Arbeitsbereich Textwissenschaft
Sand 13
72076 Tuebingen, Germany

Tel.: +49-(0) 7071-29-75248
Fax : +49-(0) 7071-67540

Strand: semiosis in language and other modalities


1. Together with other contributors I described during the last years the hebrew story of Joseph (Gen 37-50).

We used a cognitive basic terminology; the systemic description of the text took place in a semiotically redefined triad: syntax-semantics-pragmatics (first published 1981). That framework has many points of contact with the concept of HALLIDAY. But there remain differences which I would like to discuss, even using General Systems Theory.

Writing the conclusion, i.e. binding together all the different analyses, I found it hard to define the function of the whole text whereas it has been not so difficult to define exhaustively the function of any segment within the text. The main reason for such a difficulty is that - in the case of such old texts - we often are lacking any further environmental information. The dates of creation of many biblical texts are unknown and have to be deduced from a meticulous analysis of the text (including the definition of its function) on the one side and a comparison of what we know independently from ancient times. The question then is into which time frame my results are best fitting. Up to now it is not yet a standard in literary research - as I see it - to work on both centers of that ellipse: to give a thorough systemic-functional description of a given text and to search independently for possible historical backgrounds.

2. It is my conviction that any narrative text is built up by a strong hierarchy of meaning units, from small Sememes up to - as I call them - Textlinguistic units. Any unit fulfils a describable function in relation to the other units of the same level of interpretation.

Taking together the different levels of interpretation we get an impression of the different levels of meaning (literal - hidden, see metaphors etc.) and we see the structure of meaning of a text as hierarchically complex and interwoven.

3. With the help of results of research which - partly - have been published after our book I want to illustrate the opposition I spoke of:

Meticulous systemic description of the text within a methodological hierarchy. Deducing the function from the literary structure. Based on texts of totally different origin (hebrew, greek), adding insights from archeology, it is possible to reconstruct the cultural mainstreams in the Persian period in Palestine.


LUHMANN, N Soziale Systeme. Grundriss einer allgemeinen Theorie. Frankfurt/M (5)1994: suhrkamp.

SCHWEIZER, H, Textsegmentation and levels of interpretation. Reading and rereading the biblical story of Joseph: SEMIOTICA 107-3/4 (1995) 273-292.

SCHWEIZER, H (ed.), Computerunterstuetzte Textinterpretation. Die Josefsgeschichte beschrieben und interpretiert im Dreischritt: Syntax-Semantik-Pragmatik. 3 vols. THLI 7/i-iii. Tuebingen 1995.

WILLI, Th Juda - Jehud - Israel. WUNT 12. Tuebingen 1995.