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Semiotics Glossary R

Referential fallacy or illusion
[Chandler]    This term has been used to refer to the assumption that a) it is a necessary condition of a sign that the signifier has a referent (in particular, a material object in the world) or b) that the meaning of a sign lies purely in its referent. Such assumptions are flawed because many signifiers do not have referents (e.g. a connective such as `and' in language). The existence of a sign is no guarantee of the existence in the world of a corresponding referent. The reference in texts is primarily-poststructuralists say that it can only be-to other texts (see Intertextuality) rather than to `the world' (see `Reality'). The fallacy is reflected in judgements that the (referential) Peircean model of the sign is superior to the (non-referential) Saussurean model. Reducing language to a purely referential function is called nomenclaturism-a stance associated with naive realism.