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Ľudmila Lacková

Palacký University in Olomouc, Czechia

The visual language metaphor of life

This lecture is a reconstruction of the original language metaphor of life  which has been defined by Jakobson (1971) as an analogy between biological and linguistic models: DNA bases correspond to phonemes, triplets of bases correspond to words and genes correspond to sentences.  I will propose an alternative to the Jakobsonian language metaphor of life: we can imagine for the genetic script, rather than phonological alphabet, some kind of pictographic or logographic writing system reminiscent of Egyptian hieroglyphs or Chinese characters. As proposed by Anton Markoš (2007), in some cases DNA bases are not read base by base, but by the superficial structure of triplets, that is, by the spatial shape of a triplet. This “spatial reading” reminds more of a visual (pictographic) code rather than a discrete phonological code.

This observation leads us to understand the DNA script as composed not of discrete digital units but of units corresponding to semantic values and encoded not digitally, but analogically. Thus, the metaphor of life becomes extended to the visual codes, and life is any longer reduced to the digital script, rather is multidimensional, dynamic and always growing. 


Jakobson, R. 1971. Selected Writings, Volume 2: Word and Language; Mouton: The Hague, s. 289–333.

Markoš, A. and Hajnal, L. 2007. Staré pověsti (po)zemské, Praha: Pavel Mervart.