After Class Writing: Derrida’s “Signature Event Context”

After today’s class, add a comment to this blog post summarizing the reading and in-class discussion of Derrida’s “Signature Event Context.” Your comment should be at least 250 words.

If you need sources to reference in addition to your lecture notes, please refer to the link below from Jessica Roman and the YouTube videos that I think give a good summary of the reading.

Notebooks on Language

11 thoughts on “After Class Writing: Derrida’s “Signature Event Context””

  1. Jacques Derrida is an Algeria born French philosopher and public intellectual. He is best known for his infamous book “De la grammatologie,” illustrating the process of deconstruction. Derrida’s work is predominantly based on occidental psychology and phenomenology.

    Derrida’s work “Signature Event Context” was originally a French conference speech. His speech demonstrated the affordance and constrictions of how technological communications operate. Derrida focuses on the concept that a reader’s reception to a work is considering more significant than an author’s initial intention. It is in this sense that alternating ideas are more compelled to occur. These concepts are similar to that of Ong from previous readings. Derrida does not see the difference in language and speech. Ensuring his audience would engage in disclosure ideas about communication, Derrida’s speech includes the repetition of the word communication.

    His speech focuses on ideas based on J.L. Austin’s speech acts. The main terms mentioned included: 1. Locution which is the content of what is said, 2. Illocution which is the meaning and 3. Perlocution which is what occurs or results from what is was stated. Another concept includes performative utterance. This occurs when someone performs an action instead of describing the idea. An example used by professor Ellis was the word “I do” during a wedding ceremony. Those two words represent the committed vow between two people. Overall, Austin’s argument is understanding language as being accessible by a concept.

    In Derrida’s argument, his remarks represent that communication and writing are united. Three main ideas include: 1. In the absence of an author, the writing still exists. For example, an email conveys a message without the presence of the writer. 2. Overall context does not construct the focal meaning of an idea. (Austin would disagree with Derrida about this concept.)3. The spacing between words invites an audience to interpret information by personal experiences and perspectives.

    Derrida also defines signs as what they cease to represent. People tend to understand an idea when its met with “It is not this nor like that. It is more like this.” In addition, signs are also repeatable. A signifier and the signified can be reused by other signs and constantly recited. A letter, for example, can have infinite use in the creation of a meaning. Letters can be used in word making or even in mathematics as a variable.
    An authentic written representation of a concept is known as a signature. This form of communication, mentioned by Derrida, has an enormous understanding. However, some can argue signatures can be forged in which authenticity is no longer present.

    Overall, it is vital to understand that context is constructed differently by each reader. This is affected by one’s personal experience, knowledge, and subjectivity on a notion. It often difficult for a writer to convey “flat” theories. The context in itself is developed from an audience. It is up to them to interpret information. In conclusion, communication by an author should not be assumed that their spectators will receive their intended meaning.

  2. Jacques Derrida’s work “Signature Event Context” was originated with a conference, in the text of his work, the context repeats the importance of the signs he had to announce. From the previous reading from him, he chooses the fact that speech is privileged compare from writing. J.L Austin reveals how low locution, illocution, and perlocution are defined.

    From the meaning of low locution, it means what is revealed through speaking. From the meaning of illocution, it shows what the actual definition is. From the side of prelocution, it results from the previous context, which means the last context corresponds to the result itself, causing something happens from what’s been said. Austin argues the understanding of a message.

    However, Derrida concentrates based on the part of communication. He thinks that writing exists in the absence of the author. The context doesn’t abstract the meaning itself. The meaning of absence implies the space of words, which invites different meaning.

    Absence provided by Derrida shows signs are defined not what they are. The reader’s experiences construct absent of context. The context comes from the reader instead of the writer. Signs are irritative and repeatable. Signs can be forged not representative of who we are after the signs have been made. Signs are repeatable.

    We are supposed to transform over period of time. In class, we discussed how we adopt the changes and turns out differently compared to the previous of ourselves. Therefore, Derrida informs that the perception is always more significant than the intention.

  3. “Signature Event Context” by Jacques Derrida was original a french conference talk that he turned into a paper. In it her targets J.L. Austin’s theory of speech acts. Specifically the ideas of Locution, illocution, and perlocution. Loution is what is said. Illocution is what is meant. Perlocution is what results from what is said.

    J.L. Austin uses the theory of speech acts to argue that to understand something you must understand the context. However Derrida believe that writing exist in the absences of the author because context does not constrain writing. Instead Derrida believes that absences between words invites the rupture of meaning.

    Derrida also believes that ideas are founded on signs because they are defined by what they are not rather than what they are. This is due to signs being repeatable forming meaning. Thus signatures are not representations of who we are after they are made. This is because we are ever changing while that signature is not. Which ties into context which is the supposed way we understand. However context is always changing because it is based on the readers understanding and their experiences. Derrida believes that authors shouldn’t assume readers will understand the presumed context.

  4. “Limited,” which was a book written by Jacques Derrida contained two essays and an interview. The beginning of the book, which was the first essay, is called “Signature Event Context,” and was first originally a speech and not an essay. It was later published in 1988. In this part of the essay, Derrida talks about J.L Austin’s theories of speech acts. John Langshaw “J.L” Austin was born in Lancaster, United Kingdom on March 26, 1911. He was a British philosopher of language and was best known for his theory of speech acts. Parts of the speech acts that were discussed in class are locution, which means what it is that we say. We’ve also discussed illocution, which is what is meant when we say it. The last one that we talked about is perlocution, which is what happens, or what the result is from what it is that we’ve said. Austin also mentions performative utterances, which are words that get used in a sentence that make things happen. For example, if someone shouts be carful to someone who is about to cross the street and is not paying attention, you are going to stop. Derrida on the other hand makes an argument on three points about how absence defines signs. Signs are more defined by what they are not and not by what they really are. These three points start of with how “writing exists in the absence of the author.” The second one is “context does not constrain the meaning of writing” and the last one is “absence implied by the spacing between words invites the rupture of meaning.” He later goes on to talk about signatures and how they are proof of authenticity when someone signs a document. When signatures are forged, they do not represent who we are after it has been forged.

  5. Jacques Derrida was an Algerian born French philosopher who we have discussed in class before with his essay Linguistics and grammatology. The writing we’ll had by him now was signature event context. Like in his previous writing Derrida targets Aristotle, and now he targets J.L Austin and his theory of speech acts. Austin said that locution is what is said, illocution is what is meant to be said and per-locution is the results in what is said. Derrida says that writing and communication are united and he’s right, written words are a form of communication, people can read and understand what you write and get messages from your writing. Derrida mentions that writing exists even when it’s creator is gone. So, if someone was to write something and die, their work would still be here, but they wouldn’t be. Another point made by Derrida is that context does not constrain the meaning of writing. An example of this was given in class, what if the reader knows more about the topic than the writer? The next point Derrida makes is the absence implied in the spacing of words invites the rupture of meaning, a perfect example of this would be the very first thing we read in class, jabberwocky. We all read and listened to the same poem but so many of us were able to come out with different meanings to what we understood. Derrida also talks about how signatures and how they can be forged, and they are not representative of who we really are after signature. Derrida wants people to know that after you sign something you shouldn’t be confined to that one thing and you should always be changing.

  6. TO: Professor Dr. Jason W. Ellis
    FROM: Ronald C. Hinds
    DATE: May 03, 2018
    SUBJECT: When Technology Became Language: The Origins of the Linguistic Conception of Computer Programming, 1950-1960

    Computer language is not the language of Victoria Fromkin, who was an American linguist and who taught at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Fromkin was one of the authors of “An Introduction to Language,” published in 2003.

    Computer language is a programmable language. Since the mid-1950s, in the United States (U.S.), the use of the term, computer language, has shifted to more of a metaphorical conception. A metaphor refers to a meaning or identity ascribed to one subject by way of another. Computers function not with a language used by humans but a language that machines can understand. Early computer languages included Algorithmic Language or ALGOL and Common Business-Oriented Language or COBOL. Due to its declining popularity and the retirement of experienced COBOL programmers, it has migrated to new platforms, rewritten in modern languages or replaced with software packages. Most programming in COBOL is now purely to maintain existing applications. Other programming languages such as FORTRAN and Lisp, were designed to avoid perceived problems and eventually gave rise to many other programming languages, including PL/I, Simula, BCPL, B, Pascal, and C.

    Knowing a language means being able to produce new sentences never spoken before and to understand sentences never heard before. The linguist Noam Chomsky refers to this ability as part of the creative aspect of language use. Languages have a grammar which, once its relevance users understand, can inculcate and decipher meanings via the rubric of sentence construction. The way that words are ordered in a given sentence governs the meaning that the speaker wants to convey. One question is, at what point can you say that you have “learned” a language like English or French? I think most people would accept that you have learned languages when you can use them to communicate with another. With computer languages you can say that you “know” a language like C++ when you can write useful programs in it. If you need to quantify the degree to which you know a particular computer language, “I know a little C++” or “I know conversational C++” or “I’m fluent in C++” can suffice.

    Early computer programs, coded for machines of one type, could not be used on those of another. Managers of computing installations and specialists on computer programming in academic computer centers, confronted with an increasing variety of machines, called for the creation of “common” or “universal languages” to enable the migration of computer code from machine to machine.

    How language and technology became assimilated to influence each other was a massive undertaking. Chronological data in the essay records that, in 1954, Margaret Harper, a programmer at Remington Rand, asked, “If Russian can be translated into English…..why not one computer code into another?” In 1955 it was suggested that the study of machine translation was a precursor to “real” automatic programming of computers.

    David Nofre , Independent scholar based in Leiden, the Netherlands, with a special interest in the history of computer science, Mark Priestley, author of “A Science of Operations, Machines, Logic and the Invention of Programming,” and Gerard Alberts from the Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculty of Science, Faculty Member, History of Computing (Computer Science), authors of an essay titled, “When Technology Became Language”, traced the origins of computer programming and, with their collaborative work, make a useful contribution to this subject.


    Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., Hyams, N. (2003). “An Introduction to Language.” 7th Ed.

    Lohr, Steve. (2017, June). Jean Sammet, Co-Designer of a Pioneering Computer Language, Dies at 89. New York Times, Technology. B13. Late edition. Retrieved on May 01, 2018.

    Nofre, D., Priestley, M., & Alberts, G. (2014). “When technology became language: the origins of the linguistic conception of computer programming, 1950-1960.” Technology and Culture, 55(1), 40-75. Retrieved on May 01, 2018 from Retrieved on May 01, 2018.

    Keywords: Chronological, language, metaphor

  7. Jacques Derrida was a french philosopher and public intellectual who impacted Occidental philosophy greatly with his work on semiotics. Previously we read some of “Linguistics and Grammatology”, in which he used his extended discourse method to examine why speech isn’t better than writing. Most recently, we read “Signature Event Context”, in which he focuses on J.L. Austin’s theory of speech acts.

    The three parts of Austin’s acts were locution, what is being said; illocution, what is meant, and perlocution, what actually results from what’s said. In perlocution, Austin had broken with the linguists before him: they believed linguistics must theorize that we communicate ideas and thought via speech and writing. Austin said there was more than just speech and writing: he said the “performative utterances” derived from words are just as important. They are the things that are said that cause things to happen. So words are capable of provoking action, not just ideas. But like other linguists, Austin also believed that we understand the message through writing’s contexts, and that the reader was limited to an understanding based on this context. That is where Derrida begins his discourse to dispute contextual interpretation.

    Derrida believed that what is not being said (the absence of signs in writing) is just as powerful as what is being said. He developed the following three rules that are based on the idea that signs in writing are defined by absence:

    1. Writing can exist without its author. We can pick up a book or read a website without even knowing who the author is, and don’t need her present to understand the content.
    2. Context doesn’t need to constrain the meaning of writing. Derrida is saying that the meaning is based on the reader, not the writing, e.g. if the reader knows more than the writer, her understanding- whether she agrees or feels the writing is incomplete- is going to be different from another reader.
    3. Spacing between words can invite the “rupture of meaning”. He is saying that absence in writing allows readers to insert their own perspective and to thus interpret the work in through their own points of view. So what the author intended is just one way (and probably won’t be the same way) in which the material can be interpreted.

    Signs are iterative and repeatable. Each time a word or phrase or idea is used, whether via speech, essay, citation, etc., each repetition or iteration gives new life or context to the sign. Each use of a sign will assign new meaning as it’s used with other new signs.

    Derrida also discusses signatures in terms of our identities or ontologies. Literally, a signature denotes our written signification of authenticity; we are validating something as our own. However, after time, and because we as individuals change, and because our interpretations change, our signatures will also change in kind.

    He also focuses on context, the typical way of understanding communication. Context is a fluid construct, not a firm rule. Context comes from the reader, or the audience. The author can intend a person to interpret her writing one way, but ultimately each person is going to interpret, learn, and assign meaning to that writing in a unique way based on her own experiences, opinions, subjectivities, etc.

  8. Jacques Derrida was a French rationalist best known for building up a type of semiotic examination known as deconstruction, which he talked about in various texts, and created in the context of phenomenology. In 1971, Derrida essay “Signature Event Context” was first conveyed as a spoken conference paper in Montreal on the topic of “Communication”, and distributed as a major aspect of the conference’ Proceedings. The ‘context’ of Derrida’s essay is important in connection with the topic of the paper itself. In its underlying structure, a spoken essay created in the French language examines the significance and contrasts of ‘context’ in both the composed language and in discourse.

    The essay is organized into three areas examining the variables specified in the title “Signature Event Context”, and Derrida utilizes cases from different scholars with a specific end goal to show his arguments for every part. On occasion, the language and style are undifferentiated from the spoken word or a discourse; which again is self-referential to the type of the text, as it was at first a spoken text/articulation. The shape and structure of the essay emphasize the thoughts and arguments that Derrida presents. The essay is organized in a genuinely open yet formal way whereby Derrida now and again separates arguments or thoughts into recorded or numbered segments. In spite of the multifaceted nature of the thoughts and ideas displayed are maybe more convoluted than the complex type of the composed language.

    This essay contributes two arguments to the disciplinary discussion of technical communication with the point of investigating authority openings our field has in the field of data technology. The arguments declare that 1. Writing is the central technology in any IT framework, and all IT frameworks attempt to use the center qualities of writing to make these frameworks more significant. 2. Technical communicators have a focal part to play in IT frameworks consonant with our center capabilities: we take care of the adjust of arranged and not summed up techniques and the adjust of requests to personality in writing about the pragmatic use of technology, and we are very much arranged to take care of these parties in other vital fields of IT talk. Together, these two arguments intended to start or do with discussions in the working environment and scholarly contexts alike that bring its issues advancement and the fate of technical communication firmly together.

    He uses reiteration of the arguments to make the thoughts that he is displaying commonplace and justifiable to the reader or audience, and this is his general way to deal with the capacity and comprehension of language, signs, and words the more comfortable we progress toward becoming with words, the less demanding they are to comprehend in their ‘actual’ meaning. The meaning lies in the redundancy and inability of the words, as well as in the ideas and thoughts which lie underneath the semantics of the sentences and substance of the essay.

    Derrida claims language itself works by separation and contrast.

  9. Jessica L. Roman
    ENG 1710

    This week we read “Signature Event Context” by Jacques Derrida. Like our first Derrida reading this semester, the ‘father of deconstruction’ again presents his extended argument against the privileging in speech. This time Derrida challenges British philosopher of language, J.L. Austin and his theory of speech acts.

    Austin broke apart from other linguists before him who focused how we communicate ideas and thoughts. Austin focused on performance utterances; a few terms we discussed in relation to this are location, illocution, and perlocution. Locution is the act of what is being said, illocution is what is meant and perlocution is what actually happens as a result of what is said. These performative speech acts focus on a verbal cue that result in an action. This brings speech beyond just transmitting ideas and thought and makes it something that makes things happen.

    An important part of Austin’s standing, and where Derrida takes issue, is regarding context. Austin holds that context is what determines a messages meaning. Three of the main points Derrida presents in his argument are as follows:

    – Writing exists and in intelligible in the absence of the author. Whether the author is absent through the mode of writing, geographical location or death.
    – Context does not constrain the meaning of writing. A readers/consumers, experience, perspective and subjective experience can alter the meaning of a written document drastically from the intention of the author
    – The absence implied by the spacing of words. These spaces or absences make ruptures in interpretation possible.

    Poetry is something that comes to mind in this regard. Many poets do not divulge the meaning of their work; instead, it is up to the reader many times to determine that meaning or what it means to them.
    This is especially important to keep in mind to those create, innovate and even to technical writers. Just as we discussed in Hicks reading, lack of diversity in STEM fields leads to less anticipation of a wider audience and pigeonholes what content is created. As communicators, we cannot assume a reader will take away what a writer intended. Context is flexible and cannot be assumed so an open mind and variety of perspective can be vital in conveying our messages effectively.

  10. For today’s class we had to read, “Signature event context- Limited Inc.” by Jacques Derrida. This specific passage is much connected to our previous reading we did in class by Ong. In Derridas’ passage we can also spot that he mentions McLuhans’ work here and there, an author that we read as well. Originally this essay that Derrida wrote was a conference talk, so it was prepared as a presentations speech. Much of the text tends to repeat a lot this indicated that it was designed to be spoken not read. In the previous reading we read by Derrida he picked up some fights with Aristotle. Well, in this reading he targets J.A. Austin and his theory on speech act. Parts of speech act is the idea of locution as what is being said whenever one is speaking. We need to know elocution which the meaning is. In addition, Austin adds his theory of perlocution which is what happens or results from what is being said. Before him the linguistics was how we need to communicate and connect the speech. Performative occurrences are things that are said and later happen. Words have power to make certain things happen or can also make a change to an action. Austin argues that understanding the message is understanding its content. Derrida focuses on communication through writing.

    He discusses three aspects, first is writing exists through the author, second – context does not constrain the meaning of writing, and third- absence implied by the spacing between words invited the rupture of meaning. Inviting reader to experience the writing through their meaning. Moreover, signs are defined by idea of absence, so signs are defined what they really are not. Signs signification has to be cited or used multiple times, giving the sign new content so the meaning is formed.

    Lastly, understanding the audience is important but connecting to audience is very important, our job is to help our audience better understand the context. Communicators cannot assume that the reading reader will presume something. The communicators should thing about their audience, always.

  11. Jacques Derrida is a well-known philosopher and public figure that wrote in French his speech “Signature Event Context” where he bring to the attention and dis agree with J. L. Austin’s three parts act theory of speech. As reference the three parts are Locution, Illocution and Per-locution. Locution is what is actually said, illocution what was meant to be said and per-locution was the actual result of what was said. This three parts act define Austin’s believe of cause and effect, in other word, he explains that in order for something to happen it has to be said and written since ideas die with the person if they are not expressed in any of this manners.
    In contrast, Derrida believed on the power of the unsaid. He states that what is unsaid is as powerful as what it is said and to stablish this prospective he created three rules. The first rule is that the writing continues after the writers dies. The second one is that writing should be dictated by context and lastly he illuminates that at the absence of the writer the reader can expand their imagination and give their own prospective.

    In a previous class we discussed a piece of his work named ““Linguistics and Grammatology” were he emphasize on the value of writing and speech equal importance. This work follows his philosophy about writing as well.
    Since then the speech “Signature Event Context” has been translated into multiple languages so people can examine Derrida prospective about communication. The fact that Derrida’s work has been translated to many language proof the excellence of his writing and thought process.

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