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Free Content Index, icon, symbol: a tale of abduction James Harbeck

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In the semiotic theories of Charles Sanders Peirce, an index is a type of sign that signifies by having a direct connection to what it signifies – smoke is an index of fire, and a pointing finger is an index of what it indicates. The index is one of a trichotomy of sign types, the other two being the icon (which signifies by resemblance) and the symbol (which signifies by conventional association). Most semiotic constructions have elements of all three, and book indexes are no exception. The way signs are interpreted involves another trichotomy, of types of inference: abduction, deduction and induction. What readers take away from your index will depend on how you manage it – and your process of creating it – to optimize its indexicality, iconicity and symbolicity for optimal abduction.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • The Indexer is published by the Society of Indexers on behalf of all the indexing societies, seeks to cover the full range of subjects, from articles at the cutting edge of new techniques to contributions discussing in a practical way the new tools available to indexers at all points in the technical spectrum or exploring the history of indexing. Its extensive reviews section covers both printed and electronic material, including websites and hardware and software of interest to the indexer, while 'Indexes Reviewed' highlights some of the best (and worst) examples of indexing in action. And, in 'Around the World', it keeps readers up to date with what is going on across the international indexing community. First published in 1958 on a twice-yearly basis, it moved in 2008 to a quarterly publication.
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