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23. Double articulation and strata, or the geology of content and expression



Yi-Jinkyung, Professor

Seoul National University of Technology



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Articulation is a concept that came to the force through linguistics. However, it would be good to cite the example of bone for easy understanding of it. Just as our fingers show, our bones are divided by joints. The bones thus divided are combined together by joints. The joints are the parts by which the divided bones are combined together. Being articulated by joints, our bones can perform various elaborate moves. The same goes for the muscle. Our muscle is divided into muscle fibers, and the latter is combined together into the muscle, which does various moves by regulating the power of each muscle fiber. The same hand can type on a keyboard, play ping-pong, and use chopsticks, which are totally different from each other. All of them are possible because bones and muscle fibers are in the form of articulation.

In linguistics, articulation is the mode by which the flow of sound is divided and combined. The word 'earth' in the American English, for example, is a word into which three different phonemes of ea, r, and th, are combined. 'Save the earth' is a sentence which three different morphemes that are 'save,' 'the,' and 'earth,' are combined into. There is another way of articulating sound differently from language. It is the case of musical sound where the same sound is divided and combined according to the pitch. The Western scale which we are familiar with is articulated into seven sounds like Do, Re, Mi...etc.

Articulation means dividing a certain flow of motion or sound and combining the divided to capture and use it. Since articulation is capturing a flow dividing it by a certain unit, it misses out anything that deviates from the method of division. For example, for Korean speakers, since the sound of 'p' and that of 'f' are indistinguishable,' 'funk' and 'punk' sound the same. On the other hand, for English speakers, the sound of 'apa' in korean meaning 'painful' and that of 'appa' meaning 'papa' sound the same because those two sound, ‘p’ and ‘pp’ are indistinguishable. In case of the Western scale, any(->a) sound between Do and Do# are 'wrong sounds,' and so they must be tuned in to either of the two. Even in the case of the same sound flow, the language is missed out when it is captured according to the musical articulation, and the change in pitch is missed when captured according to the linguistic articulation. As such, articulation is a 'regretable' phenomenon in that a lot is missed during the flow. However, articulation is useful and indispensable phenomenon in that neither the language nor the music is possible without articulation

Every articulation has a 'unity of composition' by which the flow is articulated. An example is the phoneme that is the minimum unit of sound or the morpheme that is the minimum unit of meaning. Another example is the musical tone like Do, Re, or Mi, etc. This is the minimum unit by which the matter of flow is divided and by which the form of combination is composed. Deleuze/Guattari call this 'substance.' The rule by which these substances are combined is referred to as 'form.' The iterative form in which thus divided substances are combined is referred to as 'code.'

Deleuze/Guattari say substances are associated with territories, while forms are associated with codes (TP 41). What units to divide into is a matter 'preceding' the rules or forms. Whether to divide r and l and how to distinguish the difference vary from country to country. How to pronounce the same r has English and French distinguished. The same goes for the morpheme. 'Garden' means ‘an area pof ground with many plants and trees’ in English, but 'garden' in Korean means barbecue restaurant. This is the result of fact that the word 'garden' was deterritorialized from English, and reterritorialized to Korean. This is what it means to say that substances are associated with territories. The linguistic code is the form that makes the sentence with the substantial unity of composition. Syntax is the case. Black English deviates from the standard English grammar and uses a new form of its own. Their speaking style decoded from the code of English being used repeatedly, it has been recoded on the new form. This is what it means to say that forms are associated with codes.

Double articulation means that this articulation is made doubly. Linguist Martinet refers to the articulation of phoneme and morpheme as double articulation. However, the double articulation of Deleuze/Guattari is different from this. The substance is the minimum unit of the form and a part of the form in that it is “formed matters.”(TP 41) What they refer to as the double articulation means the articulation on two layers that are content and expression. Saying that they borrowed it from linguist Hjelmslev, they redefines content as 'formed matter' and expression as 'functional structure'(TP 43). The word 'formed matters' is used equally for both substance and content. Whereas the former emphasizes that substance is no different from 'form', the latter emphasizes the status of 'matters. Thereby, they want to displace the old concept of matter/form with content/expression. This becomes clearer when contrasting matter and form with the concept pairs of the material as 'molecularized matter' and the forces captured through it(TP 342).

As articulation takes place at two layers that are content and expression and each layer has substance and form, four concepts come out from combining the two sides. They are 'substance of content,' 'form of content,' 'substance of expression,' and 'form of expression.' However, as substance is the basic unit of form, really important among these four concepts are 'form of content' and 'form of expression'. Nonetheless, it will be necessary to distinguish the four concepts with examples. Using music as an example will help us understand this. The sounds composing the scale such as Do, Re, Mi,...etc are the contents as 'formed matters.' Here, each sounds such as "Do' and 'Re,' etc are the 'substances of content,' while the forms indicating the relationships between the sounds such as Major, Minor, and Mode, etc are referred to as the 'forms of contents.' On the other hand, the forms such as law of harmony and functional harmony have to be obeyed when making music with those sounds. Here, this is the 'form of expression' in that it is the 'functional structure' according to which sounds are composed musically, whereas the interval such as Do-Mi or Do-Pa is the 'substance of expression' because it is the basic unit of its expression form.

Here, we can see that the concept of 'content' is different from what is commonly referred to as content. That is because the content here looks rather like the ‘material’ resource of expression form, whereas content commonly refers to the story of a movie or a novel. To get a proper understanding of this, we need to understand the relationship between content and expression. But, before that, there is one thing to be mentioned: content and expression are not what are fixed but relational concepts that are used with respect to various levels, ‘going up and down.’ The scale of Major or Minor is the form of content with respect to the form of expression of harmony or functional harmony, whereas harmonic sounds have the status of the form of content with respect to the form of expression such as sonata form or fugue form.

It should be pointed out first that the concept of expression paired with that of content is different from the one used in Expression in Philosophy: Spinoza or The Logic of Sense. In those books, the binary concept of sign of signifier/signified being criticized, the concept of expression was proposed for other ‘ontological’ concept of sign, To add a little bit, Deleuze/Guattari distinguish semiology modeled on linguistics and semiotics that includes linguistic sign only as its part. The former is an extension of Saussure's linguistics, which emphasizes the 'arbitrariness' of the signifier/signified relationship and the langue as social rule of meaning making, to sign in general, The latter comes from Peirce's semiotics. Peirce refers to the arbitrary sign like language as symbol, contrasting it to icon as the sign in relation to similitude and index as the sign in relation to contiguity. The former assumes that "sign is part of language" as Roland Barthes says, whereas the latter states clearly that "language is part of sign." With this contrast, they are distancing themselves from semiology that privileges langue and signifer. However, in Anti-Oedipus, they give a kind of self-criticism, saying even this concept of expression has not been freed enough from idealism. “We cannot accept the idealist category of "expression" as a satisfactory or sufficient explanation of this phenomenon.”(AO 6) The concepts of machine and production take the place of the concept of expression. But in Kafka, this concept reappears, paired with 'content’(Kafka 3). And it is developed more minutely and used in A Thousand Plateaus.

The objects that the concept of content/expression aims at are twofold. On the one hand, it is the semiology of signifier/signified and "the imperialism of the signifier" that it assumes, as mentioned above. That is because "the primacy of the signifier over language guarantees the primacy of language primacy of language."(TP 65) Another new target is the traditional philosophical concept of content/form(TP 68), which is, in particular, the concept of content/form that marxists borrowed from Hegel's logic. This is the case, for example, when the proposition that content determines the form is applied to the concept of base structure and superstructure. This can't avoid the deterministic thinking that the economic base structure, which is 'content,' determines the superstructure, which is 'form.' Politics and laws are explained by being reduced to the economic class relations.

Saying "there was a form of content no less than a form of expression”(TP 43), Deleuze/Guattari proposes the doublet concept of content/expression instead of that of content/form. And, criticizing the thought of reducing one to the other, they state clearly that "neither are they reducible to base-superstructure”(TP 68). When one says that the economic relation of production is 'content' as it is often said, the relation of production itself also has the form and is distinguished according to the form. In the case of literature, which uses the concepts of content and form most frequently, the style is often referred to as ‘form’ and the narrative is referred to as ‘content.’ Even in that case, the narrative has its own independent 'form' such as a plot. Therefore, it should be said that there are the form of content and the form of expression separately. Besides, just as style is not reduced to narrative, neither politics nor ideology is reduced to the relation of production.

The semiology privileges the primacy of the form of expression that is the signifier, whereas Marxist privileges the primacy of the form of content that is the base structure. Deleuzr/Guattari say that both content and expression are independent strata that can not be reduced to either of the two and both have a parallel relationship like two attributes of one substance in Spinoza's philosophy. This means that they react to each other and form a complementary relationship although they have independencies. "One can no more posit a primacy of content as the determining factor than a primacy of expression as a signifying system....Form of content and form of expression involve two parallel formalizations in presupposition.”(TP 68) The relation between the two is led sometimes by the form of expression and sometimes by the form of content; it is assemblages, especially machinic assemblages that regulate the this relation(ibid).

Articulating is stratifying a flow. The musical scale shows this well. The flow of sound is stratified by the pitch such as Do, Re, or Mi, etc. Harmonic forms are stratified by intervals. Language stratifies the flow of sound in the units of phonemes or morphemes. Proteins are stratified with amino acid as its basic unit, and nucleic acids are stratified in the unit of nucleotide. What is thus stratified is called 'stratum' by Deleuze/Guattari. Signification, subjectification, and organization are the most important among others. They call the analysis the object of which is what is thus stratified 'geology.'

However, the body is not just stratified into muscle fibers only. Lung is again stratified into organelles such as alveoli, alveoli into muscle fibers, muscle fibers again into cells, cells into cell organelles, and nucleus among them is stratified into nucleic acids. From a slightly diffferent angle, nucleic acid has nucleus and cytoplasm as its milieu, cells have their neighboring cells and blood vessels as their milieu, blood vessels have alveoli or heart as their milieu. Different strata are connected from the inside to the outside and from the outside to the inside. Strata connected in the direction of inside-outside is called 'epistrata.' The connection from mouth to esophagus to stomach to intestines belongs to epistrata, too. On the other hand, There is also 'parastrata.'(TP 51-52) The stomach has the stratum of food and the vocal cords has the stratum of sound as their pairs respectively. The connection of stomach and food or vocal cords and sound is called parastrata. Expanding the view, we can see that epistrata or parastrata connected in that way is itself another stratum.

Neither epistrata nor parastrata remains fixed. The geology of the earth shows that strata, which seems to be firmly fixed, have been constantly changing. As the heat moves in the mantle beneath the crust, the oceanic crust rises from the undersea mountains. And, corresponding to it, old crust sinks into subduction zone. Strata change through sudden or gradual changes. The same is true of our body. The strata that form body, sign, or subject move, mix, and are denatured. Leaving the existing adjacent stratum, they are connected to another stratum. The same mouth becomes a speaking-machine when connected to vocal cords, but it becomes a eating-machine when connected to esophagus. The esophagus is sometimes connected to food and sometimes to excrement.

When different strata combine and operate 'like one', it is called an 'assemblage.' The mouth is combined with the strata of respiratory tract and vocal cords, the strata of phoneme, morpheme, and grammar, and the strata of lecture desk and classroom to form an assemblage of lecture, When the neighbouring strata it is combined with varies, this can transit to the assemblage of predation and again to the assemblage of excretion. Therefore, the assemblage is said to be 'between' strata. That is why assemblage is said to be interstrata. In addition. An assemblage can be said to be a community of heterogeneous strata in that multiple strata combine and act as agents for one another. This is what it means to say that the assemblage is what regulates the relation between the strata belonging to content and the strata belonging to expression, or more inclusively, the relation between different strata.

Every time a transition to a different assemblage takes place, not only the modalities of the operations of strata but also the way of articulation varies. There is a case where formed matter destratifies the articulated strata, running through different assemblages, to be transformed to molecularized matter, to deformed matter, and to the flow of pure matter. A voice that you hear but can not understood, that can not be said to be ‘meaningless’ because it gives a certain affect like oppression, begrudgement, exaltation, or passion. This voice would be the case. It is a voice that gets away from the strata of signification that operates as signifiers and becomes the reverberation of the body. There is a music that is destratified from the arrticulation of pitch and becomes the intensive flow of sound. And there also is a sound that becomes color or tactility. When destratification progresses out of all forms as such, it is said that an abstract machine leading to the plane of consistency operates. This is also done through a particular assemblage. In this case, the assemblage is said to become a ‘metastratum’ in that it is out of all strata. The flow of deformed matter itself is said to jut out between strata.







translated by Jung Ki Lee



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