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"He who watches the wind will not sow" (JAM: 1947 - 2011)

Published by Carlos da Fonte, em 11.11.11
José Augusto Mourão


This blog was conceived to publish the research I've been doing for some years on Visual Semiotics, particularly its application to primitive Heraldry. These investigations were formally published in Portuguese by March 2009 with the thesis: A Marca de Portugal - Semântica Primitiva das Armas Nacionais e alguns dos seus Aspectos Sintácticos e Pragmáticos[1]. It was developed during the Master Course in Industrial Design from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Porto. I was lucky to count with the inestimable advice of Prof. Doutor José Manuel Bártolo, from Escola Superior de Artes e Design and Prof. Doutor José Augusto Pizarro from the Faculty of Arts at the University of Porto.

The jury was presided by Prof. Doutor Engº Fernando Jorge Lino Alves, then the director of MDI/FEUP and the oral examination was made by Prof. Doutor Frei José Augusto Mourão, from Universidade Nova de Lisboa, who has deceased last 5th of May. This blog is dedicated to him, quoting his final book's title, I dare take to myself: Quem vigia o vento não semeia[2].

The thesis was kept confidential, in order to proceed the investigation calmly, confirming, denying or improving some initial propositions. This blog plans to be slightly different from its Portuguese version, as some of the themes will not be thoroughly explored, mainly those dealing with the Portuguese lineages or heraldry and most of the bibliographic references. We will try to let you know whenever this happens and give then the proper leads for any consultations you wish to make there.

It's a known fact that many primitive Portuguese royal seals have five sets of eleven plates. Taking advantage of this November 11th, 2011, we make the thesis available for a potentially wider audience with the blog Cinco por Onze[3]. The whole text in Portuguese may be seen here whereas the Abstract follows hereunder.

[1] The Sign of Portugal - Primitive Semantics of the Portuguese Coat of Arms and some of its Syntactic and Pragmatic Aspects.

[2] The pun semeia ~ Σημεια which turns the expression into his own creation, without altering a single word of Ecc. 11:14, is lost in translation.

[3] Five by Eleven.


Territorial symbols are a main component of nations’ self-esteem. Rooted into primitive medieval heraldry, a great deal of writing was produced in the past to explain them. This visual language with vernacular interface, in the case of canting arms and rebuses, deserved an exploration using Applied Semiotics, as some disagreement remains on the treatment of image's semantics.

The thesis uses these heraldic foundations as a privileged domain of interaction between language and image. The main application subject is to explain the primitive meaning of the Portuguese coat-of-arms, using the domain’s analytical study.

A mathematical model was built, in order to evaluate and accept phonetic resemblance among words, according to a variable called parophony. A hypothesis followed appropriately to evaluate the parophony acceptance in the domain under investigation. A sampling universe of 771 European heraldic features, simple and multiple, produced a sample of 86 coats-of-arms, 72% of them from 13th and 14th centuries armorials used as source for data collection. The samples were submitted to quantitative and qualitative analysis.

It was possible to accept the hypothesis, both generally in the domain and particularly in the application subject. The semiotic organization of the system was characterized and numerous interaction phenomena detected between heraldic features and 48 European languages. Original parophonic semantic propositions were made for the Portuguese coat-of-arms and for all the 86 samples.

A significant improvement was achieved in the understanding of visual and linguistic components of European Heraldry, enabling their structural synthesis. The inception of a new organizing framework for the Portuguese brand was made possible and a working basis was established for consecutive investigation in the field of Semiotics applied to Design.

Keywords: Design, Heraldry, Semiotics, Linguistics, Europe.

D. Afonso Henriques

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Published at 11:11

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Novembro 2011