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Salerno: Sun & Tincture Argent

Published by Carlos da Fonte, em 15.06.12
Salerno - Attributed Arms



Arms described in the Wijnbergen Roll, a French armorial from the end of the 13th century[1]. They appear to be consensual canting arms but the reason never seemed to be sufficiently explained. It must be related with the magnificence of the solar representation at the centre of the shield, duly surrounded with the sixteen rays of the heraldic rule[2]. This would determine the semantic logic for the interpretation Salerno ~ Solerno, as usual leaving the remainder to be explained: either the suffix rno or the argent background. We may suspect a connection with the local domain of the Hohenstaufen due to the same tincture on both fields but we can't recall any such suspictions from someone else. Typically, it is possible that all the attention was given to the immediately intelligible visual elements.


We've tried a thorough approach during the thesis' research period but only recently we have achieved better and sustainable results. During that first analysis we'd chosen the now abandoned parophony: Salerno ~ Sole (ita. Sun) + ernia (ita. hernia) with a few inconsistencies. The first refers to the language of verbalization concerning the choice of the Italian Sole. Despite the Wijnbergen Roll being the first document where these arms appear they are not guaranteed to be an original representation; if so French or Latin should have been chosen instead. In addition, there are no prior or even contemporary Italian armorials and it would be difficult to admit one of the many medieval peninsular linguistic variants. Besides, the semantic integration of the “sun” and the “hernia” is inadequate, although justifying the visual association. Regarding the absurd of a “herniated sun”, this wouldn't be any real problem. We may witness a hybrid of a goat and a cock, two chopped hands hovering over a castle and three gigantic mirrors each one stick on a mountain,[3] all included in the class of arms generally recognized as canting and available in the thesis. We were certainly influenced by the already known conventional interpretations, which lent an important role to the Sun, forcing a transformation Sale/Sole. The remainder of the parophony: rno, is irreparably harmed on account of the same reasons we've mentioned. It remains to acknowledge that the white or argent tincture of the shield was also left unexplained.


The denominant we use now: Salernum (lat. Salerno), is the name of the city and eventually the name of the territory, presumably the homonymous Principality, despite the factual integration in the Kingdom of Sicily and the mention of a fabulous King of Salerno in the text, as expected. Once again Latin appears as the language of verbalization, consequently classified as an attributed language like in Portucalis ~ Porta cales. We can't tell if it was “chosen” as a general elitist language or resulting from a natural association with the Latin territory of Campania.


Regarding the designant: Sal eremum, it's a compound polysemy because the two textual components generate more than two heraldic traces, even if implicitly. The literal translation of each word alone: salt and uninhabited or desert, may be joined as “salt at the desert” and extended somewhat liberally as a “salt desert”. Although the nearer such desert is located in Northern Africa, as far as we know, we'll find again possible inspirations in the Bible: … terram fructiferam in salsuginem, a malitia inhabitantium in ea // Il à changé le sol le plus fécond en un terrain aussi sec que si l'on y avoit semé du sel, et tout cela pour punir la méchanceté des habitants[4]. However, it is through the semiotic analysis that we may be convinced of the accuracy of our conclusions.


Apparently, this integration within the scope of parophony can't be guided by strict clause rules, difficult to apply as the verb is frequently absent. Moreover they were conditioned by the entirely accidental building of the designant. This integration would help to metamorphose words, starting by taking each separate signification and only then looking for the composition of a meaning, in order to obtain one or more images. In parophonies, declinations and all the inflexions in general work more as enabling the identity of words than as semantic modifiers. Clearly, more examples are needed to acquire confidence on this type of generalizations.


Let's calculate the discretion index.[5] After pairing the denominant with the designant: /s//s/, /a//a/, /l//l/, /E//e/, /r//4/, /_//e/, /n//m/, /u//u/, /m//m/, we may note that the quantity of phonemes is bigger in the last so: max(nD,nd) = max(8,9) = 9[6]. There are no transpositions, thus t = 0; we analyse then the rest of the phonetic transformations. These occur with the pairings: /E//e/, /r//4/, /_//e/, /n//m/ and only the pair /_//e/ is heterogeneous enough to allow c = 1,0; the other three, quite alike, give us c = 0.5. All the transformations are in the internal phonemes, requiring p = 1.0. The summation supplies: 0.5 × 1.0 + 0.5 × 1.0 + 1.0 × 1.0 + 0.5 × 1.0 = 0.5 + 0.5 + 1.0 + 0.5 = 2.5, obtaining k = (2.5 × 2)/max(8, 9) = 5.0/9 = 0.556; therefore, we may affirm the fairness of the parophony, knowing that k < 1. We ignore if it would be possible to include a phenomenon specific to this example in the formula used to find k. It happens that the sounds /E/r/ ~ /e/4/e/ hardly justify such a great influence in the value of the discretion index: about 80% of k . The pronunciation of both words betray some contraction among the central phonemes of the designant, tending to delete the second /e/, which would significantly decrease the value we've found for k. Despite that it seems premature to make such improvements in the mathematical model at this point.


The first element of the designant: salt, may easily be accepted as being represented in the white tincture of the shield. We've already found other perfectly identical examples of the same parophonic association. However seemingly unnecessary to mention, the semantic redundancy of the second element, eremum, reinforces the heraldic trace by filling the space around the Sun with a simple metonymy: desert > vast > solid field. Furthermore, as we know, salt may be obtained by the evaporative action of sunrays. Such a circumstance will articulate with the aridity associated with the desert through a compound metonymy. We have on the one hand the sequential metonymization: salt > evaporation > heat > Sun and on the other hand: desert > hot > heat > Sun, both converging to the same. Despite the dominance of the Sun in the drawing it's only a complement, more precisely a prop, never mentioned directly by the designant, as we thought previously.


Comparing the above with Portucalis ~ Porta cales, two distinct visual versions of the Sun emerge. The first is fairly simple: round and yellow; in reality it behaves as exclusively complementary, characterizing the blue of the field as Heaven and also feeding the heat of Hell. The second, we study now, shows the classic traces of a heraldic Sun with rays, occupying the largest advisable area of the field at the centre. The solar disc is golden in both, but a red tincture is added to the second, painting the surrounding rays. These colours may be based on the most elementary considerations about the nature of the Sun, perhaps we may call it a medieval conception: its heat seemed to disappear almost completely during the rigorous European winters but its light remained unchanged. Therefore, the fundamental nature of the Sun should have been understood more as a luminous radiance and less as a heating power. Maybe a consequence of the various associations of God with light, eventually inherited from former pagan beliefs. Contrastingly it would be possible to associate the heat of the Sun with Hell, although by divine authority, as we saw. The dichotomy light-heat is needed for the heraldic trace of Salerno because heat is an immanence both of the desert and the Sun, further metonymically linked with salt. Then yellow would relate to light whereas red would represent heat. Although we are aware that the Sun in splendour usually represents that star entirely in red[7], we remember that formal heraldic rules will appear only many years later.


[1] CLEMMENSEN, Steen - Armorial Wijnberghen - Farum: Accessed 13 June 2012, available in: <>, 2009.

[2] TIMMS, Brian - Heraldry - [s.l] : Accessed 13 June 2012, available in: <>, 2011.

[3] Respectively the counties of Ziegenhein, Antwerp and Spiegelberg.

[4] BERTHIER, Guillaume F. - Les Psaumes Traduites en François, avec des Réflexions - 3rd ed. Vol. IV - Adrien Le Clère - Paris - 1807.

[5] See the post Portucalis: Door & Bezant.

[6] We use, as before, the X-SAMPA alphabet.

[7] The translation refers to the Portuguese heraldic practice of a sun with sixteen rays, all in red, emblazoned as a “sombra de Sol”.



Attributed Arms R King of Salerno
Territorial M Salerno
Imaginary language V Salernum (Latin)
Denominant A Salernum
Graphemization A S | A | L | E | R | N | U | M
Phonemization A [ s | a | l | E | r | n | u | m ]
Pairing A [ s | a | l | E | r | _ | n | u | m ]
A [ s | a | l | e | 4 | e | m | u | m ]
Coefficient of transposition A 0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0|0.0
Coefficient of character A 0.0|0.0|0.0|0.5|0.5|1.0|0.5|0.0|0.0
Coefficient of position A 0.0|0.0|0.0|1.0|1.0|1.0|1.0|0.0|0.0
Addends A 0.0|0.0|0.0|0.5|0.5|1.0|0.5|0.0|0.0
Discretion index A k = 0.56
Phonemization A [ s | a | l | _ | e | 4 | e | m | u | m ]
Graphemization A S | A | L | _ | E | R | E | M | U | M
Designant A sal | eremum
Compound polysemy S salt | desert
S salt | hot, vast, arid
Material + Toponymy E salt + desert
Tincture H whitish Argent
Immanence C salt
Contrast C gules
Separation H vastness (solid)
Immanence C desert
Simple metonymy S desert > vast > solid field
Number H 1 a
Compound metonymy 1/2 S desert > arid > hot > heat > Sun
Figuration H Sun Sun in splendour
Filling C shield's area
Centrality C fess point
Prop C source of heat
Tincture H heatgules
Immanence C Sun
Contrast C argent, or
Compound metonymy 2/2 S salt > evaporation > heat > Sun
Figuration H round pierced
Immanence C Sun
Tincture H light or
Immanence C Sun
Contrast C gules


(next analysis in this blog is here)

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Published at 17:46

Objection IV - Canting arms or heraldic parophony?

Published by Carlos da Fonte, em 04.06.12

Q: Canting arms and heraldic parophony, are they incompatible concepts?


A: The concept of heraldic parophony was deliberately developed in our thesis to appraise the phenomena under analysis and then to formulate a hypothesis adapted to our objectives. The need to define this idea precisely derived from the descriptive insufficiency of analogous heraldic phenomena: canting arms and rebus. Heraldists tend to characterize these by means of similar concepts: puns, analogies or allegories; most obvious if there is a total identification between what is described and what is drawn in the blazon. We remember how heraldic parophony was defined:


Association by phonetic correspondence of the designation of one or more original visual heraldic elements, the designant, and the direct or indirect denomination of the blazon’s referent, the denominant


It should be noted, in the first place, that we introduced essential subsidiary definitions, the denominant and designant, as these are the elements which enclose the "canting" action. In this type of arms the denominant may be identified with the emblazoned title, but as we verified later, its applicative extension was significantly larger. The designant, for its turn, may be matched with the description of the drawing in the text of the emblazonment. Therefore, the denominant León, entitled as King of León, is canted by the designant lion which is emblazoned argent a lion purpure.


Secondly, it presents the concept of phonetical correspondence between the denominant and the designant. Instead of nebulous puns or analogies, we applied a measurable principle: the phonemes should have a two-way association within both elements. This correspondence is defined during the step of accommodation and finally evaluated by the estimate of a discretion index, helping to decide on the reasonableness of the parophony denominant-designant.


Thirdly, the visual elements of the arms, their shape and tinctures, must be primitive, namely those that appeared during the establishment of every blazon. Inherited arms, augmented arms, fake arms, etc., can't be included in the parophonic analysis or, at least, are hard to analyse from a canting perspective. The well determined occasion of a blazon's birth will also bear, among others, its specific cultural, genealogical and historical environments, implying, therefore, the languages, the heraldic traditions, the territorial domains, the political influences, etc.


Fourthly, the themes of our canting, the denominants, shouldn't be narrowed to the emblazoned titles, subject to the vagaries of a writing hand, instead to a similar, yet more precise approach, a referent, in strict relationship to the signifier embodying the symbolization of our referent, the blazon. The most usual case of a referent is the first owner of the arms. Others exist, although impersonal: the institutional referents in the shields of military orders, the professional referents within the heraldry of the guilds, the ecclesiastical referents in diocesan arms.


Finally, the denomination of the referent won't be a repetition of its own name, as expected, but alternately an intermediary denomination emerging by metonymy, building a link between the referent and the denominant. As a metonymy, it is established by semantic contiguity, in such a way that we can associate a count to the name of his county, certainly, but also to the name of the place where he lived or the name of his vassals. And those are the metonymies which will be transformed later into a designant and drawings or colours through the linguistic processes of verbalization, accommodation, sematization and specification, irrelevant to detail now.


Sometimes the traditional interpretations also postulate that the "main" charge in the shield is the only visual feature necessary and sufficient to characterize canting arms. Apart from considering this principality a rather subjective concept, we may be curious enough to ask why these "secondary" charges or tinctures should be excluded from our considerations. With regards to the latter they have been often mentioned as canting in the literature. Admitting this possibility we can't strictly exclude other instances, either in the traditional or parophonic heraldic systems. With regards to the "secondary" charges there are numerous and rather enlightening examples of their use in rebus, remitting to the same logical conclusion. Our investigation has found dozens of parophonies in correspondence with the tinctures or with the said charges.


The sources of inspiration for the classical canting arms have shown to be scarce. Almost all, we stress, indicate an explicit jurisdictional or familiar description: the lion (llión) of the Kingdom of León (Llión), the straws (pallas) of the county of Pallars (Pallars), the monk (Mönch) of the city of Munich (München), the goats (cabras) of the house Cabral. Our research challenged this presumption by allowing us to adapt a semiotic framework to heraldry, with obvious examples of the use of cities' names, oronyms, hydronyms, ethnonyms and anthroponyms, besides the classical territorial denominations notwithstanding less frequent. These uses seem to transcend the jurisdictional classifications and tend to keep consistency being an empire or a modest lordship.


Another limitation, apparently a more artificial one, would be the language used by the authors of the arms. If the blazon appears in France, we'd use French, Spanish if in Spain, English if in England. But things were different more than six hundred years ago. As we may see in the post Objection II - The Use of Latin, there is no acceptable reason to exclude this language from the primitive heraldic uses. Latin corresponds to 17% of the parophonies found in the samples of the thesis. The awareness of this influence has been increasing with the development of our research. The same may be said about regional languages, now in minority, which were generally understood and accepted before in their places of origin or, contrastingly, those only spoken by a few holding the political power. As we found out earlier, Anglo-Norman was the main parophonic language in the British Isles, producing almost 11% of all parophonies. There is no other way to understand the mentality inspiring the authors of canting arms than coming back to the period when they lived, quite distinct from ours in all aspects.


Therefore, we may conclude that it is impossible to reconcile the conventional point of view on canting arms and the propositions of heraldic parophony. This doesn't mean that common concepts and words can't be applied interchangeably, as both describe the same heraldic facts. The main difference is that whereas the former allows a restriction to the extent of the phenomenon, maybe 15% of the primitive arms might be considered as canting, heraldic parophony dares to admit that the majority, if not almost all earlier medieval arms abide by the laws of parophony in lesser or greater degree.

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Published at 13:51

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