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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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Junho 2012