Algirdas Julien Greimas

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Algirdas Julien Greimas (originally Algirdas Julius Greimas ; born March 9, 1917 in Tula , † February 27, 1992 in Paris ) was a semiotics and co-founder of the École de Paris of semiotics.


The Greimas family, who lived in Tula (Russia) during the First World War , returned to Lithuania in 1919 . Until 1927, Algirdas Greimas attended the Progymnasium Kupiškis . From 1929 to 1931 he lived in Šiauliai and attended the boys' high school. He graduated from Marijampolė High School . From 1934 to 1935 Greimas studied law at the Vytauto Didžiojo universitetas in Kaunas and from 1936 to 1939 linguistics in Grenoble, where he studied Provençal dialects. In 1939 he returned to Lithuania, became a soldier and fought against the German Wehrmacht . In 1944 he went to Paris and completed his studies at the Sorbonne . He then worked as a lecturer at the universities in Ankara, Istanbul, Poitiers and Alexandria. In Alexandria he met Roland Barthes . An intensive exchange and relationship developed between them. In 1965 he became a professor in Paris.

Theory and work

Greimas published his "Structural Semantics " in 1966 and thus founded modern text semiotics . Greimas is developing a structural analysis here that is closely based on the tradition and further development of the concepts of Saussure and Hjelmslev . Greimas thus essentially founded the Paris School as an independent direction in semiotics. The narrative text is the focus of Greima's analyzes. His theory and research project is referred to as the Paris School narrative discourse grammar .

Greima's semiotic square

His basic statement about the meaning of narration (story) can be described with the sentence: “The world can be told”. This means that not only real experiences and fictions can be told and explained using them, but also cultural and social representations such as the constructions of “ people ”, “ culture ”, “ nation ”, “ democracy ”, “ internet ” etc. These can be analyzed as "narratives".

Greimas' definition of semiotics

According to Greimas, the subject of semiotics is not the development of a theory of signs, but the theory of meaning ( signification ), which deals with the levels above and below the sign.

On the underside, his semiotics examines the side of the sign, commonly referred to as the inside, and analyzes the smallest parts of a sign's meaning, called semes . On the upper side of the sign, units are examined that form text structures as "more than one sign" .

Greimas' text semiotics

Greimas' text semiotics is based on the linguistic structuralism of Louis Hjelmslev , the structural anthropology of Claude Lévi-Strauss and the formalistic theory of the fairy tale by Propp .

Greimas' Structural Semantics

The Greimas'sche Strukturale semantics refers to Saussure's concept of differential quality, Hjelmslev model of glossomatischen sign and the Dependency of Lucien Tesnière .


  • Semantique structurale . Paris: Larousse. 1966.
  • You sens 1970.
  • Maupassant: La sémiotique du text. 1976.
  • Sémiotique et sciences socialles. 1976.
  • Du sens II: Essais sémiotiques. Paris: Editions du Seuil 1983.
  • Sémiotique. Dictionnaire raisonné de la théorie du langage, Volume 1 a. 2., Paris 1979 a. 1986 (together with Joseph Courtés ).
  • Des dieux et des hommes. 1985.
  • De l'imperfection. 1987.
  • Dictionnaire de l'ancien francais: le Moyen Age 1992.

English editions:


  • Peter Stockinger: Semiotics. Contribution to a theory of meaning . Academic publisher H.-D. Heinz, Stuttgart 1983.
  • Peter Stockinger: Conversation with A. J. Greimas. On the current state of semiotic research . In: Zeitschrift für Semiotik 5/1983, pp. 265–278.
  • Dirk de Geest: La sémiotique narrative de A. J. Greimas (traduction du néerlandais par Jan Baetens). In: Image & Narrative. Online Magazine of the Visual Narrative. January 2003 No. 5.
  • Robert Drescher: The narrative as scientific literary theory. Philosophical studies on the narrative theoretical approaches of Franz K. Stanzel and Algirdas Julien Greimas. Tectum publishing house.
  • Oliver Schmidt: Algirdas Julien Greimas: Structural semantics. In: Fairy Tales, Myths, Marlboro Man. The semiotics of the advertising image. An analysis attempt by Roland Barthes and A. J. Greimas. University of Bremen.
  • Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht : Algirdas Julien Greimas. In: Wolf-Dieter Lange (ed.): French literary criticism of the present in individual representations (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 445). Kröner, Stuttgart 1975, ISBN 3-520-44501-8 , pp. 326-350.
  • Winfried Nöth: Handbook of Semiotics. 2nd edition, 2000.
  • Peter W. Marx: Heiner Müller: image description. 1998.
  • Taehwan Kim: From the Actant Model to the Semiotics of Passions. A study of narrative semiotics by Algirdas J. Greimas. Narr, Tübingen 2002.

To criticism

  • J. Gerniasca, D. Bertrand In: Journal for Semiotics. 10 / 3-4, 1998.

Web links