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SEMIOTICS What is Semiotics? Semiotics is the study of signs. A sign is something that stands for something other than itself.

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Presentation on theme: "SEMIOTICS What is Semiotics? Semiotics is the study of signs. A sign is something that stands for something other than itself."— Presentation transcript:



3 What is Semiotics? Semiotics is the study of signs. A sign is something that stands for something other than itself.

4 For example: An open sign hanging in the window of a business.

5 Or: The sound of a fire engine.

6 Or: The smell of smoke. Powerpoint doesn’t allow the inclusion of smells so use your imagination.

7 Or: A word such as, “Tree” or a picture: Or a drawing:

8 What about some random scratches in the dirt? Is that a sign?

9 What if the scratches look like so: OX What does this represent?

10 Maybe this OX

11 What if it’s this instead? OX What does this stand for? What is the difference?

12 Two main approaches: Ferdinand de Saussure 1857-1913 Charles Sander Pierce 1839-1914


14 Saussure Signs are purely psychological. Signs only make sense in a formal abstract system. A one word language is an impossibility. A sign refers to what it is not.



17 Saussure Saussure believed that signs do not represent reality but construct it. We come to know the world through language. Signs reflect the system they are found in. The relationship between the sign/signifier is not a matter of personal choice. “It is because the sign is arbitrary that it knows no law other than tradition.”


19 Pierce had many(read hundreds) different types of sign but the three most important are: Indexes Icons Symbols

20 Index: The signifier is not arbitrary but is connected to the signified in some way either physically or causally.

21 Index: “I smell smoke!” The smell of smoke could be said to signify fire. It is not arbitrary but directly connected to the thing it signifies.

22 Index: A photograph. Photographs are produced though the reflection of light off the subject.

23 Index: PAIN!!!!!! Powerpoint also lacks the ability to… never mind.

24 Index:

25 Icon: The signifier is not totally arbitrary but resembles the signified in some way.

26 Icon: A cartoon.

27 Icon: A portrait.

28 Icon: Sounds that mimic such as Onomatopoeia.

29 Symbol: The signifier is totally arbitrary and conventional.

30 Symbol: Words and numbers in general fit into this category. There is no reason why “2” should represent what it does. The same is true for the word “tree”. Both come to mean what they do through cultural convention. What about the roman numeral II ? Is it a symbol?


32 Codes: No signifying code(system of signs) can be divorced from a set of social practices. Basic features: All codes have a paradigmatic(they are members of a category) and syntagmatic(the chaining together of the paradigmatic) dimension. All codes covey meaning. Codes depend upon agreement between their users.

33 Codes Representational: Codes that are used to create texts; something that stands for something else independent of its encoder. Presentational: Limited to face to face communication and concerns communication through orientation, gestures, eye movement, proximity, facial expressions, and other examples of “body language”.


35 Barths Connotation Denotation Myth

36 Barths Denotation: Refers to the commonsense meaning of a sign. A photograph of a dog denotes a dog. Connotation: Describes the interaction that occurs between the subjective user and their culture. The photograph of the dog is taken in a way to appear sad.

37 Barths Myth: It is the dominate ideology of or time. It is when connotations become “naturalized”.

38 Barths

39 I am at the barber's, and a copy of Paris-Match is offered to me. On the cover, a young Negro in a French uniform is saluting, with his eyes uplifted, probably fixed on a fold of the tricolour. All this is the meaning of the picture. But, whether naively or not, I see very well what it signifies to me: that France is a great Empire, that all her sons, without any colour discrimination, faithfully serve under her flag, and that there is no better answer to the detractors of an alleged colonialism than the zeal shown by this Negro in serving his so- called oppressors.

40 Stuart Hall 1932-

41 Stuart Hall Encoding/Decoding A message is encoded with one meaning but may be decoded as another. This draws from Gramsci’s theory of Hegemony. The reading of a text may be read(decoded) in three different ways: dominant, negotiated, and oppositional.


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