1.What is semiotics?
?The shortest definition
the study of signs
('signs' in everyday life; 'visual signs': art and photography ; words, sounds and 'body
?Ferdinand de Saussure:
a science which studies the role of signs as part of social life (semiology),
investigate the nature of signs and the laws governing them. Linguistics is
only one branch of this general science.
?One of the broadest definitions is that of Umberto Eco:
Semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign.
(Even of anything which 'stands for' something else. In a semiotic sense,
signs take the form of words, images, sounds, gestures and objects.)
?Semiotics and that branch of linguistics known as semantics have a common concern with the meaning of signs, but John Sturrock argues
that whereas semantics focuses on what words mean, semiotics is
concerned with how signs mean.
? For C.W Morris (deriving this threefold classification from Peirce) Semiotics embraced semantics, along with the other traditional branches of linguistics:
; semantics: the relationship of signs to what they stand for
; syntactics (syntax): the formal or structural relations between signs
; pragmatics: the relation of signs to interpreters
? Semiotics represents a range of studies in art, literature, anthropology and the mass media rather than an independent academic discipline. (linguists, philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, literary, aesthetic and media theorists, psychoanalysts and educationalists.) It is not only concerned
with (intentional) communication but also with our ascription of significance to anything in the world.
? There are two divergent traditions in semiotics stemming respectively from Saussure and Peirce.
; 'Semiotic' tradition of Peirce: draws heavily on linguistic concepts
; 'Semiological' tradition of Saussure : saw linguistics as a branch of 'semiology'
? The study of signs is the study of the construction and maintenance of
2.What does semiotic do/ What is the significance of semiotics? ? Semiotics is often employed in the analysis of texts (although it is far
more than just a mode of textual analysis).
[ The term text usually refers to a message which has been recorded in some way (e.g. writing, audio- and video-recording) so that it is physically independent of its sender or receiver. A text is an assemblage of signs (such as words, images, sounds and/or gestures) constructed (and interpreted) with reference to the conventions associated with a genre and in a particular medium of communication.]
[The term 'medium' is used in a variety of ways by different theorists, and may
or relate include such broad categories as speech and writing or print and broadcasting
to specific technical forms within the mass media (radio, television, newspapers,
magazines, books, photographs, films and records) or the media of interpersonal
communication (telephone, letter, fax, e-mail, video-conferencing, computer-based chat systems).]
[Other approaches to textual analysis apart from semiotics: rhetorical analysis, discourse analysis and 'content analysis'. In the field of media and communication studies content analysis is a prominent rival to semiotics as a method of textual analysis.]
? Semiotics is important because it can help us not to take 'reality' for
granted as something having a purely objective existence which is independent of human interpretation.
What semiotics teach us:
?Studying semiotics can assist us to become more aware of reality as a construction
and of the roles played by ourselves and others in constructing it.
?It can help us to realize that information or meaning is not 'contained' in the world or
in books, computers or audio-visual media. Meaning is not 'transmitted' to us - we
actively create it according to a complex interplay of codes or conventions of which
we are normally unaware. Becoming aware of such codes is both inherently fascinating and intellectually empowering.
?we live in a world of signs and we have no way of understanding anything except through signs and the codes into which they are organized. These signs and codes are
normally transparent and disguise our task in 'reading' them. Living in a world of increasingly visual signs, we need to learn that even the most 'realistic' signs are not what they appear to be.
?By making more explicit the codes by which signs are interpreted, we may perform
Deconstructing and contesting the valuable semiotic function of 'denaturalizing' signs.
the realities of signs can reveal whoserealities are privileged and whose are suppressed.
?From the usage of semiotics we can redefine "study of sign":The study of signs
is the study of the construction and maintenance of reality.
3.Development/Things need to pay attention to
Two main streams:
Structuralists seek to describe the overall organization of sign systems as 'languages';
Social semiotics has moved beyond the structuralist concern with the internal relations of parts within a self-contained system, seeking to explore the use of signs in
specific social situations.