A Semiotic Approach on How Meaning Can Be Created in an Audience

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A Semiotic Approach on How Meaning can Be Created In An Audience

“Human intellectual and social life is based on the production, use, and exchange of signs” (Danesi, 2002) As Danesi (2002) states, signs are an integral part of society; from watching television, listening to music, reading, writing or talking, we are engaged in sign based behaviour. This engagement with signs is known as the study of semiotics. Dating back to 460-377BC, with the founder of Western medical science, Hippocrates, coining the term, then known as semeiotics, he described signs consisting of three dimensions; the physical dimension, known as the signifier, the referent, or signified, and the signification (Danesi, 2002). These dimensions only have meaning when “it has someone to mean to” (Williamson, 1978). In the 20th century, semiotic theory was developed by a group of semioticians, linguists, psychologists and cultural theorists, based on the saussurean-Piercean paradigm (Danesi, 2002). First introduced to the public in the 1950’s by Roland Barthes, to describe our mediated culture, semiotics is essential when creating an advertisement. Among other things, semiotics plays a significant role in engaging the intended audience- the buyer. Whether it is the elderly, teens, children, men or women, the placement of colours, text, images and other signs, play a key role in the success of the advertisement (Scott, 1994).

By taking a semiotic approach, this essay will demonstrate how meaning can be created in an audience, by the analysis of two advertisements, and discussing how codes and context are central in the ‘anchoring’ of meaning.

First introduced by Roland Barthes (1977), the notion of anchorage, discusses the linguistic essentials that can help anchor, or constrain, how a reader interprets an image: “to fix the floating chain of signifieds” (Barthes, 1977). The advertisements chosen are from differing and contrasting magazines; the first from iconic fashion magazine Vogue...
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