Semiotics is an important concept when it comes to studying media and communications because we use signs whether it is seen, heard or felt in order to communicate. Umberto Eco (1975, p.7) defines semiotics in a broad sense that it is ‘concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign’ however it is unclear specifically what a ‘sign’ is, Daniel Chandler (2007, p2) elaborates further on Eco’s definition by stating that semiotics is ‘anything that stands for something else’. Generally semiotics is referred to as ‘the study of signs’ and these signs can take the form of words, images, sounds, gestures and objects that we use/experience in our everyday lives without realizing. However signs are arbitrary and people may interpret signs differently, semiotics realistically is the study of the meanings behind signs and how/why they are interpreted the way they are.
Meaning-making is the basis of semiotics and Daniel Chandler’s analysis of signs within semiotics demonstrates that the components of a sign (words, images, sounds, etc) only become a ‘sign’ when we attach meaning to it, ‘nothing is a sign unless it is interpreted as a sign’ (Peirce 1931-58, p.227). The Saussurean model focuses on linguistic signs and divides the ‘sign’ up into two different parts, signifier signified and referent. The signifier communicates meaning through the elements of the sign whether it is seen, heard or felt, the signified is the mental concept that results from your encounter with the signifier and the referent is the object, concept or event that is represented by the sign. For example, the signifier is ‘cat’ spoken out loud the signified would be the mental image of a ‘cat’ (small mammal commonly owned as a domestic pet) and the referent would be an actual living cat. Chandler explains that from associating the signifier with the signified results in a ‘sign’ and therefore we cannot have a sign without a signifier or signified as they would have no meaning...
References: McCann, E ‘Sliced Bottle’ for Heinz Tomato Ketchup, retrieved 4 April 2014,
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