Part One: Semiotic Analysis
Defining and Explaining Semiotics 1. What is meant by Semiotics?
Semiotics is the science of signs. It helps us better understand how messages are constructed through different media forms like still images, film, television and other works of art. It is the study of social production of meanings using sign systems which helps us understand how certain things come to have certain meanings. Semiotics was developed as a method of analysis by 20th century by linguistic theorists such as Saunders Peirce, Ferdinand de Saussure and Roland Barthes.
According to Saussure, the fundamental unit of meaning was the “sign”, which is anything that makes a meaning. There are two elements of a sign, the “signifier”, and the “signified”. The signified is the object, image, word etc. that signifies. The signified then is the concept conjured up or suggested by the signifier. For example, seeing an image of a red rose (the signifier) might make one think of St Valentine’s Day (the signified).
The most basic form of sign is “denotation”, the literal meaning of a sign, e.g.: the word “rose” signifies an actual flower. “Connotation” then is when a signifier is used for a second or third signified. Signs can link or “connote” something by association. A second signified for the red rose might be romance. If you changed the colour to white, then the signified could be marriage. Finally you have the “referent”, which is the actual physical object referred to by the signified and signifier together.
The American linguist CS Pierce later added to Saussure’s theories. He defined a sign as a “stimulus pattern that has a meaning” (L103, 2000) by identifying three Sign types: * Symbol: a signifier that doesn’t have any resemblance to the signified. This means that the relationship between the two is arbitrary and has to be learned before it can be
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