Saussure said that there are two parts to each sign
Signifier – the label we put on a sign – the name or the sound
Signified – the mental association that we have when we hear or see the sign
Look at these signs – write down the signifier (what it is) and the signified ( what you think of when you see this sign ) Saussure noticed that the link between the signifier (what you call or label a sign) and what it stands for, is a random or arbitrary thing. What is the link between these objects and their labels?
There is no concrete, tangible link between signs and their labels – the words we use for them.
What do these words stand for? What do you think of when you read or say these words?
An index is a sign which is related to the object it represents but not directly or in a concrete way.
For example, a knock on the door – an index of arrival . The knock is not ARRIVAL, it is not a direct representation of arrival, but it indicates arrival and is connected to that event.
Most facial expressions work in an indexical way – because you cannot represent an emotion, we look for signs which indicate them e.g a smile is an index (or sign) of happiness. The smile isn’t a direct representation of happiness.
Indexes are used to represent abstract things – emotions, ideas etc. Most non-verbal signs are indexes.
Look at the signs below – what are the indexes of?