Definition of semiotics
• It is the study of signs and symbols.
• It looks how signs and symbols are used
to communicate and develop
• Derived from the Greek word
“semeiotikos” which means an observant
Advantages of semiotics
• Allows us to break down a message into its
component parts and examine them separately
and in relationship to one another.
• Allows us to look for patterns across different
forms of communication.
• Helps us to understand how our cultural and
social conventions relate to the communication
we create and consume.
• Helps us to get beyond the obvious which may
not be obvious after all.
Signs and symbols
• Sign is a symbol which is understood to
refer to something other than itself
• Symbol is an object that represents,
stands for or suggest an idea or visual
• Ferdinand de Saussure.
• Roland Barthes.
• Stuart hall.
• Charles pierce.
Ferdinand De Saussure
• He was a Swiss linguistic who
created the term “semiotics”.
• He distinguished between
signifier and signified.
Signifier and Signified
• Sign is made up of:
• The image or sound that gives a meaning e.g.
• The concept or meaning that the sign refers to e.g. blue colour
is often associated with sadness or the sea.
• Therefore for a sign to be considered a
sign it must have a signifier and the
• Saussure argues that words are verbal
signifiers that are personal to whoever is
interpreting them .
• A signifier can have many different
representations which can turn into a
Signifier and signified in camera
Pan down Power/Authority
Pan up Small/weak
Dolly in Focus
Fade in/out Start or end
• He was a French literary theorist , critic
and like Saussure was also interested in
• His semiotic theory focuses on how signs
and photographs represent different
cultures and ideologies in different ways.
• These messages are established in two
• The literal meaning of the sign.
• The suggested meaning of the sign and the
cultural conventions associated with the
• Refers to the collective , unconscious
meaning created as the result of a
• Barthes proposed that a myth is a chain
of semiotic events which when
experienced or seen by members of
society creates a subconscious meaning.
• When members of society come across the
signs of McDonalds , KFC and Pizza hut the
myth would be consumerism , capitalism and
• Society members will not register on a conscious
level whereas the literal meaning is that they are
• He is a cultural theorist and sociologist.
• Hall’s encoding/decoding model is a part of the reception
theory that looks at how audience interpret and respond
to particular medium whether it be a newspaper or
• He said that the institutions encode a particular media
message which creates a new form of communication and
then the audience decodes this meaning using their own
methods of logical interpretation.
• For Hall the denotation an connotation
process is an analytical tool.
• He also argues that it is very rare for signs
to signify their literal meaning in the world
and most of the signs will combine both the
denotative and connotative process and
work simultaneously together to create
• He also argued that for those decoding
readings there can be a number of
unlimited readings and that the decoding
process is “polysemic” meaning that one
text can have a number of meanings.
• He was born on 10 September
• He followed a career in math ,
philosophy and was a logician.
• Every thought is a sign and every act or
reasoning of the interpretation of signs
• Signs function as mediators between the
external world of objects and the internal
world or ideas.
• Semiotics is the process of co-operation
between signs, their objects and their
Forms of sign
• He introduced
The signifier is perceived as resembling the
signified. A pictorial representation , a photograph,
an architect’s model of a building are all icons
because they imitate or copy aspects of their
• An index has a factual or casual
connection that points towards a subject.
• A nest image is an icon but also an index
of a bird.
• A symbol has an arbitrary relationship between
the signifier and the signified.
• The interpreter understands the symbol through
previous knowledge and experience.
• Spoken or written words are symbols.
• For example flags.
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