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Language as semiotic system assignment
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Language as semiotic system assignment

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  • 1. 1 LANGUAGE AS A SEMIOTIC SYSTEM Jahanzeb Jahan I.D: 100784-006
  • 2. 2 LANGUAGE AS A SEMIOTIC SYSTEM Contents: (1): What is language? (2): Elements of language (3): What is semiotics? (4): Terminology (5): History of semiotics. (6): Important semioticians. (7): Charles Sanders Peirce’s theory (1839–1914). (8): Ferdinand d sausurre’s theory. (9) Signifier and signified in sausurre’s theory. (10): Conclusion. (11): Bibliography.
  • 3. 3 LAGUAGE AS A SEMIOTIC SYSTEM (1): What is language?  According to sapir (1921) “Language is purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotion, and desires by means of voluntarily produced symbols”.  According to Terger, “Language is system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means which a social group co-operates”.  According to Cambridge Dictionary1995 “Language is system of communication consisting of set of rules (syntax), morphology,(phonology, which decides the way to which these parts can be combined to produce massage (function) that have meanings (Semantics)”.  According to general definition quoted by R.Wardhaugh “Language is a system of conventional symbols used for communication by a whole community”.  According to D.Barton, literacy (1994) “Language is a symbolic system linking what goes on inside our heads with what goes on outside. It mediates between self and society. It is a form of representation, a way of representing the world to ourselves and to others”.
  • 4. 4  According to N.E Wood, in delayed speech and language development: “Language is an organized system of linguistics symbols (words) used by human beings to communication through words. (1): Language is basic to all communication (2): Encompass all forms of expression” (2): ELEMENTS OF LANGUAGE PHONETICS: The study of speech sounds. PHONOLOGY: The study of the sound patterns of language. SYNTACTICS: The study of structure of sentence or rules that govern how words are combined to form phrases and sentences PHONEMES: Smaller unit of speech sound. MORPHEMES: Combination of phonemes makes morphemes. SEMANTICS: The Study of meanings.
  • 5. 5 (3): WHAT IS SEMIOTICS? DEFINITION:  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “Semiotics, also called semiotic studies or semiology, is the study of sign processes (semiosis), or signification and communication, signs and symbols”.  Semiotics has been variously described by JHON LYONS as: “Science of signs, of symbolic behavior or of communication system”.  Explanation of semiotics BY DANIEL CHANDLER: There has been much discussion, within semiotics, of the difference between signs and signals and symbols, and of the scope of the term is ‘COMMUNICATION’. Semiotics could be anywhere. The shortest definition is that it is the study of signs. But that doesn't leave enquirers much wiser. 'What do you mean by a sign?' people usually ask next. The kinds of signs that are likely to spring immediately to mind are those which we routinely refer to as 'signs' in everyday life, such as road signs, pub signs and star signs. If you were to agree with them that semiotics can include the study of all these and more, people will probably assume that semiotics is about 'visual signs'. You would confirm their hunch if you said that signs can also be drawings, paintings and photographs, and by now they'd be keen to direct you to the art and photography sections. But if you are thick-skinned and tell them that it also includes words,
  • 6. 6 sounds and 'body language' they may reasonably wonder what all these things have in common and how anyone could possibly study such disparate phenomena. If you get this far they've probably already 'read the signs' which suggest that you are either eccentric or insane and communication may have ceased. But if you study semiotics in linguistics than you can easily identify what type of explanation linguistics gives us in this respect.  SIGNS AND SYMBOLS IN COMMUNICATION ARE usually divided into three branches: Semantics: Relation between signs and the things to which they refer; their denotata Syntactic: Relations among signs in formal structures Pragmatics: Relation between signs and their effects on those (people) who use them Semiotics is frequently seen as having important anthropological dimensions; for example, Umberto Eco proposes that every cultural phenomenon can be studied as communication. However, some semioticians focus on the logical dimensions of the science. They examine areas belonging also to the natural sciences – such as how organisms make predictions about, and adapt to, their semiotic niche in the world). In general, semiotic theories take signs or sign systems as their object of study: the communication of information in living organisms is covered in biosemiotics or zoosemiosis. Syntactics is the branch of semiotics that deals with the formal properties of signs and symbols. More precisely, syntactics deals with the "rules that govern how words are combined to form phrases and sentences." Charles Morris adds that semantics deals with the relation of signs to their designata and the objects which they may or do denote; and, pragmatics deals with the biotic aspects of semiosis,
  • 7. 7 that is, with all the psychological, biological, and sociological phenomena which occur in the functioning of signs.____ WIKIPEDIA ENCYCLOPEDIA. (4): TERMINOLOGY The term, which was spelled semiotics (Greek: σημειωτικός, semeiotikos, an interpreter of signs), was first used in English by Henry Stubbes (1670, p. 75) in a very precise sense to denote the branch of medical science relating to the interpretation of signs. John Locke used the terms semeiotike and semeiotics in Book 4, Chapter 21 of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). In the nineteenth century, Charles Sanders Peirce defined what he termed "semiotic" (which he sometimes spelt as "semeiotic") as the "quasi-necessary, or formal doctrine of signs", which abstracts "what must be the characters of all signs used by...an intelligence capable of learning by experience", and which is philosophical logic pursued in terms of signs and sign processes. Charles Morris followed Peirce in using the term "semiotic" and in extending the discipline beyond human communication to animal learning and use of signals. Ferdinand de Saussure, however, viewed the most important area within semiotics as belonging to the social sciences: It is... possible to conceive of a science which studies the role of signs as part of social life. It would form part of social psychology, and hence of general psychology. We shall call it semiology (from the Greek semeîon, 'sign'). It would investigate the nature of signs and the laws governing them. Since it does not yet
  • 8. 8 exist, one cannot say for certain that it will exist. But it has a right to exist, a place ready for it in advance. Linguistics is only one branch of this general science. The laws which semiology will discover will be laws applicable in linguistics, and linguistics will thus be assigned to a clearly defined place in the field of human knowledge. —Cited in Chandler's "Semiotics For Beginners", Introduction. (5): HISTORY OF SEMIOTICS The importance of signs and signification has been recognized throughout much of the history of philosophy, and in psychology as well. Plato and Aristotle both explored the relationship between signs and the world, and Augustine considered the nature of the sign within a conventional system. These theories have had a lasting effect in Western philosophy, especially through Scholastic philosophy. More recently, Umberto Eco, in his Semiotics and philosophy of language, has argued that semiotic theories are implicit in the work of most, perhaps all, major thinkers. Early theorists in this area include Charles W. Morris, Max Black attributes the work of Bertrand Russell as being seminal. (6): IMPORTANT SEMIOTICIANS
  • 9. 9 • Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914), the founder of the philosophical doctrine known as pragmatism (which he later renamed "pragmaticism" to distinguish it from the pragmatism developed by others like William James), preferred the terms "semiotic" and "semeiotic." He defined semiosis as "...action, or influence, which is, or involves, a cooperation of three subjects, such as a sign, its object, and its interpretant, this tri-relative influence not being in any way resolvable into actions between pairs." ("Pragmatism", Essential Peirce 2: 411; written 1907). His notion of semiosis evolved throughout his career, beginning with the triadic relation just described, and ending with a system consisting of 59,049 (= 310, or 3 to the 10th power) possible elements and relations. One reason for this high number is that he allowed each interpretant to act as a sign, thereby creating a new signifying relation. Peirce was also a notable logician, and he considered semiotics and logic as facets of a wider theory. For a summary of Peirce's contributions to semiotics, see Liszka (1996). • Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913), the "father" of modern linguistics, proposed a dualistic notion of signs, relating the signifier as the form of the word or phrase uttered, to the signified as the mental concept. It is important to note that, according to Saussure, the sign is completely arbitrary, i.e. there was no necessary connection between the sign and its meaning. This sets him apart from previous philosophers such as Plato or the Scholastics, who thought that there must be some connection between a signifier and the object it signifies. In his Course in General Linguistics, Saussure himself credits the American linguist William Dwight Whitney (1827–1894) with insisting on the arbitrary nature of the sign. Saussure's insistence on the arbitrariness of the sign has also greatly influenced later philosophers, especially postmodern theorists such as Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, and Jean Baudrillard. Ferdinand de Saussure coined the
  • 10. 10 term semiologie while teaching his landmark "Course on General Linguistics" at the University of Geneva from 1906–11. Saussure posited that no word is inherently meaningful. Rather a word is only a "signifier," i.e. the representation of something, and it must be combined in the brain with the "signified," or the thing itself, in order to form a meaning-imbued "sign." Saussure believed that dismantling signs was a real science, for in doing so we come to an empirical understanding of how humans synthesize physical stimuli into words and other abstract concepts. • Jakob von Uexküll (1864–1944) studied the sign processes in animals. He introduced the concept of Umwelt (subjective world or environment, lit. "world around") and functional circle (Funktionskreis) as a general model of sign processes. In his Theory of Meaning (Bedeutungslehre, 1940), he described the semiotic approach to biology, thus establishing the field that is now called biosemiotics. • Valentin Voloshinov (Russian: Валенти́н Никола́евич Воло́шинов) (1895 – June 13, 1936) was a Soviet/Russian linguist, whose work has been influential in the field of literary theory and Marxist theory of ideology. Written in the late 1920s in the USSR, Voloshinov's Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (tr.: Marksizm i Filosofiya Yazyka) developed a counter-Saussurean linguistics, which situated language use in social process rather than in an entirely decontexualized Saussurean langue. • Louis Hjelmslev (1899–1965) developed a formalist approach to Saussure's structuralist theories. His best known work is Prolegomena to a Theory of Language, which was expanded in Résumé of the Theory of Language, a formal development of glossematics, his scientific calculus of language. • Charles W. Morris (1901–1979). In his 1938 Foundations of the Theory of Signs, he defined semiotics as grouping the triad syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Syntax studies the interrelation of the signs, without regard to meaning. Semantics studies the relation between the signs and the objects to
  • 11. 11 which they apply. Pragmatics studies the relation between the sign system and its human (or animal) user. Unlike his mentor George Herbert Mead, Morris was a behaviorist and sympathetic to the Vienna Circle positivism of his colleague Rudolf Carnap. Morris has been accused of misreading Peirce. • Thure von Uexküll (1908–2004), the "father" of modern psychosomatic medicine, developed a diagnostic method based on semiotic and biosemiotic analyses. • Roland Barthes (1915–1980) was a French literary theorist and semiotician. He would often interrogate pieces of cultural material to expose how bourgeois society used them to assert its values upon others. For instance, portrayal of wine in French society as a robust and healthy habit would be a bourgeois ideal perception contradicted by certain realities (i.e. that wine can be unhealthy and inebriating). He found semiotics useful in these interrogations. Barthes explained that these bourgeois cultural myths were second-order signs, or connotations. A picture of a full, dark bottle is a sign, a signifier relating to a signified: a fermented, alcoholic beverage – wine. However, the bourgeois take this signified and apply their own emphasis to it, making ‘wine’ a new signifier, this time relating to a new signified: the idea of healthy, robust, relaxing wine. Motivations for such manipulations vary from a desire to sell products to a simple desire to maintain the status quo. These insights brought Barthes very much in line with similar Marxist theory. • Algirdas Julien Greimas (1917–1992) developed a structural version of semiotics named generative semiotics, trying to shift the focus of discipline from signs to systems of signification. His theories develop the ideas of Saussure, Hjelmslev, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Maurice Merleau- Ponty. • Thomas A. Sebeok (1920–2001), a student of Charles W. Morris, was a prolific and wide-ranging American semiotician. Though he insisted that animals are not capable of language, he expanded the purview of semiotics
  • 12. 12 to include non-human signaling and communication systems, thus raising some of the issues addressed by philosophy of mind and coining the term zoosemiotics. Sebeok insisted that all communication was made possible by the relationship between an organism and the environment it lives in. He also posed the equation between semiosis (the activity of interpreting signs) and life – the view that has further developed by Copenhagen-Tartu biosemiotic school. • Juri Lotman (1922–1993) was the founding member of the Tartu (or Tartu-Moscow) Semiotic School. He developed a semiotic approach to the study of culture and established a communication model for the study of text semiotics. He also introduced the concept of the semiosphere. Among his Moscow colleagues were Vladimir Toporov, Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov, and Boris Uspensky. • Umberto Eco (1932–present) made a wider audience aware of semiotics by various publications, most notably A Theory of Semiotics and his novel The Name of the Rose, which includes applied semiotic operations. His most important contributions to the field bear on interpretation, encyclopedia, and model reader. He has also criticized in several works (A theory of semiotics, La struttura assente, Le signe, La production de signes) the "iconism" or "iconic signs" (taken from Peirce's most famous triadic relation, based on indexes, icons, and symbols), to which he purposes four modes of sign production: recognition, ostension, replica, and invention. • Eliseo Verón (1935-present) developed his "Social Discourse Theory" inspired in the Peircian conception of "Semiosis". • The Mu Group (Groupe µ) (founded 1967) developed a structural version of rhetorics, and the visual semiotics. (7): Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914)
  • 13. 13 We seem as a species to be driven by a desire to make meanings: above all, we are surely Homo significans - meaning- makers. Distinctively, we make meanings through our creation and interpretation of 'signs'. Indeed, according to Peirce, 'we think only in signs' (Peirce 1931-58, 2.302). Signs take the form of words, images, sounds, odours, flavours, acts or objects, but such things have no intrinsic meaning and become signs only when we invest them with meaning. 'Nothing is a sign unless it is interpreted as a sign', declares Peirce (Peirce 1931-58, 2.172) (8): Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913) Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics (1916) is a summary of his lectures at the University of Geneva from 1906 to 1911. Saussure examines the relationship between speech and the evolution of language, and investigates language as a structured system of signs. The text includes an introduction to the history and subject-matter of linguistics; an appendix entitled “Principles of Phonology;” and five main sections, entitled: “Part One: General Principles,” “Part Two: Synchronic Linguistics,” “Part Three: Diachronic Linguistics,” “Part Four: Geographical Linguistics,” and “Part Five: Concerning Retrospective Linguistics.” “Saussure defines linguistics as the study of language and as the study of the manifestations of human speech”
  • 14. 14 . He says that linguistics is also concerned with the history of languages, and with the social or cultural influences that shape the development of language. Linguistics includes such fields of study as: Phonology (the study of the sound patterns of language), Phonetics (the study of the production and perception of the sounds of speech), morphology (the study of word formation and structure), Syntax (the study of grammar and sentence structure), Semantics (the study of meaning), pragmatics (the study of the purposes and effects of uses of language) , and language acquisition.  Saussure draws a distinction between: language (langue) and the activity of speaking (parole). Explanation: when we say of someone that he speaks English, we can mean one of two things: (a); that he, habitually or occasionally, engages in a particular kind of behaviour or (b): that he has ability(whether he exercised it or not) to engage in this particular kind of behaviour referring to the former as PERFORMANCE and latter as COMPETENCE, we can say hat performance presupposes competence, whereas competence does not presupposes performance the concepts of competence and performance is given by Chomsky.____ by JHON LYONS, LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTICS INTRODUCTION. Speaking is an activity of the individual; language is the social manifestation of speech. Language is a system of signs that evolves from the activity of speech.
  • 15. 15  Language is a link between thought and sound: Language is a link between thought and sound and is a means for thought to be expressed as sound. Thoughts have to become ordered, and sounds have to be articulated, for language to occur. Saussure says that language is really a borderland between thought and sound, where thought and sound combine to provide communication. Spoken language includes the communication of concepts by means of sound- images from the speaker to the listener. Language is a product of the speaker’s communication of signs to the listener. Saussure says “that a linguistic sign is a combination of a concept and a sound-image. The concept is what is signified, and the sound-image is the signifier. The combination of the signifier and the signified is arbitrary; i.e., any sound-image can conceivably be used to signify a particular concept”. A sign can be altered by a change in the relationship between the signifier and the signified. According to Saussure, changes in linguistic signs originate in changes in the social activity of speech. Saussure says that linguistic signs are by nature linear, because they represent a span in a single dimension. Auditory signifiers are linear, because they succeed each other or form a chain. Visual signifiers, in contrast, may be grouped simultaneously in several dimensions. Relations between linguistic signs can be either: syntagmatic (linear, sequential, or successive), or associative (substitutive, or having indeterminate order).  Study of signs (Semiology):
  • 16. 16 sassure defines semiology as the study of signs, and says that linguistics is a part of semiology. He maintains that written language exists for the purpose of representing spoken language. A written word is an image of a vocal sign. “ Saussure argues that language is a structured system of arbitrary signs.” . A symbol may be a signifier, but in contrast to a sign, a symbol is never completely arbitrary. A symbol has a rational relationship with what is signified. Linguistic signs may, to a varying extent, be changeable or unchangeable. Deterrents to linguistic change include: the arbitrary nature of signs, the multiplicity of signs necessary to form a language, and the complexity of the structure of language. Factors that promote change in language include: individual variation in the use of language, and the extent to which language can be influenced by social forces. Saussure distinguishes between synchronic (static) linguistics and diachronic (evolutionary) linguistics. Synchronic linguistics: is the study of language at a particular point in time. Diachronic linguistics: is the study of the history or evolution of language. According to Saussure, diachronic change originates in the social activity of speech. Changes occur in individual patterns of speaking before becoming more widely accepted as a part of language. Speaking is an activity which involves oral and auditory communication between individuals. Language is the set of rules by which individuals are able to understand each other. Saussure says that nothing enters written language without having been tested in spoken language. Language is changed by the rearranging and reinterpreting of its
  • 17. 17 units. A unit is a segment of the spoken chain that corresponds to a particular concept Saussure explains that the units of language can have a synchronic or diachronic arrangement. Saussure’s investigation of structural linguistics gives us a clear and concise presentation of the view that language can be described in terms of structural units. He explains that this structural aspect means that language also represents a system of values. Linguistic value can be viewed as a quality of the signified, the signifier, or the complete sign. (9): Signifier and signified: The linguistic value of a word (a signifier) comes from its property of standing for a concept (the signified). The value of the signified comes from its relation to other concepts. The value of the complete sign comes from the way in which it unites the signifier and the signified. Saussure offered a 'dyadic' or two-part model of the sign. He defined a sign as being composed of:  a 'signifier' (signifiant) - the form which the sign takes; and  the 'signified' (signifié) - the concept it represents. The sign is the whole that results from the association of the signifier with the signified (Saussure 1983, 67; Saussure 1974, 67). The relationship between the signifier and the signified is referred to as 'signification', and this represented in the Saussurean diagram by the arrows. The horizontal line marking the two elements of the sign is referred to as 'the bar'. If we take a linguistic example, the word 'Open' (when it is invested with meaning by someone who encounters it on a shop doorway) is a sign consisting of:
  • 18. 18  a signifier: the word open;  a signified concept: that the shop is open for business. A sign must have both a signifier and a signified. You cannot have a totally meaningless signifier or a completely formless signified (Saussure 1983, 101; Saussure 1974, 102-103). Nowadays, whilst the basic 'Saussurean' model is commonly adopted, it tends to be a more materialistic model than that of Saussure himself. The signifier is now commonly interpreted as the material (or physical) form of the sign - it is something which can be seen, heard, touched, smelt or tasted. For Saussure, both the signifier and the signified were purely 'psychological' (Saussure 1983, 12, 14-15, 66; Saussure 1974, 12, 15, 65-66). Both were form rather than substance: “A linguistic sign is not a link between a thing and a name, but between a concept and a sound pattern. The sound pattern is not actually a sound; for a sound is something physical. A sound pattern is the hearer's psychological impression of a sound, as given to him by the evidence of his senses. This sound pattern may be called a 'material' element only in that it is the representation of our sensory impressions. The sound pattern may thus be distinguished from the other element associated with it in a linguistic sign. This other element is generally of a more abstract kind: the concept”. (Saussure 1983, 66; Saussure 1974, 66) Saussure was focusing on the linguistic sign (such as a word) and he 'phonocentrically' privileged the spoken word, referring specifically to the image acoustique ('sound-image' or 'sound pattern'), seeing writing as a separate, secondary, dependent but comparable sign system (Saussure 1983, 15, 24-25, 117; Saussure 1974, 15, 16, 23-24, 119). A sign is a recognizable combination of a signifier with a particular signified. The same signifier (the word 'open') could stand for a different signified (and thus be a
  • 19. 19 different sign) if it were on a push-button inside a lift ('push to open door'). Similarly, many signifiers could stand for the concept 'open' (for instance, on top of a packing carton, a small outline of a box with an open flap for 'open this end') - again, with each unique pairing constituting a different sign. The arbitrary aspect of signs does help to account for the scope for their interpretation (and the importance of context). There is no one-to-one link between signifier and signified; signs have multiple rather than single meanings. Within a single language, one signifier may refer to many signifieds (e.g. puns) and one signified may be referred to by many signifiers (e.g. synonyms). Some commentators are critical of the stance that the relationship of the signifier to the signified, even in language, is always completely arbitrary (e.g. Lewis 1991, 29). Onomatopoeic words are often mentioned in this context, though some semioticians retort that this hardly accounts for the variability between different languages in their words for the same sounds (notably the sounds made by familiar animals) (Saussure 1983, 69; Saussure 1974, 69._________ Cited in Chandler's "Semiotics For Beginners", Introduction. . Thus, Saussure shows that the meaning or signification of signs is established by their relation to each other. The relation of signs to each other forms the structure of language. Synchronic reality is found in the structure of language at a given point in time. Diachronic reality is found in changes of language over a period of time. Saussure views language as having an inner duality, which is manifested by the interaction of the synchronic and diachronic, the syntagmatic and associative, the signifier and signified_____________ Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, edited by Charler Bally and Albert Sechehaye in collaboration with Albert Riedlinger, translated by Wade Baskin (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1966) pp. 68-73.
  • 20. 20 (10): Conclusion In early 19th century many semioticians described theory that language as semiotic system. Charles pierce and Ferdinand de Saussure also generator of this theory but saussurre is considered to be FATHER of modern linguistics. he described language as semiotic system in his book. His concept of language as semiotic system is based on structuralism, which was his famous theory based on language structure. In describing language as semiotic system, he described characteristics of language as arbitrariness, duality etc.He has paved way for new researches in linguistics. Bibliography:  JHON LYONS, LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTICS AN INTRODUCTION.  MARIE EMMITT, JHON POLLOCK, LINDA KOMESAROFF, IN LANGUAGE AND LEARNING third edition oxford press.  Daniel chandler, semiotics for beginners introduction.  Ferdinand d Saussure, course in general linguistics, edited by Charles Bally and AlbertSechehaye in collaboration with Albert Riedlinger, translated by wade baskin(new york:Mc Graw-Hill Book Company,1996)pp.68-73.  Wikipedia, free encyclopedia.
  • 21. 21