Signs can be anything which give meaning, this
includes words, pictures, colours, sounds and
Roland Barthes termed denotation and connotations. The meanings
vary according to who is interpreting the sign, the time of writing, the
time of reading or watching and according to the form they take.
Signifier = Denotation
Signified = Connotation
Saussure was the inventor of the theory of the sign. Barthes looked
back at his work and from it created a course in general linguistics.
A polysemous sign is a sign that means lots of things. For example the
denotation an X; this could signify a kiss on a birthday card, a wrong answer
on a maths paper or the 24th letter of the alphabet.
All signs are composed of two parts:
• The signifier – the physical word based form; what we can see or hear –
the exact definition. E.g: dog – a furry animal with four legs and a tail –
• The signified – it’s meaning to the reader/recipient; what we think when
we say the word. (For example when I hear the word dog I think of my
Iconic signs are signs that closely resemble what they signify – possibly a
photograph or picture.
Iconic signs are signs that everyone knows; like the Hollywood sign or the
Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower.
So when I say ‘the Hollywood sign’ everyone thinks of this;
Indexical signs are signs that are some way connected to the image the
represent but which are not directly linked. Instead the recipient is pointed
towards the meaning instead of being given it straight away.
For example: Smoke = fire.
: A cane, dark glasses and a guide dog in a harness = blind person.
Indexical: Denotation: Big, old house
Symbolic signs are signs that have no direct link to what they represent.
These mostly depend on the recipients life experiences.
For example: White doves = Peace
Sun = Happy/new day
Everyone can interoperate things differently so not everyone will see the
same thing as you when something is said.
I have found some iconic signs doing my magazine research such as
the logos for the magazine (everyone pictures the same thing when
you say the name of the magazine);
The amp in this picture is an indexical sign because it is linked to
him as he plays the guitar but that is not directly linked to him as
people know him for his singing more than him as a guitarist, but
the amp is there to suggest to people about him playing the guitar.