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  1. 1. SEMIOTICSThe Study of ‘Signs’ as a tool for Textual Analysis
  2. 2.  A sign in the study of semiotics can be any image, word, or sound. Useful tool in image analysis and construction. Semiotics focuses upon a process called signification.SEMIOTICS
  3. 3.  Linguist Ferdinand de Sassure argued that a ‘sign’ is made up of two parts the ‘signifier’ and the ‘signified’. The ‘signifier’ refers to a physical entity (e.g a word, sound or an image). The ‘signified’ is the mental concept evoked by the ‘signifier’ E.g the image of a furry animal that barks (‘signifier’) evokes the mental concept of a dog (‘signified’) Also if we see ‘dog’ written down on a piece of paper this will evoke the mental concept of a ‘dog’SEMIOTICS
  4. 4. SIGNIFIER SIGNIFIED (physical form) (mental concept) SIGNSEMIOTICS
  5. 5.  This basic level of signification operates at the level of ‘denotation’. In other words we are simply identifying or ‘describing’ a sign. A more complex level of signification operates at the level of ‘connotation’ these are more sophisticated mental associations we conjure up when we come across a particular sign.SEMIOTICS
  6. 6. Denotation furry animal, four legs, barksConnotation dirty, friendly, ‘mans best friend’ dangerous, etc..SEMIOTICS
  7. 7.  A connotative response is less fixed that a denotative response and the associations ‘signified’ may well depend upon the individual, society or culture. Cow (in western societies) = food, farms, BSE Cow (in Hindu societies) = sacred, holy, respectSEMIOTICS
  8. 8. Exercise1. Write down a description of the class room at the level of ‘denotation’.2. Add ‘connotations’ to your description.SEMIOTICS
  9. 9. The two levels of signification: DOGSignifier Signified Dog Furry animal, four SIGN (denotative) legs, Signifier Signified barks Dog Friendly SIGN (connotative)Remember at the second level of signification meaning is less ‘fixed’.The number of connotative response to the image of a dog will bevaried and numerous although some will be more common thanothers. Shared connotations can be described as ‘socially agreed’
  10. 10. Another important pioneer in semiotics was the AmericanPhilosopher Charles PeirceHe identified three different types of signification: Iconic Indexical SymbolicSEMIOTICS
  11. 11.  Iconic - An iconic sign is one that bears a resemblance to that which it represents ie a drawing of a rose. Indexical - An indexical sign has a direct relationship or causal link to that which it represents, i.e. smoke is indexical of fire. These links can be physically established Symbolic - Language is an example of a symbolic sign as a word’s relationship to that which it represents is random. Symbolic signs are recognised because they are ‘socially agreed’.SEMIOTICS
  12. 12.  Taking the drawing of a rose as an example, it is possible to look at it as in terms iconic, indexical and symbolic ‘signification’. It is not only iconic but also indexical to a garden and symbolic of romance.SEMIOTICS
  13. 13. SEMIOTICSUsing the above sign what is it iconic of, indexical to andsymbolic of?Iconic of:Indexical to:Symbolic of:
  14. 14.  In terms of image analysis and construction it is most useful to consider signs at the level of connotation. A useful exercise is to look at the connotation of certain colours. In pairs on an A4 piece of paper list connotative responses to certain colours then identity those which are indexical and those which are symbolic.SEMIOTICS
  16. 16. Using your knowledge ofsemiotics, pick 5 key imagesfrom your trailer take ascreen shot and then copyonto a documentQuestions to answer•What denotes each image?•What is connoted by eachimage and what indexical andsymbolic associations areevoked?•Focus upon every aspect ofthe ad, including the choice offont for example
  17. 17. Roland Barthes argued that someconnotations are so widely held that theyreach the level of ‘myth’.Barthesian ‘myths’ have nothing to do withstories or legends and should not necessarilybe seen as falsehoods. A ‘myth’ according to Barthes is where a‘socially agreed’ symbolic associationbecomes so widely accepted that it is seen asiconic.Barthes and ‘Myth’.
  18. 18. For example this image of Marilyn Monroe couldbe seen to be iconic of the female sex.A woman wearing make up, having long hairand wearing a dress or skirt are seen as being‘natural’ signifiers of the female sex when in factthat are ‘socially agreed’.Gender is ‘socially agreed’ where as sex isbiologically determined. Barthes would arguethat whilst this image could be seen as iconic ofa woman it is actually purely symbolic.Barthes and ‘Myth’.
  19. 19.  Semiotics can be a very useful tool in textual analysis in terms of uncovering the meaning of a text. You can use the principles of Semiotics to analyse existing media products as well as your own practical work.Application of Semiotics