Communication and culture revision

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Semiotics- theory overview

Semiotics= the study of signs and the way they work.
Communication: the creation of messages out of signs. The more a sender and reciever share the same system of signs andcodes, the closer the two meanings of the message will approximate.
Semiotics:Three areas to consider :

  • The sign itself
  • Codes or systems for oragnising signs
  • The culture in which the signs and codes operate.
     In semiotics the emphasis is on the TEXT (the artefact being analysed) and the READER (reciever) who plays an active part in the process (by reason of his/her values and attitudes, emotions, experience etc). Semiotic models do not differenciate between ENCODERS and DECODERS. In pierce's triangle model, there are three elements, the sign, the object, and the interpretant, which is the meaning that we have taken from the sign

E.g. SIGN-smoke
INTERPRETANT-relationship between sign and object (something is burning).
A MYTH is a cluster of signs which make up a meaning. e.g. christmas pudding, santa, baubles= CHRISTMAS

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Signs and Semiological Analysis

Categories of signs (pierce)
ICON- looks or sounds like the thing it represents, e.g. corossroads sign, onomatopoeia
INDEX- direct link between sign and object (smoke= index of fire, sneeze= index of cold)
SYMBOL- no connection between sign and object, e.g. words, numbers, cross. i.e. they are ARBITRARY.... ARBITRARY signs work by convention, they are culturally agreed. 

Semiology- Analytical Framework

  • Type of artefact
  • Audience and purpose
  • size/shape
  • layout
  • images
  • colour
  • graphology (including font/text boxes etc
  • Language

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Semiotics- Barthes

Denotation- the thing/object/symbol (what is depicted)

Connotation- the cultural meaning that we attatch to it (how it is depicted)

Roland Barthes came up with the idea of denotation and connotation. As Barthes noted, Saussure's model of the sign focused on denotation at the expense of connotation and it was left to subsequent theorists (notably Barthes himself) to offer an account of this important dimension of meaning.

He stressed the interactive role of the reader, bringing their own experiences e.g. culture etc into the interpretation of the subject.

He also introduced the idea of MYTHS, the culture's way of understanding something through a chain of related concepts. A MYTH is a CLUSTER OF SIGNS. Myths can often change. Symbolic Signification: through convention, an object comes to stand for a whole concept. e.g. Rolls Royce and wealth.

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Saussure and Peirce

Saussure's (saussure was a swiss linguist) model contains the 'signifier' and 'signified'.(


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