SEMIOTICS (from Greek : σημειωτικός, "simiotikos") (also called SEMIOTIC STUDIES; not to be confused with the Saussurean tradition called SEMIOLOGY which is a subset of semiotics) is the study of meaning-making , the study of sign processes and meaningful communication. This includes the study of signs and sign processes (semiosis ), indication, designation, likeness, analogy , allegory , metonymy , metaphor , symbolism , signification , and communication.
The semiotic tradition explores the study of signs and symbols as a significant part of communications. As different from linguistics, however, semiotics also studies non-linguistic sign systems .
* 1 Terminology * 2 History * 3 Formulations * 4 Notable semioticians * 5 Current applications
* 6 Branches
* 6.1 Pictorial semiotics * 6.2 Globalization
* 7 Main institutions * 8 See also * 9 References
* 10 External links
* 10.1 Peircean focus * 10.2 Journals, book series—associations, centers
The term derives from the Greek σημειωτικός sēmeiōtikos, "observant of signs", (from σημεῖον sēmeion, "a sign, a mark", ) and it was first used in English prior to 1676 by Henry Stubbes (spelt semeiotics) in a very precise sense to denote the branch of medical science relating to the interpretation of signs. John Locke used the term sem(e)iotike in book four, chapter 21 of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Here he explains how science may be divided into three parts:
All that can fall within the compass of human understanding, being either, first, the nature of things, as they are in themselves, their relations, and their manner of operation: or, secondly, that which man himself ought to do, as a rational and voluntary agent, for the attainment of any end, especially happiness: or, thirdly, the ways and means whereby the knowledge of both the one and the other of these is attained and communicated; I think science may be divided properly into these three sorts. — Locke, 1823/1963, p. 174
Locke then elaborates on the nature of this third category, naming it Σημειωτική (Semeiotike) and explaining it as "the doctrine of signs" in the following terms:
Nor is there any thing to be relied upon in Physick, but an exact knowledge of medicinal physiology (founded on observation, not principles), semiotics, method of curing, and tried (not excogitated, not commanding) medicines. — Locke, 1823/1963, 4.21.4, p. 175
In the nineteenth century,
Charles Sanders Peirce
Charles W. 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
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 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
While the Saussurean semiotic is dyadic (sign/syntax, signal/semantics), the Peircean semiotic is triadic (sign, object, interpretant), being conceived as philosophical logic studied in terms of signs that are not always linguistic or artificial. The Peircean semiotic addresses not only the external communication mechanism, as per Saussure, but the internal representation machine, investigating not just sign processes, or modes of inference, but the whole inquiry process in general. Peircean semiotics further subdivides each of the three triadic elements into three sub-types. For example, signs can be icons, indices, and symbols.
Yuri Lotman introduced Eastern Europe to semiotics and adopted
Locke's coinage as the name to subtitle (Σημειωτική) his
founding at the
University of Tartu in
Saussurean semiotics have been challenged with serious criticism, for example by Jacques Derrida 's assertion that signifier and signified are not fixed, coining the expression différance, relating to the endless deferral of meaning, and to the absence of a 'transcendent signified'. For Derrida, 'il n'y a pas de hors-texte' ("there is nothing outside the text"). He was in obvious opposition to materialists and marxists who argued that a sign has to point towards a real meaning, and cannot be controlled by the referent's closed-loop references.
The importance of signs and signification has been recognized
throughout much of the history of philosophy , and in psychology as
The general study of signs that began in Latin with Augustine
culminated in Latin with the 1632 Tractatus de Signis of John Poinsot
, and then began anew in late modernity with the attempt in 1867 by
Charles Sanders Peirce
The estimative powers of animals interpret the environment as sensed
to form a "meaningful world" of objects, but the objects of this world
(or "Umwelt", in
Jakob von Uexküll
In contrast to this, human understanding adds to the animal "Umwelt" a relation of self-identity within objects which transforms objects experienced into things as well as +, –, 0 objects. Thus, the generically animal objective world as "Umwelt", becomes a species-specifically human objective world or "Lebenswelt" (life-world), wherein linguistic communication, rooted in the biologically underdetermined "Innenwelt" (inner-world) of humans, makes possible the further dimension of cultural organization within the otherwise merely social organization of non-human animals whose powers of observation may deal only with directly sensible instances of objectivity. This further point, that human culture depends upon language understood first of all not as communication, but as the biologically underdetermined aspect or feature of the human animal's "Innenwelt", was originally clearly identified by Thomas A. Sebeok. Sebeok also played the central role in bringing Peirce's work to the center of the semiotic stage in the twentieth century, first with his expansion of the human use of signs ("anthroposemiosis") to include also the generically animal sign-usage ("zoösemiosis"), then with his further expansion of semiosis (based initially on the work of Martin Krampen, but taking advantage of Peirce's point that an interpretant, as the third item within a sign relation, "need not be mental" ) to include the vegetative world ("phytosemiosis").
Peirce's distinguished between the interpretant and the interpreter. The interpretant is the internal, mental representation that mediates between the object and its sign. The interpreter is the human who is creating the interpretant. Peirce's "interpretant" notion opened the way to understanding an action of signs beyond the realm of animal life (study of "phytosemiosis" + "zoösemiosis" + "anthroposemiosis" = biosemiotics), which was his first advance beyond Latin Age semiotics. Other early theorists in the field of semiotics include Charles W. Morris . Max Black argued that the work of Bertrand Russell was seminal in the field.
Color-coding hot- and cold-water faucets (taps) is common in many cultures but, as this example shows, the coding may be rendered meaningless because of context. The two faucets (taps) probably were sold as a coded set, but the code is unusable (and ignored), as there is a single water supply.
Semioticians classify signs or sign systems in relation to the way they are transmitted (see modality ). This process of carrying meaning depends on the use of codes that may be the individual sounds or letters that humans use to form words, the body movements they make to show attitude or emotion, or even something as general as the clothes they wear. To coin a word to refer to a thing (see lexical words), the community must agree on a simple meaning (a denotative meaning) within their language, but that word can transmit that meaning only within the language's grammatical structures and codes (see syntax and semantics ). Codes also represent the values of the culture , and are able to add new shades of connotation to every aspect of life.
To explain the relationship between semiotics and communication studies , communication is defined as the process of transferring data and-or meaning from a source to a receiver. Hence, communication theorists construct models based on codes, media, and contexts to explain the biology , psychology , and mechanics involved. Both disciplines recognize that the technical process cannot be separated from the fact that the receiver must decode the data, i.e., be able to distinguish the data as salient , and make meaning out of it. This implies that there is a necessary overlap between semiotics and communication. Indeed, many of the concepts are shared, although in each field the emphasis is different. In Messages and Meanings: An Introduction to Semiotics, Marcel Danesi (1994) suggested that semioticians' priorities were to study signification first, and communication second. A more extreme view is offered by Jean-Jacques Nattiez (1987; trans. 1990: 16), who, as a musicologist , considered the theoretical study of communication irrelevant to his application of semiotics.
Semiosis or semeiosis is the process that forms meaning from any organism's apprehension of the world through signs. Scholars who have talked about semiosis in their subtheories of semiotics include C. S. Peirce , John Deely , and Umberto Eco . Cognitive semiotics is combining methods and theories developed in the disciplines of cognitive methods and theories developed in semiotics and the humanities, with providing new information into human signification and its manifestation in cultural practices. The research on cognitive semiotics brings together semiotics from linguistics, cognitive science, and related disciplines on a common meta-theoretical platform of concepts, methods, and shared data.
Cognitive semiotics may also be seen as the study of meaning-making
by employing and integrating methods and theories developed in the
cognitive sciences. This involves conceptual and textual analysis as
well as experimental investigations.
Cognitive semiotics initially was
developed at the Center for
Charles Sanders Peirce
"A sign, or representamen, is something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody, that is, creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign. That sign which it creates I call the interpretant of the first sign. The sign stands for something, its object not in all respects, but in reference to a sort of idea." Peirce called the sign a representamen, in order to bring out the fact that a sign is something that "represents" something else in order to suggest it (that is, "re-present" it) in some way. For a summary of Peirce's contributions to semiotics, see Liszka (1996) or Atkin (2006).
Ferdinand de Saussure
* Charles W. Morris (1901–1979). In his 1938 Foundations of the Theory of Signs, he defined semiotics as grouped into three branches:
* Semantics: relation between signs and the things to which they refer; their signified denotata, or meaning * Syntactics/Syntax: relations among or between signs in formal structures * Pragmatics: relation between signs and sign-using agents or interpreters
Syntactics is the Morris'ean branch of semiotics that deals with the
formal properties of signs and symbols; the interrelation of the
signs, without regard to meaning.
Semantics deals with the relation of
signs to their designata and the objects that they may or do denote;
the relation between the signs and the objects to which they apply.
Finally, pragmatics deals with the biotic aspects of semiosis, with
all the psychological, biological, and sociological phenomena that
occur in the functioning of signs; 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 was accused
* 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 often would critique pieces of cultural material to expose how bourgeois society used them to impose its values upon others. For instance, the portrayal of wine drinking 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 conducting these critiques. 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.
Signaling and communication between the Astatotilapia burtoni
Algirdas Julien Greimas
Chart semiotics of social networking
Applications of semiotics include:
* It represents a methodology for the analysis of "texts" regardless of the medium in which it is presented . For these purposes, "text" is any message preserved in a form whose existence is independent of both sender and receiver; * It may improve ergonomic design in situations where it is important to ensure that human beings are able to interact more effectively with their environments, whether it be on a large scale, as in architecture , or on a small scale, such as the configuration of instrumentation for human use.
In some countries, its role is limited to literary criticism and an appreciation of audio and visual media. This narrow focus may inhibit a more general study of the social and political forces shaping how different media are used and their dynamic status within modern culture. Issues of technological determinism in the choice of media and the design of communication strategies assume new importance in this age of mass media.
Publication of research is both in dedicated journals such as Sign Systems Studies , established by Yuri Lotman and published by Tartu University Press ; Semiotica , founded by Thomas A. Sebeok and published by Mouton de Gruyter ; Zeitschrift für Semiotik; European Journal of Semiotics; Versus (founded and directed by Umberto Eco ), et al.; The American Journal of Semiotics ; and as articles accepted in periodicals of other disciplines, especially journals oriented toward philosophy and cultural criticism.
The major semiotic book series "Semiotics, Communication, Cognition", published by De Gruyter Mouton (series editors Paul Cobley and Kalevi Kull ) replaces the former "Approaches to Semiotics" (more than 120 volumes) and "Approaches to Applied Semiotics" (series editor Thomas A. Sebeok ). Since 1980 the Semiotic Society of America has produced an annual conference series: Semiotics: The Proceedings of the Semiotic Society of America .
Marketing is another application of semiotics. Epure, Eisenstat and
Dinu (2014) said, "semiotics allows for the practical distinction of
persuasion from manipulation in marketing communication" (p. 592).
* Surface: signs are used to create personality for the product; creativity plays its foremost role at this level. * Underlying: the concealed meaning of the text, imagery, sounds, etc.
In 2016 Kibar Aktin (Sinop Üniversitesi, Turkey) presented a research study on "how children fictionalize the past by using their imagination skills in the process of historical thinking" (Aktin, 2016). The data collected as part of this project included pictures drawn by pre-school age children depicting their recollection of a field trip to a historical museum. Aktin used semiotics to analyze these drawings through attempting to understand the different aspects of the drawings and the meaning behind the drawings. In doing this, the researcher and the two experts assisting him were seeking the connotative meaning behind the symbols presented by the young students. Their analysis was divided into three sections:
* Definitional meaning analysis * Personal meaning analysis * Contextual meaning analysis
Definitional meaning analysis consists of the researcher's own interpretation and definition of the children's drawings. The images in the drawing are related to what the researcher believes they represent in the literal world.
Personal meaning analysis involves the researcher sitting with the artist and discussing their interpretation of their drawing. By doing this the researcher can get an understanding as to what the students were trying to express through their drawings.
Lastly, Aktin used contextual meaning analysis to perceive the context behind the facets of the drawings to decipher what was derived from the children's memory and what was purely imaginative. This enables the researcher to achieve their goal of understanding how children fictionalize the past by using their imaginative skills.