Context & Theories Workshop

In this lecture, we were introduced to the theory of semiotics which I’ll be talking about in this post.

semiotics is a study of signs and symbols and how they are used and interpreted

Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure wrote that the sign is the whole that results from the association of the signifier with the signified. The signifier being the form an image takes place, and the signified as the concept it represents. The process between those two is called signification.

When someone mentions the word “tree” we think of an image of a tree. The same goes as if we were to look at a word that says tree written on a piece of paper. The word and the image will evoke the concept of a tree.

But the word “tree” is not actually a tree. The meaning of a tree can be constructed by any random letter combination, however, in English, the meaning of a tree is carried by the letters t-r-e-e. But for the foreign speaker, the meaning of a tree would be carried by different letters. Yet both random strings of letters represent the same object.

Yet both random strings of letters represent the same object. Furthermore, if we were to think of let’s say a car. Not everyone would imagine the same type of car. Thus meaning, a signifier has no absolute relation to the signify.

Charles sanders pierce’s ideas about semiotics distinguish between three types of signs. Icon, Index, and Symbol. Where the sign belongs in a particular category is dependent upon the nature of its relationship between the sign itself which you call the “referent” and the actual meaning.

An icon is a sign that stands for an object by resembling it. The index refers to their objects by an actual link between the sign and its object, the sign, and the object does not have to be visually the same but rather have something in common.

The symbol refers to their objects by virtue of law, rule of convention. Words, propositions, and text are obvious examples.


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