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Semiotics for Beginners

This website/book by Daniel Chandler of the University of Wales looks to be a pretty good intro to semiotics, if you’d like something to compare with Percy’s Intermezzo:

Semiotics is not widely institutionalized as an academic discipline. It is a field of study involving many different theoretical stances and methodological tools. One of the broadest definitions is that of Umberto Eco, who states that ‘semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign’ (Eco 1976, 7). Semiotics involves the study not only of what we refer to as ‘signs’ in everyday speech, but of anything which ‘stands for’ something else. In a semiotic sense, signs take the form of words, images, sounds, gestures and objects. Whilst for the linguist Saussure, ‘semiology’ was ‘a science which studies the role of signs as part of social life’, for the philosopher Charles Peirce ‘semiotic’ was the ‘formal doctrine of signs’ which was closely related to Logic (Peirce 1931-58, 2.227). For him, ‘a sign… is something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity’ (Peirce 1931-58, 2.228). He declared that ‘every thought is a sign’ (Peirce 1931-58, 1.538; cf. 5.250ff, 5.283ff). Contemporary semioticians study signs not in isolation but as part of semiotic ‘sign systems’ (such as a medium or genre). They study how meanings are made: as such, being concerned not only with communication but also with the construction and maintenance of reality. Semiotics and that branch of linguistics known as semantics have a common concern with the meaning of signs, but John Sturrock argues that whereas semantics focuses on what words mean, semiotics is concerned with how signs mean (Sturrock 1986, 22). For C W Morris (deriving this threefold classification from Peirce), semiotics embraced semantics, along with the other traditional branches of linguistics:

  • semantics: the relationship of signs to what they stand for;
  • syntactics (or syntax): the formal or structural relations between signs;
  • pragmatics: the relation of signs to interpreters (Morris 1938, 6-7).
  • Comments

    1. angelmeg says

      Okay, I freely admit that I had to look up the word in the dictionary.

      Now I can’t get that silly song out of my head.

      Signs Signs everywhere are signs/ blocking up the scenery /breaking my mind/do this/don’t do that/ can’t you read the signs

    2. I find the Semiotics for Beginners website to be a very useful source.

      If you’re interested in getting a simple understanding of the subject read this articel about Ferdinand ds saussure:

      Who the Hell is Ferdinand de Saussure

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