Structuralism Semiotic

Semiotic / semiology =>
The study of sign and sign-using behavior
a domain of investigation that explores the
nature and function of signs as well as the
systems and processes underlying signification,
expression, representation, and communication.
Semiotic = semeion (Greek)
Humans are homo-significans (meaning-maker)
We make meanings through our creation and
interpretation of ‘sign’
Sign takes the form of words, images, sounds,
flavors, acts or objects
Anything can be a sign as long as someone
interprets it as “signifying something” referring to
or standing for something other than itself
Charles Sander Pierce declares 'Nothing is a
sign unless it is interpreted as a sign'
Characteristic of sign
Sign is arbitrary because there is no inherent, essential,
'transparent', self-evident or 'natural' connection between
the signifier and the signified - between the sound or
shape of a word and the concept to which it refers
Sign has differentiation because a sign stands for its own
role, without interference from other signs. The word “do-g” resembles an animal called dog, because it is
different from animal “c-a-t”
Saussure’s Concept
the arbitrariness of the sign as the first principle
of semiology, specifically, the arbitrariness of the
link between the signifier and the signified
Saussure’s semiotics concept is distinction
between two inseparable components of a sign:
- the signifier (the form which sign takes) which
in language is a set of speech sounds or marks,
- the signified which is the concept it represents
behind the sign
Saussure’s Concept
a sign must have both a signifier and a
signified, we cannot have a totally
meaningless signifier or a completely
formless signified
 A sign is a recognizable combination of a
signifier with a particular signified because
sign is the result of association of the
signifier and the signified
Pierce’s Concept
Known as “classification of sign”
Pierce sees the relationship of sign with
Divided into:
a. Symbol (conventional)
b. Icon (similarities)
c. Index (relationship)
Pierce’s Concept
Symbolic is a mode in which the signifier does not resemble the
signified but which is fundamentally arbitrary or purely conventional
Iconic is a mode in which the signifier is perceived as resembling or
imitating the signified (recognizably looking, sounding, feeling,
tasting or smelling like it) - being similar in possessing some of its
Indexical is a mode in which the signifier is not arbitrary but is
directly connected in some way (physically or causally) to the
Semiotic in Literary Studies
Semiotics represents a range of studies in art,
literature, anthropology and the mass media
rather than an independent academic discipline
Those involved in semiotics include linguists,
philosophers, psychologists, sociologists,
anthropologists, literary, aesthetic and media
theorists, psychoanalysts and educationalists
Semiotic in Literary Studies
Semiotic literary criticism, also called
literary semiotics, is the approach to
literary criticism informed by the theory of
signs or semiotics
 Literary semiotics can be seen as a
branch of the general science of signs that
studies a particular group of texts within
verbal texts in general
Barthes’ Order of Signification
Divided into: Denotation, Connotation, and Myth
He develops this module base on Saussurean
concept of studying signs
denotation and connotation are terms describing
the relationship between the signifier and it’s
signified, and an analytic distinction is made
between two types of signified: a denotative
signified and a connotative signified
Meaning includes both denotation and
Denotation tends to be described as the
definitional, “literal”, “obvious”, or
“commonsense” meaning of a sign
 the denotative meaning is what the
dictionary attempts to provide
 Denotation is meaning of a sign in first
level signification
Connotation is used to refer to the socio-cultural
and 'personal' associations (ideological,
emotional etc.) of the sign
Connotation can be referred as meaning of a
sign in second level signification, higher than
denotation meaning
Connotations are not purely 'personal' meanings
- they are determined by the codes to which the
interpreter has access
Cultural codes provide a connotational
framework since they are 'organized
around key oppositions and equations',
each term being 'aligned with a cluster of
symbolic attitude
Myths were the dominant ideologies of our time
Barthes argues that the orders of signification called
denotation and connotation combine to produce ideology
which has been described as a third order of signification
Myths serve the ideological function of naturalization.
Their function is to naturalize the cultural - in other
words, to make dominant cultural and historical values,
attitudes and beliefs seem entirely 'natural', 'normal',
self-evident, timeless, obvious 'common-sense' - and
thus objective and 'true' reflections of 'the way things are'