Summary: Semiotics is the study of how people make meaning through both linguistic and non-linguistic ways. It is a philosophical theory concerned with understanding how people use signs and symbols in meaning-making.
Originators & Proponents: Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Barthes, Mikhail Bakhtin
Keywords: communication, connotation, culture, denotation, icon, index, lexicon, linguistics, logic, meaning, mode, rules, signifier, signs, sign systems, symbols
Semiotics (de Saussure, Barthes, Bakhtin)
Semiotics is the study of how people make meaning through both linguistic and non-linguistic ways. It is a philosophical theory concerned with understanding how people use signs and symbols in meaning-making.
Sign systems include words, images, numbers, and objects. These signs have meaning only because people have agreed upon and use this shared meaning. For example, the word “house" refers to a structure designed for people to live within only because a culture uses it in this way. How this meaning of “house" came to be is what those who study and research semiotics are interested in.
There are different kinds of signs: icon (pictures), index (an item which refers to something else), and symbols (words, body language). In every day communication, people use a combination of these to express what they mean.
For more information, we recommend:
- Chandler’s book: Semiotics: The Basics.
- Sean Hall’s book: This Means This, This Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics
- De Saussure, F. (1916). Nature of the linguistic sign. Course in general linguistics, 65-70.
- Barthes, R. (1994). The semiotic challenge. Univ of California Press.