After today, I feel as though my mind has had a massive brain fart! By this I mean that it took in a lot of information, processed it and sort of compiled it into one big mess. So now I find myself sitting here starting to unpack all that we learnt today, in order to reflect upon all of the madness! To be more specific; today was focused around ‘Semiotics: The Signifier and Signified’. Firstly, we delved into a bit of historical information in regards to how man has tried to justify and/or analyse how we do, and should, interpret the world around us. Two men in particular were more at the forefront of our investigation; Ferdinand de Saussure and Charles Sanders Peirce.
Okay, I could get really into writing a lot about this topic. However I’m sure you don’t want an essay right now, so I’m going to try my best to summarise it all.
Semeiotikos is the Greek word to which semiosis and semiotics derived from. Its definition is merely an ‘interpreter of signs’.
Saussure was a linguist and as such focused more upon that of the written and spoken word. He noted three important concepts around that of communication, language and meaning-making. He established that:
- “A sign is the sound that stands in for the idea it represents.”
- “The choice of a given slice of sound to name a given idea is completely arbitrary.”
- “A series of social structures are required to hold meanings in place.”
Arbitrary: When a sound has no direct or natural relationship to that of the idea or concept it is partnered with. For example “Miaow” or “Meow” is how an NZ European may choose to write the sound of a cat, while in another country it would be written differently due to a different vowel and sound interpretation. Another example is what we call that animal. Cat in english, Mao in Chinese.
I think that its interesting to realise that linguistically speaking, there is no real stable relationship between a sign and concept, because our culture, environment and learnt behaviour enable how we interpret said things.
Signifier: sound image. Signified: mental concept. These together make up the sign.
Now this is where Peirce comes along and shakes things up, so to speak. Being a philosopher and more concerned with the world, Peirce established that there is not one, but three variants of sign. A symbol, an icon and an index! These three signs all create a unique relationship to that of their signifiers and signifieds. It all sounds a bit confusing but it is rather simple. An icon is a thing that represents itself. So a photo of a tree is an icon; it is a photo and shows the image of a tree. If you have seen a tree, the idea or concept is perceived in your mind, and along with the sound one may give to it such as “tree”, the sign is turned out as “this is a tree”.
Okay I fear that I am rambling on. To conclude, I have indeed learnt a lot more about what semiotics is all about! It was interesting to discover the history behind it, and how the structure of semiotics came to be. I often to stop to smell the roses as they say; to look around my environment at the finer details. However, I am now starting to think a bit more about the symbols, icons and indexes provided to me, and how they affect my life. Scott did say that we should never take the world for granted; and this is very true indeed.