Semiotics: A Short Introduction

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Information about Semiotics: A Short Introduction

Published on September 21, 2014

Author: SJMoenandar



A short introduction in semiotics for media makers, originally taught at Stenden University, Leeuwarden



Plaque on board of ASA’s Pioneer 10

Communication sender message receiver  Communication is only possible when sender and receiver speak the same ‘language’  Learning to communicate is learning signs and their meanings

Meaning?? Gustave Doré, The Flood

Renault advertisement The crash tests show it: the safest cars are manufactured in France

Making meaning Message (“text”) Encoding Decoding Sender (Media companies) Receiver (audiences)

Meaning  Denotation  Connotation







denotatie / connotatie

Semiotics  Study of signs  A different field than:  The study of the material aspects of signs  The study of the aesthetic aspects of signs  Semioticians study the relationship between signs and their meaning

A sign represents

Representation  = re-presentation: to make present that which is absent with the use of signs.  Produces meaning within and through a sign system

Sign object sign meaning Semiotic triangle

Three possible relations sing-meaning  Symbolic relation  Indexical relation  Iconic relation

Symbolic relation sing-meaning  Relation is arbitrary (ie: not necessary)  Is created by conventions  Almost all words 

Symbolic relation sign-meaning  In advertising

Indexical relation sign-meaning  Relation between sign and meaning is a matter of fact  Sign is a part of the meaning  Smoke-fire 

Indexical relation sign-meaning  Is something really indexical?

Iconic relation sign-meaning  Relation because of similarity  Portrait, picture  But: how iconic is a picture? Also: A sign is often more or less iconic, indexical AND symbolic at the same time


square/curvy, man/woman?

Meaning  A sign has no meaning out of itself  Meaning comes into being in relation to other signs

McSweeney’s Fine Sausages

Vegetarian restaurant The Happy Piglet

Sign relations  Syntactic relations between signs  Semantic relations between sign and meaning  Pragmatic relations between a sign and its use “The ice is thin!”

Rammstein: Mein Land

Polysemy “Pig”  A sign can have more than one meaning  There is no such thing as a private sign  Earlier use ‘sticks’ to a sign  there is always a ‘dialogue’ going on between texts that use the same sign  “Discourse”

Circulation “Stahlhelm”

Circulation Simon Williams, Alpine Review (2008)

Intertextuality  Vertical intertextuality: direct comment  Film review  Top Gun (1986) in Sleep With Me (1994)  Horizontal intertextuality: ‘texts’ refer to each other, of recycle each other (often this also means a comment, but implicitly)

Intertextuality  “Strong” intertextuality (intentionally)  “Weak” intertextuality (necessarily)

“Strong” intertextuality Simon Williams, Alpine Review (2008)

“Weak” intertextuality مونندر

Intertextuality  Quoting: en earlier text literally becomes a part of a new text (more recent term: “sampling”)  Referring: a text is referred to in another text

Quoting Soft Cell, “Tainted Love” Rihanna, “SOS”

Referring  Spiderman  Spiderpig 

Intertextuality: rhyming images

Intertextuality: rhyming images

Intertextuality: rhyming images

Intertextuality: rhyming images

Semiotics Questions?

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