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Semiotics

Semiotics

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Semiotics, also called semiotic studies or (in the Saussurean
Ferdinand de Saussure
Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist whose ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments in linguistics in the 20th century. He is widely considered one of the fathers of 20th-century linguistics...

 tradition) semiology, is the study of sign
Sign (semiotics)
A sign is understood as a discrete unit of meaning in semiotics. It is defined as "something that stands for something, to someone in some capacity" It includes words, images, gestures, scents, tastes, textures, sounds – essentially all of the ways in which information can be...

s and sign processes (semiosis
Semiosis
Semiosis is any form of activity, conduct, or process that involves signs, including the production of meaning. Briefly – semiosis is sign process...

), indication, designation, likeness, analogy
Analogy
Analogy is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another particular subject , and a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process...

, metaphor
Metaphor
A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

, symbolism
Symbol
A symbol is something which represents an idea, a physical entity or a process but is distinct from it. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for "STOP". On a map, a picture of a tent might represent a campsite. Numerals are symbols for...

, signification, and communication. Semiotics is closely related to the field of linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, which, for its part, studies the structure and meaning of language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

 more specifically. Semiotics is often divided into three branches:
  • Semantics
    Semantics
    Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata....

    : Relation between signs and the things to which they refer; their denotata, or meaning
    Meaning (linguistics)
    In linguistics, meaning is what is expressed by the writer or speaker, and what is conveyed to the reader or listener, provided that they talk about the same thing . In other words if the object and the name of the object and the concepts in their head are the same...

  • Syntactics
    Syntax
    In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

    : Relations among signs in formal structures
  • Pragmatics
    Pragmatics
    Pragmatics is a subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. Pragmatics encompasses speech act theory, conversational implicature, talk in interaction and other approaches to language behavior in philosophy, sociology, and linguistics. It studies how the...

    : Relation between signs and the effects they have on the people who use them


Semiotics is frequently seen as having important anthropological
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 dimensions; for example, Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco Knight Grand Cross is an Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist, best known for his novel The Name of the Rose , an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory...

 proposes that every cultural phenomenon can be studied as communication. However, some semioticians focus on the logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

al dimensions of the science. They examine areas belonging also to the natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

s – such as how organisms make predictions about, and adapt to, their semiotic niche
Ecological niche
In ecology, a niche is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in its ecosystem to each other; e.g. a dolphin could potentially be in another ecological niche from one that travels in a different pod if the members of these pods utilize significantly different food...

 in the world (see semiosis
Semiosis
Semiosis is any form of activity, conduct, or process that involves signs, including the production of meaning. Briefly – semiosis is sign process...

). In general, semiotic theories take signs or sign systems as their object of study: the communication of information in living organisms is covered in biosemiotics
Biosemiotics
Biosemiotics is a growing field that studies the production, action and interpretation of signs in the biological realm...

 or zoosemiosis.

Syntactics is the branch of semiotics that deals with the formal properties of signs and symbols. More precisely, syntactics deals with the "rules that govern how words are combined to form phrases and sentences." Charles Morris
Charles W. Morris
Charles W. Morris was an American semiotician and philosopher.-Background:A son of Charles William and Laura Morris, Charles William Morris was born on May 23, 1901...

 adds that semantics deals with the relation of signs to their designata and the objects which they may or do denote; and, pragmatics deals with the biotic aspects of semiosis, that is, with all the psychological, biological, and sociological phenomena which occur in the functioning of signs.

Terminology


The term, which was spelled semeiotics, derives from the Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 σημειωτικός, (sēmeiōtikos), "observant of signs" (from σημεῖον - sēmeion, "a sign, a mark") and it was first used in English by Henry Stubbes
Henry Stubbes
-Life:He was born in Partney, Lincolnshire, and educated at Westminster School. Given patronage as a child by the Puritan, Henry Vane the Younger, he obtained a scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford, from which he graduated in 1653...

 (1670, p. 75) in a very precise sense to denote the branch of medical science relating to the interpretation of signs. John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

 used the terms semeiotike and semeiotics in Book 4, Chapter 21 of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
First appearing in 1690 with the printed title An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke concerns the foundation of human knowledge and understanding. He describes the mind at birth as a blank slate filled later through experience...

(1690). Here he explains how science can be divided into three parts:
Locke then elaborates on the nature of this third category, naming it Σημειωτικη (Semeiotike) and explaining it as "the doctrine of signs" in the following terms:
In the nineteenth century, Charles Sanders Peirce defined what he termed "semiotic" (which he sometimes spelled as "semeiotic") as the "quasi-necessary, or formal doctrine of signs", which abstracts "what must be the characters of all signs used by...an intelligence capable of learning by experience", and which is philosophical logic pursued in terms of signs and sign processes. Charles Morris followed Peirce in using the term "semiotic" and in extending the discipline beyond human communication to animal learning and use of signals.

Ferdinand de Saussure
Ferdinand de Saussure
Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist whose ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments in linguistics in the 20th century. He is widely considered one of the fathers of 20th-century linguistics...

, however, viewed the most important area within semiotics as belonging to the social sciences:

Formulations



Semioticians classify signs or sign systems in relation to the way they are transmitted (see modality
Modality (semiotics)
In semiotics, a modality is a particular way in which the information is to be encoded for presentation to humans, i.e. to the type of sign and to the status of reality ascribed to or claimed by a sign, text or genre. It is more closely associated with the semiotics of Charles Peirce than Saussure...

). This process of carrying meaning depends on the use of codes
Code (semiotics)
In semiotics, a code is a set of conventions or sub-codes currently in use to communicate meaning. The most common is one's spoken language, but the term can also be used to refer to any narrative form: consider the color scheme of an image , or the rules of a board game In semiotics, a code is a...

 that may be the individual sounds or letters that humans use to form words, the body movements they make to show attitude or emotion, or even something as general as the clothes they wear. To coin a word to refer to a thing (see lexical
Lexical (semiotics)
In the lexicon of a language, lexical words or nouns refer to things. These words fall into three main classes:*proper nouns refer exclusively to the place, object or person named, i.e...

 words), the community
Community
The term community has two distinct meanings:*a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household...

 must agree on a simple meaning (a denotative
Denotation (semiotics)
In semiotics, denotation is the surface or literal meaning encoded to a signifier, and the definition most likely to appear in a dictionary.-Discussion :Drawing from the original word or definition proposed by Saussure , a sign has two parts:...

 meaning) within their language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

. But that word can transmit that meaning only within the language's grammatical structures and codes (see syntax
Syntax
In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

 and semantics
Semantics
Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata....

). Codes also represent the values
Value (semiotics)
In semiotics, the value of a sign depends on its position and relations in the system of signification and upon the particular codes being used.-Saussure's Value:Value is the sign as it is determined by the other signs in a semiotic system...

 of the culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

, and are able to add new shades of connotation
Connotation (semiotics)
In semiotics, connotation arises when the denotative relationship between a signifier and its signified is inadequate to serve the needs of the community. A second level of meanings is termed connotative...

 to every aspect of life.

To explain the relationship between semiotics and communication studies
Communication studies
Communication Studies is an academic field that deals with processes of communication, commonly defined as the sharing of symbols over distances in space and time. Hence, communication studies encompasses a wide range of topics and contexts ranging from face-to-face conversation to speeches to mass...

, communication
Communication
Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast...

 is defined as the process of transferring data from a source to a receiver. Hence, communication theorists construct models based on codes, media, and contexts to explain the biology
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

, psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

, and mechanics
Mechanics
Mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment....

 involved. Both disciplines also recognize that the technical process cannot be separated from the fact that the receiver must decode
Decode (semiotics)
In semiotics, the process of interpreting a message sent by the addresser to the addressee is called decoding. Creating a message for transmission by the addresser is called encoding.-Discussion:...

 the data, i.e., be able to distinguish the data as salient
Salience (semiotics)
Salience is the state or condition of being prominent. The Oxford English Dictionary defines salience as "most noticeable or important." The concept is discussed in communication, semiotics, linguistics, sociology, psychology, and political science...

 and make meaning out of it. This implies that there is a necessary overlap between semiotics and communication. Indeed, many of the concepts are shared, although in each field the emphasis is different. In Messages and Meanings: An Introduction to Semiotics, Marcel Danesi
Marcel Danesi
Marcel Danesi is a current Professor of Semiotics and Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Toronto. He is known for his work in language, communications, and semiotics; being Director of the Program in semiotics and communication theory...

 (1994) suggested that semioticians' priorities were to study signification
Sign (semiotics)
A sign is understood as a discrete unit of meaning in semiotics. It is defined as "something that stands for something, to someone in some capacity" It includes words, images, gestures, scents, tastes, textures, sounds – essentially all of the ways in which information can be...

 first and communication second. A more extreme view is offered by Jean-Jacques Nattiez
Jean-Jacques Nattiez
Jean-Jacques Nattiez, CM, CQ, FRSC is a musical semiologist or semiotician and professor of Musicology at the Université de Montréal...

 (1987; trans. 1990: 16), who, as a musicologist
Musicology
Musicology is the scholarly study of music. The word is used in narrow, broad and intermediate senses. In the narrow sense, musicology is confined to the music history of Western culture...

, considered the theoretical study of communication irrelevant to his application of semiotics.

Semiotics differs from linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

 in that it generalizes the definition of a sign to encompass signs in any medium or sensory modality. Thus it broadens the range of sign systems and sign relations, and extends the definition of language in what amounts to its widest analogical or metaphorical sense. Peirce's definition of the term "semiotic" as the study of necessary features of signs also has the effect of distinguishing the discipline from linguistics as the study of contingent features that the world's languages happen to have acquired in the course of human evolution.

Perhaps more difficult is the distinction between semiotics and the philosophy of language
Philosophy of language
Philosophy of language is the reasoned inquiry into the nature, origins, and usage of language. As a topic, the philosophy of language for analytic philosophers is concerned with four central problems: the nature of meaning, language use, language cognition, and the relationship between language...

. In a sense, the difference lies between separate traditions rather than subjects. Different authors have called themselves "philosopher of language" or "semiotician". This difference does not match the separation between analytic
Analytic philosophy
Analytic philosophy is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century...

 and continental philosophy
Continental philosophy
Continental philosophy, in contemporary usage, refers to a set of traditions of 19th and 20th century philosophy from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and...

. On a closer look, there may be found some differences regarding subjects. Philosophy of language pays more attention to natural language
Natural language
In the philosophy of language, a natural language is any language which arises in an unpremeditated fashion as the result of the innate facility for language possessed by the human intellect. A natural language is typically used for communication, and may be spoken, signed, or written...

s or to languages in general, while semiotics is deeply concerned about non-linguistic signification. Philosophy of language also bears a stronger connection to linguistics, while semiotics is closer to some of the humanities
Humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

 (including literary theory
Literary theory
Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of...

) and to cultural anthropology
Cultural anthropology
Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology focused on the study of cultural variation among humans, collecting data about the impact of global economic and political processes on local cultural realities. Anthropologists use a variety of methods, including participant observation,...

.

Semiosis
Semiosis
Semiosis is any form of activity, conduct, or process that involves signs, including the production of meaning. Briefly – semiosis is sign process...

 or semeiosis is the process that forms meaning from any organism's apprehension of the world through signs.

History


The importance of signs and signification has been recognized throughout much of the history of philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, and in psychology as well. Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 and Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 both explored the relationship between signs and the world, and Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 considered the nature of the sign within a convention
Convention (norm)
A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms or criteria, often taking the form of a custom....

al system. These theories have had a lasting effect in Western philosophy
Western philosophy
Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the Western or Occidental world, as distinct from Eastern or Oriental philosophies and the varieties of indigenous philosophies....

, especially through Scholastic
Scholasticism
Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100–1500, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic context...

 philosophy. More recently, Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco Knight Grand Cross is an Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist, best known for his novel The Name of the Rose , an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory...

, in his Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, has argued that semiotic theories are implicit in the work of most, perhaps all, major thinkers.

Early theorists in this area include Charles W. Morris
Charles W. Morris
Charles W. Morris was an American semiotician and philosopher.-Background:A son of Charles William and Laura Morris, Charles William Morris was born on May 23, 1901...

. Max Black
Max Black
Max Black was a British-American philosopher, who was a leading influential figure in analytic philosophy in the first half of the twentieth century. He made contributions to the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mathematics and science, and the philosophy of art, also publishing studies...

 attributes the work of Bertrand Russell as being seminal.

Some important semioticians

  • Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914), a noted logician
    History of logic
    The history of logic is the study of the development of the science of valid inference . Formal logic was developed in ancient times in China, India, and Greece...

     who founded philosophical pragmatism
    Pragmatism
    Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice...

    , defined semiosis as an irreducibly triadic process wherein something, as an object, logically determines or influences something as a sign to determine or influence something as an interpretation or interpretant, itself a sign, thus leading to further interpretants. Semiosis is logically structured to perpetuate itself. The object can be quality, fact, rule, or even fictional (Hamlet
    Prince Hamlet
    Prince Hamlet is a fictional character, the protagonist in Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet. He is the Prince of Denmark, nephew to the usurping Claudius and son of the previous King of Denmark, Old Hamlet. Throughout the play he struggles with whether, and how, to avenge the murder of his father, and...

    ), and can be (1) immediate to the sign, the object as represented in the sign, or (2) dynamic, the object as it really is, on which the immediate object is founded. The interpretant can be (1) immediate to the sign, all that the sign immediately expresses, such as a word's usual meaning; or (2) dynamic, such as a state of agitation; or (3) final or normal, the ultimate ramifications of the sign about its object, to which inquiry taken far enough would be destined and with which any actual interpretant can at most coincide. His semiotic covered not only artificial, linguistic, and symbolic signs, but also semblances such as kindred sensible qualities, and indices such as reactions. He came circa 1903 to classify any sign
    Semiotic elements and classes of signs (Peirce)
    Logician, mathematician, philosopher, and scientist Charles Sanders Peirce began writing on semeiotic, semiotics, or the theory of sign relations in the 1860s, around the time that he devised his system of three categories...

     by three interdependent trichotomies, intersecting to form ten (rather than 27) classes of sign. Signs also enter into various kinds of meaningful combinations; Peirce covered both semantic and syntactical issues in his speculative grammar. He regarded formal semiotic as logic per se and part of philosophy; as also encompassing study of arguments (hypothetical
    Abductive reasoning
    Abduction is a kind of logical inference described by Charles Sanders Peirce as "guessing". The term refers to the process of arriving at an explanatory hypothesis. Peirce said that to abduce a hypothetical explanation a from an observed surprising circumstance b is to surmise that a may be true...

    , deductive
    Deductive reasoning
    Deductive reasoning, also called deductive logic, is reasoning which constructs or evaluates deductive arguments. Deductive arguments are attempts to show that a conclusion necessarily follows from a set of premises or hypothesis...

    , and inductive
    Inductive reasoning
    Inductive reasoning, also known as induction or inductive logic, is a kind of reasoning that constructs or evaluates propositions that are abstractions of observations. It is commonly construed as a form of reasoning that makes generalizations based on individual instances...

    ) and inquiry's methods including pragmatism
    Pragmatism
    Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice...

    ; and as allied to but distinct from logic's pure mathematics. For a summary of Peirce's contributions to semiotics, see Liszka (1996) or Atkin (2006).
  • Ferdinand de Saussure
    Ferdinand de Saussure
    Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist whose ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments in linguistics in the 20th century. He is widely considered one of the fathers of 20th-century linguistics...

     (1857–1913), the "father" of modern linguistics
    Linguistics
    Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

    , proposed a dualistic notion of signs, relating the signifier as the form of the word or phrase uttered, to the signified as the mental concept. It is important to note that, according to Saussure, the sign is completely arbitrary, i.e. there was no necessary connection between the sign and its meaning. This sets him apart from previous philosophers such as Plato or the Scholastics, who thought that there must be some connection between a signifier and the object it signifies. In his Course in General Linguistics
    Course in General Linguistics
    Course in General Linguistics is an influential book compiled by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye that is based on notes taken from Ferdinand de Saussure's lectures at the University of Geneva between the years 1906 and 1911...

    , Saussure himself credits the American linguist William Dwight Whitney
    William Dwight Whitney
    William Dwight Whitney was an American linguist, philologist, and lexicographer who edited The Century Dictionary.-Life:William Dwight Whitney was born in Northampton, Massachusetts on February 9, 1827. His father was Josiah Dwight Whitney of the New England Dwight family...

     (1827–1894) with insisting on the arbitrary nature of the sign. Saussure's insistence on the arbitrariness of the sign has also influenced later philosophers and theorists such as Jacques Derrida
    Jacques Derrida
    Jacques Derrida was a French philosopher, born in French Algeria. He developed the critical theory known as deconstruction and his work has been labeled as post-structuralism and associated with postmodern philosophy...

    , Roland Barthes
    Roland Barthes
    Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and...

    , and Jean Baudrillard
    Jean Baudrillard
    Jean Baudrillard was a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer. His work is frequently associated with postmodernism and post-structuralism.-Life:...

    . Ferdinand de Saussure coined the term semiologie while teaching his landmark "Course on General Linguistics" at the University of Geneva from 1906–11. Saussure posited that no word is inherently meaningful. Rather a word is only a "signifier," i.e. the representation of something, and it must be combined in the brain with the "signified," or the thing itself, in order to form a meaning-imbued "sign." Saussure believed that dismantling signs was a real science, for in doing so we come to an empirical understanding of how humans synthesize physical stimuli into words and other abstract concepts.
  • Jakob von Uexküll
    Jakob von Uexküll
    Jakob Johann von Uexküll was a Estonian biologist who worked in the fields of muscular physiology, animal behaviour studies, and the cybernetics of life. However, his most notable contribution is the notion of umwelt, used by semiotician Thomas Sebeok...

     (1864–1944) studied the sign processes in animal
    Animal
    Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

    s. He borrowed the German word for 'environment', Umwelt
    Umwelt
    According to Jakob von Uexküll and Thomas A. Sebeok, umwelt is the "biological foundations that lie at the very epicenter of the study of both communication and signification in the human [and non-human] animal." The term is usually translated as "self-centered world"...

    , to describe the individual's subjective world, and he invented the concept of functional circle (Funktionskreis) as a general model of sign processes. In his Theory of Meaning (Bedeutungslehre, 1940), he described the semiotic approach to biology
    Biology
    Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

    , thus establishing the field that is now called biosemiotics
    Biosemiotics
    Biosemiotics is a growing field that studies the production, action and interpretation of signs in the biological realm...

    .
  • Valentin Voloshinov
    Valentin Voloshinov
    Valentin Nikolaevich Voloshinov was a Soviet/Russian linguist, whose work has been influential in the field of literary theory and Marxist theory of ideology....

     (1895–1936) was a Soviet
    Soviet Union
    The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

    /Russian linguist, whose work has been influential in the field of literary theory
    Literary theory
    Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of...

     and Marxist
    Marxism
    Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

     theory of ideology
    Ideology
    An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

    . Written in the late 1920s in the USSR, Voloshinov's Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (tr.: Marksizm i Filosofiya Yazyka) developed a counter-Saussurean linguistics, which situated language use in social process rather than in an entirely decontexualized Saussurean langue.
  • Louis Hjelmslev
    Louis Hjelmslev
    Louis Hjelmslev was a Danish linguist whose ideas formed the basis of the Copenhagen School of linguistics. Born into an academic family , Hjelmslev studied comparative linguistics in Copenhagen, Prague and Paris...

     (1899–1965) developed a formalist approach to Saussure's structuralist theories. His best known work is Prolegomena to a Theory of Language, which was expanded in Résumé of the Theory of Language, a formal development of glossematics, his scientific calculus of language.
  • Charles W. Morris
    Charles W. Morris
    Charles W. Morris was an American semiotician and philosopher.-Background:A son of Charles William and Laura Morris, Charles William Morris was born on May 23, 1901...

     (1901–1979). In his 1938 Foundations of the Theory of Signs, he defined semiotics as grouping the triad syntax
    Syntax
    In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

    , semantics
    Semantics
    Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata....

    , and pragmatics
    Pragmatics
    Pragmatics is a subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. Pragmatics encompasses speech act theory, conversational implicature, talk in interaction and other approaches to language behavior in philosophy, sociology, and linguistics. It studies how the...

    . Syntax studies the interrelation of the signs, without regard to meaning. Semantics studies the relation between the signs and the objects to which they apply. Pragmatics studies the relation between the sign system and its human (or animal) user. Unlike his mentor George Herbert Mead
    George Herbert Mead
    George Herbert Mead was an American philosopher, sociologist and psychologist, primarily affiliated with the University of Chicago, where he was one of several distinguished pragmatists. He is regarded as one of the founders of social psychology and the American sociological tradition in general.-...

    , Morris was a behaviorist and sympathetic to the Vienna Circle
    Vienna Circle
    The Vienna Circle was an association of philosophers gathered around the University of Vienna in 1922, chaired by Moritz Schlick, also known as the Ernst Mach Society in honour of Ernst Mach...

     positivism
    Positivism
    Positivism is a a view of scientific methods and a philosophical approach, theory, or system based on the view that, in the social as well as natural sciences, sensory experiences and their logical and mathematical treatment are together the exclusive source of all worthwhile information....

     of his colleague Rudolf Carnap
    Rudolf Carnap
    Rudolf Carnap was an influential German-born philosopher who was active in Europe before 1935 and in the United States thereafter. He was a major member of the Vienna Circle and an advocate of logical positivism....

    . Morris was accused by John Dewey
    John Dewey
    John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey was an important early developer of the philosophy of pragmatism and one of the founders of functional psychology...

     of misreading Peirce.
  • Thure von Uexküll
    Thure von Uexküll
    Thure von Uexküll was a German scholar of psychosomatic medicine and biosemiotics. He has developed the approach of his father, Jakob von Uexküll, in the study of living systems and applied it in medicine.-Life:1955-1965: Director of the Medical Outpatient Department at the University of...

     (1908–2004), the "father" of modern psychosomatic medicine, developed a diagnostic method based on semiotic and biosemiotic analyses.
  • Roland Barthes
    Roland Barthes
    Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and...

     (1915–1980) was a French literary theorist and semiotician. He would often critique pieces of cultural material to expose how bourgeois society used them to impose its values upon others. For instance, the portrayal of wine drinking in French society as a robust and healthy habit would be a bourgeois ideal perception contradicted by certain realities (i.e. that wine can be unhealthy and inebriating). He found semiotics useful in conducting these critiques. Barthes explained that these bourgeois cultural myths were second-order signs, or connotations. A picture of a full, dark bottle is a sign, a signifier relating to a signified: a fermented, alcoholic beverage – wine. However, the bourgeois take this signified and apply their own emphasis to it, making ‘wine’ a new signifier, this time relating to a new signified: the idea of healthy, robust, relaxing wine. Motivations for such manipulations vary from a desire to sell products to a simple desire to maintain the status quo. These insights brought Barthes very much in line with similar Marxist theory.

  • Algirdas Julien Greimas
    Algirdas Julien Greimas
    Algirdas Julien Greimas , known among other things for the Greimas Square, is considered, along with Roland Barthes, the most prominent of the French semioticians. With his training in linguistics, he added to the theory of signification and laid the foundations for the Paris School of Semiotics...

     (1917–1992) developed a structural version of semiotics named generative semiotics, trying to shift the focus of discipline from signs to systems of signification. His theories develop the ideas of Saussure, Hjelmslev, Claude Lévi-Strauss
    Claude Lévi-Strauss
    Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called, along with James George Frazer, the "father of modern anthropology"....

    , and Maurice Merleau-Ponty
    Maurice Merleau-Ponty
    Maurice Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenological philosopher, strongly influenced by Karl Marx, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger in addition to being closely associated with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir...

    .
  • Thomas A. Sebeok (1920–2001), a student of Charles W. Morris, was a prolific and wide-ranging American semiotician. Though he insisted that animals are not capable of language, he expanded the purview of semiotics to include non-human signaling and communication systems, thus raising some of the issues addressed by philosophy of mind
    Philosophy of mind
    Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness and their relationship to the physical body, particularly the brain. The mind-body problem, i.e...

     and coining the term zoosemiotics. Sebeok insisted that all communication was made possible by the relationship between an organism and the environment it lives in. He also posed the equation between semiosis (the activity of interpreting signs) and life – the view that has further developed by Copenhagen-Tartu biosemiotic school.
  • Juri Lotman (1922–1993) was the founding member of the Tartu
    Tartu
    Tartu is the second largest city of Estonia. In contrast to Estonia's political and financial capital Tallinn, Tartu is often considered the intellectual and cultural hub, especially since it is home to Estonia's oldest and most renowned university. Situated 186 km southeast of Tallinn, the...

    -Estonia
    Estonia
    Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

     (or Tartu-Moscow) Semiotic School
    Tartu-Moscow Semiotic School
    Tartu-Moscow Semiotic School is a scientific school of thought in the field of semiotics that was formed since 1964 and led by Juri Lotman. Among the other members of this school were Boris Uspensky, Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov, Vladimir Toporov, Mikhail Gasparov, Alexander Piatigorsky, Isaak...

    . He developed a semiotic approach to the study of culture and established a communication model for the study of text semiotics. He also introduced the concept of the semiosphere
    Semiosphere
    Semiosphere is the sphere of semiosis in which sign processes operate in the set of all interconnected Umwelten. The concept was first coined by Juri Lotman in 1982 and is now applied to many fields, including cultural semiotics generally, biosemiotics, zoosemiotics, geosemiotics, etc...

    . Among his Moscow colleagues were Vladimir Toporov
    Vladimir Toporov
    Vladimir Nikolayevich Toporov was a leading Russian philologist associated with the Tartu-Moscow semiotic school. His wife was Tatyana Elizarenkova....

    , Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov
    Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov
    Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov is a prominent Soviet/Russian philologist and Indo-Europeanist probably best known for his glottalic theory of Indo-European consonantism and for placing the Indo-European urheimat in the area of the Armenian Highlands and Lake Urmia.-Early life:Vyacheslav Ivanov's...

    , and Boris Uspensky
    Boris Uspensky
    Boris Andreyevich Uspensky is a Russian philologist and mythographer.Uspensky graduated from Moscow University in 1960. He delivered lectures in Moscow until 1982, but later moved on to work in Harvard University, Cornell University, Vienna University, and the University of Graz...

    .
  • Umberto Eco
    Umberto Eco
    Umberto Eco Knight Grand Cross is an Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist, best known for his novel The Name of the Rose , an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory...

     (1932–present) made a wider audience aware of semiotics by various publications, most notably A Theory of Semiotics and his novel
    Novel
    A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

    , The Name of the Rose
    The Name of the Rose
    The Name of the Rose is the first novel by Italian author Umberto Eco. It is a historical murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327, an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory...

    , which includes applied semiotic operations. His most important contributions to the field bear on interpretation, encyclopedia, and model reader. He has also criticized in several works (A theory of semiotics, La struttura assente, Le signe, La production de signes) the "iconism" or "iconic signs" (taken from Peirce's most famous triadic relation, based on indexes, icons, and symbols), to which he purposes four modes of sign production: recognition, ostension, replica, and invention.
  • Eliseo Verón (1935–present) developed his "Social Discourse Theory" inspired in the Peircian conception of "Semiosis".
  • Alberto J. Muniagurria (1944–present) expert clinitian Full Professor of Medicine and Clinical Semiology in Rosario Medical School. Member of the Argentina National Academy of Medicine, and author of the collection "Clinical Semiology".
  • The Mu Group (Groupe µ
    Groupe µ
    Groupe µ is the collective pseudonym under which a group of Belgian 20th-century semioticians wrote a series of books, presenting an exposition of modern semiotics....

    ) (founded 1967) developed a structural version of rhetorics, and the visual semiotics
    Visual semiotics
    "Surrounded with symbols, images and various signs, human being has always strived to signify them and utilized for communication. The meaning comes out of an interaction between message and its reader...

    .

Current applications


Applications of semiotics include:
  • It represents a methodology
    Methodology
    Methodology is generally a guideline for solving a problem, with specificcomponents such as phases, tasks, methods, techniques and tools . It can be defined also as follows:...

     for the analysis of texts regardless of modality
    Modality (semiotics)
    In semiotics, a modality is a particular way in which the information is to be encoded for presentation to humans, i.e. to the type of sign and to the status of reality ascribed to or claimed by a sign, text or genre. It is more closely associated with the semiotics of Charles Peirce than Saussure...

    . For these purposes, "text" is any message preserved in a form whose existence is independent of both sender and receiver;
  • It can improve ergonomic design in situations where it is important to ensure that human beings can interact more effectively with their environments, whether it be on a large scale, as in architecture
    Architecture
    Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

    , or on a small scale, such as the configuration of instrumentation for human use.


In some countries, its role is limited to literary criticism
Literary criticism
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals...

 and an appreciation of audio and visual media, but this narrow focus can inhibit a more general study of the social and political forces shaping how different media are used and their dynamic status within modern culture. Issues of technological determinism
Determinism
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and...

 in the choice of media and the design of communication strategies assume new importance in this age of mass media. The use of semiotic methods to reveal different levels of meaning and, sometimes, hidden motivations has led some like Yale's Harold Bloom to demonise
Demonization
Demonization is the reinterpretation of polytheistic deities as evil, lying demons by other religions, generally monotheistic and henotheistic ones...

 elements of the subject as Marxist, nihilist
Nihilism
Nihilism is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value...

, etc. (e.g. critical discourse analysis
Critical discourse analysis
Critical discourse analysis is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of discourse that views language as a form of social practice and focuses on the ways social and political domination are visible in text and talk....

 in Postmodernism
Postmodernism
Postmodernism is a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism, the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth and to be inherently suspicious towards a global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from the...

 and deconstruction
Deconstruction
Deconstruction is a term introduced by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1967 book Of Grammatology. Although he carefully avoided defining the term directly, he sought to apply Martin Heidegger's concept of Destruktion or Abbau, to textual reading...

 in Post-structuralism
Post-structuralism
Post-structuralism is a label formulated by American academics to denote the heterogeneous works of a series of French intellectuals who came to international prominence in the 1960s and '70s...

).

Publication of research is both in dedicated journals such as Sign Systems Studies
Sign Systems Studies
Sign Systems Studies is internationally the oldest semiotics periodical, initially published in Russian, since 1998 in English. The journal was established by Juri Lotman in 1964. Since 1998 edited by Peeter Torop, Mihhail Lotman and Kalevi Kull.It is published by the semiotics department of Tartu...

, established by Juri Lotman and published by Tartu University Press
Tartu University Press
Tartu University Press is a university press publishing house that is part of Tartu University, Estonia.The press was founded in 1632. It is the largest university press in Estonia....

; Semiotica
Semiotica
Semiotica is an academic journal covering semiotics. It is the official journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies.-Publication:Since 2000, the journal publishes five issues per year. It is published in English and French....

, founded by Thomas A. Sebeok and published by Mouton de Gruyter; Zeitschrift für Semiotik; European Journal of Semiotics; Versus
Versus (journal)
Versus: Quaderni di studi semiotici is an influential semiotic journal in Italy. Founded by Umberto Eco, et al. in 1971, it has been an important confrontation space for a large number of scholars of several fields coping with signs and signification...

(founded and directed by Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco Knight Grand Cross is an Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist, best known for his novel The Name of the Rose , an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory...

), et al.; The American Journal of Semiotics; and as articles accepted in periodicals of other disciplines, especially journals oriented toward philosophy and cultural criticism. The major semiotic book series "Semiotics, Communication, Cognition", published by De Gruyter Mouton (series editors Paul Cobley and Kalevi Kull
Kalevi Kull
Kalevi Kull is an eminent biosemiotics professor at the University of Tartu, Estonia.He was the president of the Estonian Naturalists' Society in 1991–1994.Ecologist Olevi Kull was his younger brother.-Publications:...

) replaces the former "Approaches to Semiotics" (over 120 volumes) and "Approaches to Applied Semiotics" (series editor Thomas A. Sebeok).

Branches


Semiotics has sprouted a number of subfields, including but not limited to the following:
  • Biosemiotics
    Biosemiotics
    Biosemiotics is a growing field that studies the production, action and interpretation of signs in the biological realm...

     is the study of semiotic processes at all levels of biology, or a semiotic study of living systems.
  • Cognitive semiotics
    Cognitive Semiotics
    Cognitive Semiotics is science of recognizable signs. Cognition relates to the process of thought, and the word "semiotics" is derived from the Greek word "semiotikos" meaning "interpreter of signs ." Cognitive semiotics can be said to be the study of how meaning is constructed and understood...

     is the study of meaning through neuroscience
    Neuroscience
    Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. Traditionally, neuroscience has been seen as a branch of biology. However, it is currently an interdisciplinary science that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics,...

    , psychology
    Psychology
    Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

    , linguistics
    Linguistics
    Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

    , art
    Art
    Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

    , and philosophy
    Philosophy
    Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

     at Aarhus University, Denmark
    Denmark
    Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

     that has brought many international semioticians: Per Aage Brandt
    Per Aage Brandt
    Per Aage Brandt is a Danish writer, poet, and linguist. He is Master of Arts in Romance Philology from the University of Copenhagen and hold a Doctorate of Semiotics from the Sorbonne University ....

    , Svend Østergaard, Peer Bundgård, Frederik Stjernfelt and a connection to Aarhus Hospital, particularly the Center of Functionally Integrated Neuroscience (CFIN).
  • Computational semiotics
    Computational semiotics
    Computational semiotics is an interdisciplinary field that applies, conducts, and draws on research in logic, mathematics, the theory and practice of computation, formal and natural language studies, the cognitive sciences generally, and semiotics proper...

     attempts to engineer the process of semiosis
    Semiosis
    Semiosis is any form of activity, conduct, or process that involves signs, including the production of meaning. Briefly – semiosis is sign process...

    , say in the study of and design for Human-Computer Interaction or to mimic aspects of human cognition
    Cognition
    In science, cognition refers to mental processes. These processes include attention, remembering, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. Cognition is studied in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science...

     through artificial intelligence
    Artificial intelligence
    Artificial intelligence is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it. AI textbooks define the field as "the study and design of intelligent agents" where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its...

     and knowledge representation
    Knowledge representation
    Knowledge representation is an area of artificial intelligence research aimed at representing knowledge in symbols to facilitate inferencing from those knowledge elements, creating new elements of knowledge...

    .
  • Cultural and literary semiotics
    Semiotic literary criticism
    Semiotic literary criticism, also called literary semiotics, is the approach to literary criticism informed by the theory of signs or semiotics...

     examines the literary world, the visual media, the mass media, and advertising in the work of writers such as Roland Barthes
    Roland Barthes
    Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and...

    , Marcel Danesi
    Marcel Danesi
    Marcel Danesi is a current Professor of Semiotics and Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Toronto. He is known for his work in language, communications, and semiotics; being Director of the Program in semiotics and communication theory...

    , and Juri Lotman.
  • Design Semiotics or Product Semiotics is the study of the use of signs in the design of physical products. Introduced by Rune Monö while teaching Industrial Design at the Institute of Design, Umeå University, Sweden.
  • Law and Semiotics. One of the more accomplished publications in this field is the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law.
  • Music semiology
    Music semiology
    Music semiology , the semiology of music, is the study of signs as they pertain to music on a variety of levels. Following Roman Jakobson, V. Kofi Agawu adopts the idea of musical semiosis being introversive or extroversive--that is, musical signs within a text and without...

     "There are strong arguments that music inhabits a semiological realm which, on both ontogenetic and phylogenetic levels, has developmental priority over verbal language." (Middleton 1990, p. 172) See Nattiez (1976, 1987, 1989), Stefani (1973, 1986), Baroni (1983), and Semiotica (66: 1–3 (1987)).
  • Gregorian chant semiology
    Semiology (Gregorian Chant)
    Semiology, derived from 'Semeion' is a branch of Gregorian Chant research. Semiology refers specifically to the study of the neumes as found in the earliest fully notated manuscripts of so called Gregorian Chant, the oldest of which have been dated to the 9th century...

     is a current avenue of palaeographical
    Palaeography
    Palaeography, also spelt paleography is the study of ancient writing. Included in the discipline is the practice of deciphering, reading, and dating historical manuscripts, and the cultural context of writing, including the methods with which writing and books were produced, and the history of...

     research in Gregorian chant
    Gregorian chant
    Gregorian chant is the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic liturgical music within Western Christianity that accompanied the celebration of Mass and other ritual services...

     which is revising the Solesmes school of interpretation.
  • Organisational semiotics
    Organisational semiotics
    Organisational semiotics examines the nature, characteristics and features of information, and studies how information can be best used in the context of organised activities and business domains. Organisational semiotics treats organisations as information systems in which information is created,...

     is the study of semiotic processes in organizations. It has strong ties to Computational semiotics
    Computational semiotics
    Computational semiotics is an interdisciplinary field that applies, conducts, and draws on research in logic, mathematics, the theory and practice of computation, formal and natural language studies, the cognitive sciences generally, and semiotics proper...

     and Human-Computer Interaction.
  • Social semiotics
    Social semiotics
    Social semiotics is a branch of the field of semiotics which investigates human signifying practices in specific social and cultural circumstances, and which tries to explain meaning-making as a social practice. Semiotics, as originally defined by Ferdinand de Saussure, is "the science of the life...

     expands the interpretable semiotic landscape to include all cultural codes, such as in slang, fashion, and advertising. See the work of Roland Barthes
    Roland Barthes
    Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and...

    , Michael Halliday
    Michael Halliday
    Michael Alexander Kirkwood Halliday is a British linguist who developed an internationally influential model of language, the systemic functional linguistic model. His grammatical descriptions go by the name of systemic functional grammar .-Biography:Halliday was born and raised in England...

    , Bob Hodge, and Christian Metz
    Christian Metz (critic)
    Christian Metz was a French film theorist, best known for pioneering the application of Ferdinand de Saussure's theories of semiology to film...

    .
  • Structuralism
    Structuralism
    Structuralism originated in the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and the subsequent Prague and Moscow schools of linguistics. Just as structural linguistics was facing serious challenges from the likes of Noam Chomsky and thus fading in importance in linguistics, structuralism...

     and post-structuralism
    Post-structuralism
    Post-structuralism is a label formulated by American academics to denote the heterogeneous works of a series of French intellectuals who came to international prominence in the 1960s and '70s...

     in the work of Jacques Derrida
    Jacques Derrida
    Jacques Derrida was a French philosopher, born in French Algeria. He developed the critical theory known as deconstruction and his work has been labeled as post-structuralism and associated with postmodern philosophy...

    , Michel Foucault
    Michel Foucault
    Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

    , Louis Hjelmslev
    Louis Hjelmslev
    Louis Hjelmslev was a Danish linguist whose ideas formed the basis of the Copenhagen School of linguistics. Born into an academic family , Hjelmslev studied comparative linguistics in Copenhagen, Prague and Paris...

    , Roman Jakobson
    Roman Jakobson
    Roman Osipovich Jakobson was a Russian linguist and literary theorist.As a pioneer of the structural analysis of language, which became the dominant trend of twentieth-century linguistics, Jakobson was among the most influential linguists of the century...

    , Jacques Lacan
    Jacques Lacan
    Jacques Marie Émile Lacan was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who made prominent contributions to psychoanalysis and philosophy, and has been called "the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud". Giving yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, Lacan influenced France's...

    , Claude Lévi-Strauss
    Claude Lévi-Strauss
    Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called, along with James George Frazer, the "father of modern anthropology"....

    , Roland Barthes
    Roland Barthes
    Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and...

    , etc.
  • Theatre Semiotics extends or adapts semiotics onstage. Key theoricians include Keir Elam.
  • Urban semiotics
    Urban semiotics
    Urban semiotics is the study of meaning in urban form as generated by signs, symbols, and their social connotations.Most urban semiotic theory is based on social semiotics, which considers social connotations, including meanings related to ideology and power structures, in addition to denotative...

    .
  • Visual semiotics
    Visual semiotics
    "Surrounded with symbols, images and various signs, human being has always strived to signify them and utilized for communication. The meaning comes out of an interaction between message and its reader...

     – a subdomain of semiotics that analyses visual signs. See also visual rhetoric
    Visual rhetoric
    Visual rhetoric is the fairly recent development of a theoretical framework describing how visual images communicate, as opposed to aural, verbal, or other messages. The study of visual rhetoric is different from that of visual or graphic design, in that it emphasizes images as sensory expressions...

    .

Pictorial semiotics


Pictorial Semiotics is intimately connected to art history and theory. It has gone beyond them both in at least one fundamental way, however. While art history has limited its visual analysis to a small number of pictures which qualify as "works of art," pictorial semiotics has focused on the properties of pictures more generally. This break from traditional art history and theory—as well as from other major streams of semiotic analysis—leaves open a wide variety of possibilities for pictorial semiotics. Some influences have been drawn from phenomenological analysis, cognitive psychology, and structuralist and cognitivist linguistics, and visual anthropology/sociology.

Semiotics of food


Food has been one traditional topic of choice in relating semiotic theory because it is extremely accessible and easily relatable to the average individual’s life.

Semiotics is the study of sign processes when conducted individually or in groups and how these sign processes give insight as to how meaning is enabled and also understood.

Food is said to be semiotic because it transforms meaning with preparation. Food that is eaten by a wild animal raw from a carcass is obviously different in meaning when compared to a food that is prepared by humans in a kitchen to represent a cultural dish.

Food can also be said to be symbolic of certain social codes. “If food is treated as a code, the messages it encodes will be found in the pattern of social relations being expressed. The message is about different degrees of hierarchy, inclusion and exclusion, boundaries and transactions across boundaries”.

Food is a semiotic regardless of how it is prepared. Whether food is prepared with precision in a fine dining restaurant, picked from a dumpster, plucked, devoured, or even consumed by a wild animal, meaning can always be extracted from the way a certain food has been prepared and the context in which it is served.

Semiotics and globalization


Present research found that, as branches grow and become more international, their logos become more symbolic and less iconic. The iconicity and symbolism of a sign depends on the cultural convention and are on that ground in relation with each other. If the cultural convention has greater influence on the sign, the signs get more symbolic value.

Main institutions


World organisation of semioticians – the International Association for Semiotic Studies
International Association for Semiotic Studies
International Association for Semiotic Studies is the major world organisation of semioticians, established in 1969....

, with its journal Semiotica
Semiotica
Semiotica is an academic journal covering semiotics. It is the official journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies.-Publication:Since 2000, the journal publishes five issues per year. It is published in English and French....

 – was established in 1969. The larger research centers together with extensive teaching program include the Semiotics Departments of Tartu University, Aarhus University, and Bologna University.

See also



  • Asemic writing
    Asemic writing
    Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means "having no specific semantic content". With the nonspecificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret. All of this is similar to the way one would...

  • Branding national myths and symbols
    Branding national myths and symbols
    Branding national myths and symbols, or BNMS, is a field of research focusing on branding and marketing of a nation's myths and symbols. The research blends the theories of marketing, cultural communications, sociology, public relations, and semiotics...

  • Communication studies
    Communication studies
    Communication Studies is an academic field that deals with processes of communication, commonly defined as the sharing of symbols over distances in space and time. Hence, communication studies encompasses a wide range of topics and contexts ranging from face-to-face conversation to speeches to mass...

  • Critical theory
    Critical theory
    Critical theory is an examination and critique of society and culture, drawing from knowledge across the social sciences and humanities. The term has two different meanings with different origins and histories: one originating in sociology and the other in literary criticism...

  • Cultural studies
    Cultural studies
    Cultural studies is an academic field grounded in critical theory and literary criticism. It generally concerns the political nature of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts, and defining traits. It is, to this extent, largely distinguished from cultural...

  • Cybernetics
    Cybernetics
    Cybernetics is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to information theory, control theory and systems theory, at least in its first-order form...

  • Encodings
  • Floating signifier
    Floating signifier
    Floating signifiers or empty signifiers is a term used in semiotics to denote signifiers without referents, such as a word that doesn't point to any actual object or agreed upon meaning.-Origin and definition:...

  • Hermeneutics
  • Information theory
    Information theory
    Information theory is a branch of applied mathematics and electrical engineering involving the quantification of information. Information theory was developed by Claude E. Shannon to find fundamental limits on signal processing operations such as compressing data and on reliably storing and...

  • International Association for Semiotic Studies
    International Association for Semiotic Studies
    International Association for Semiotic Studies is the major world organisation of semioticians, established in 1969....

  • Inquiry
    Inquiry
    An inquiry is any process that has the aim of augmenting knowledge, resolving doubt, or solving a problem. A theory of inquiry is an account of the various types of inquiry and a treatment of the ways that each type of inquiry achieves its aim.-Deduction:...

  • Linguistic anthropology
    Linguistic anthropology
    Linguistic anthropology is the interdisciplinary study of how language influences social life. It is a branch of anthropology that originated from the endeavor to document endangered languages, and has grown over the past 100 years to encompass almost any aspect of language structure and...

  • Linguistics
    Linguistics
    Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

  • Logic
    Logic
    In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...


  • Logic of information
    Logic of information
    The logic of information, or the logical theory of information, considers the information content of logical signs and expressions along the lines initially developed by Charles Sanders Peirce...

  • Logic of relatives
  • Meaning
    Meaning (semiotics)
    In semiotics, the meaning of a sign is its place in a sign relation, in other words, the set of roles that it occupies within a given sign relation. This statement holds whether sign is taken to mean a sign type or a sign token...

  • Media studies
    Media studies
    Media studies is an academic discipline and field of study that deals with the content, history and effects of various media; in particular, the 'mass media'. Media studies may draw on traditions from both the social sciences and the humanities, but mostly from its core disciplines of mass...

  • Musivisual Language
    Musivisual Language
    In art, the musivisual language is a semiotic system that is the synchronous union between the language of music and the language of image. The term was first coined by the Spanish composer Alejandro Román, and indicates the existence of an own unique language of film music.For over a century, film...


:Category:Music semiology
  • Pragmatics
    Pragmatics
    Pragmatics is a subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. Pragmatics encompasses speech act theory, conversational implicature, talk in interaction and other approaches to language behavior in philosophy, sociology, and linguistics. It studies how the...

  • Semantics
    Semantics
    Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata....

  • Semiotic elements and classes of signs (Peirce)
    Semiotic elements and classes of signs (Peirce)
    Logician, mathematician, philosopher, and scientist Charles Sanders Peirce began writing on semeiotic, semiotics, or the theory of sign relations in the 1860s, around the time that he devised his system of three categories...

  • Semiotic information theory
    Semiotic information theory
    Semiotic information theory considers the information content of signs and expressions as it is conceived within the semiotic or sign-relational framework developed by Charles Sanders Peirce.-Information and uncertainty:...

  • Semiotic Society of America
    Semiotic Society of America
    The Semiotic Society of America is an interdisciplinary professional association serving scholars from many disciplines with common interests in semiotics, the study of signs and sign-systems. It was founded in 1975 and includes members from the United States and Canada. Its official journal is The...

  • Semiotics of Social Networking
    Semiotics of Social Networking
    Social media gives humans an instant connection to communicate with others. Social media is "used to describe the type of media that is based on conversation and interaction between people online...

  • Semiotics of wrestling characters
    Semiotics of wrestling characters
    There are two types of primary character archetypes in professional wrestling, the hero and the heel . These characters represent the good versus evil dichotomy, a primary narrative of professional wrestling. Wrestling characters use semiotics to portray their character in explicit fashion...

  • Steganography
    Steganography
    Steganography is the art and science of writing hidden messages in such a way that no one, apart from the sender and intended recipient, suspects the existence of the message, a form of security through obscurity...

  • Semiotic square
    Semiotic square
    The Semiotic Square, also known as the Greimas Square, is a tool used in the structural analysis of the relationships between semiotic signs. The Semiotic Square was developed by Algirdas J. Greimas, a Lithuanian linguist and semiotician and first presented in Semantique Structurale This book was...

  • Symbolic culture
    Symbolic culture
    Symbolic culture is a concept used by archaeologists, social anthropologists and sociologists to differentiate the cultural realm constructed and inhabited uniquely by Homo sapiens from ordinary "culture", which many other animals possess. Symbolic culture presupposes more than the ability to learn...

  • Symbology
    Symbology
    Symbology concerns the study of symbols.Symbology may also refer to:-Academics:* Semiotics, study of signs and symbols* Iconography, branch of art history which studies images...

  • Syntax
    Syntax
    In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

  • Tartu-Moscow Semiotic School
    Tartu-Moscow Semiotic School
    Tartu-Moscow Semiotic School is a scientific school of thought in the field of semiotics that was formed since 1964 and led by Juri Lotman. Among the other members of this school were Boris Uspensky, Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov, Vladimir Toporov, Mikhail Gasparov, Alexander Piatigorsky, Isaak...

  • Vexillology
    Vexillology
    Vexillology is the scholarly study of flags. The word is a synthesis of the Latin word vexillum, meaning 'flag', and the Greek suffix -logy, meaning 'study'. The vexillum was a particular type of flag used by Roman legions during the classical era; its name is a diminutive form of the word velum...



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Further reading



Peircean focus

Journals, book series — associations, centers