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Semiotics - A Salad Bowl of Signs!

Semiotics | Signs | 21st August 2021 | Virtual Wire

Semiotics in present times plays a significant role in media analysis. The sound of thunder signifying a storm and turmoil in a movie clip, a thumbs-up action to say best of luck, or convey the message of success is the derivation of meanings that the study of semiotics has facilitated.

Semiotics has always been the interest of many scholars who stated various definitions of semiotics, but all zeroed down to studying the meaning of signs.


Umberto Eco, in his book entitled 'A Theory of Semiotics,' indicated that 'semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign. A sign is everything that can be taken as significantly substituting for 'something else' (1979; 7).

According to Umberto Eco, that 'something else does not necessarily exist precisely at the same time when the sign represents or replaces its position. Therefore, Umberto Eco often refers to it as the theory of lie or deception because it can be used for misleading or deceiving others (1976, p. 6-7).



History of Semiotics

The philosophy referring to the relevance of semiotics in the lives of humans began around more than two thousand years ago by the Greek philosophers, documenting its historical basis and its advent, particularly during the emergence of the classical semiotic.


Later in the middle ages, Stoici (Zeno) and other philosophers and academicians debated the meaning and usage of signs in depth. However, the term 'semiotic' did not spring up until the late 18th century, when it was invented and used by a German philosopher named Lambert. There are two pioneers who have made significant contributions to the development of modern semiotics are notably Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), a linguist from Switzerland, and Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), a philosopher from America.


The sign theory emerged when Saussure felt that the idea of linguistic signs should be studied with a more comprehensive theory. This thought led to the introduction of the term "semiology" in a few compilations of lecture notes made by his students based on lectures given from 1907 to 1911, which were subsequently published as a book 'Course in General Linguistics.'


Though there are several other signs and expressions, Saussure gave precedence to the language system of signs. Saussure's theory of sign deals with the two-dimensional system, the consensus or conventional system, and the networking relationship between the signs system and the unstructured system.