Semiotics and Meaning


The readings this week were not my favorite, simply because they were hands down the hardest to read, I found myself rereading over and over trying to fully understand the concepts. The first reading was easier for me then the second, I believe because I was super focused on understanding. Schirato and Yell talk about two philosophers concept of semiotics. The first was a man named Saussure who lays the groundwork for the concept. He talks about three aspects of semiotics (which is the connection between language and meaning), the signifier, the signified, and the sign. The signifier is the actual physical word he gives the example of an elephant, the signified is the concept of what an elephant is, and the sign is the relationship between the signifier and the signified. I can understand what he is talking about; when I was younger my friends and I would play a game. One person would say a word and you would have to say the first thing that popped into your mind. It was a fun game, but we always ended up running out of words because we always would have similar reactions to the same words. The second philosopher talks about why this would happen to my friends and I. The second philosopher was named Volosinov and he agreed with Saussure on his critique of semiotics. Volosinov says Saussure left out one aspect and that was how different individuals, racially, culturally, economically, etc. will have different reactions to different words. He argues that with an ever-changing world semiotics must be ever changing. An example he uses is that the term “woman” has a completely different meaning then it used to. The way women are treated in a culture is a direct correlation to value or meaning of signifier. In order for women to change the way they were viewed in the culture then must first change what the world meant to people of that culture. The word no longer brings about an image of a well-put together housewife in pearls with a vacuum cleaner and fresh baked cookies; it can be associated with a hardworking political figure or a world-renowned athlete.
Being an abroad student can help me understand the concept of semiotics because language barriers arise all of the time. My American roommate and I just recently had a British friend stay with us, and I constantly found myself confused by her choice of words. I can’t really think of a good example at the moment except that we were cooking and I called a vegetable a zucchini and she had no idea what I was talking about until I physically showed her one and she exclaimed, “oh a courgette”. We were both talking about the same vegetable, however in England it is called something different. Our language was different, however our meanings were the same. The second article drew semiotics into media through the form of Logos. Logos make brands visible, meaning that the logo is the symbol. Logos are used as physical representations of what something is. It is medias own form of semiotics, a device to make you memorize and recognize that brand of whatever. When I think or brands I usually think of clothing, the very shirt I am wearing is French Connection of the United Kingdom. On many of their shirts sits their logo FCUK, it is a play on the curse word, but it is associated with the brand. Logos are used by the media to catch an individual’s attention, attracted him/her to their product, and eventually are purchased.


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