📖 eBook - ePub
A Graphic Guide
Paul Cobley, Litza Jansz
📖 eBook - ePub
A Graphic Guide
Paul Cobley, Litza Jansz
About This Book
"Introducing Semiotics" outlines the development of sign study from its classical precursors to contemporary post-structuralism. Through Paul Cobley's incisive text and Litza Jansz's brilliant illustrations, it identifies the key semioticians and their work and explains the simple concepts behind difficult terms. For anybody who wishes to know why signs are crucial to human existence and how we can begin to study systems of signification, this book is the place to start.
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SubtopicLiterary Criticism Theory
If you go to the right cocktail parties, or hang around the foyers of the right cinemas, or read the right Sunday colour supplements, or watch the right late night arts programmes on TV, then you will know that “semiotics” is a valuable buzzword.
The Pre-History of Semiotics
Early precursors of semiotics include Plato (c. 428–348 BCE*) whose Cratylus ponders the origin of language; and Aristotle (384–322 BCE) who considers nouns in his Poetics and On Interpretation.
The word “semiotics” comes from the Greek root, seme, as in semeiotikos, an interpreter of signs. Semiotics as a discipline is simply the analysis of signs or the study of the functioning of sign systems.
The idea that sign systems are of great consequence is easy enough to grasp; yet the recognition of the need to study sign systems is very much a modern phenomenon.
One of the most notable debates on signs in the Ancient world took place between the Stoics and the Epicureans (around 300 BCE in Athens).
The crux of the matter concerned the difference between “natural signs” (freely occurring throughout nature) and “conventional” signs (those designed precisely for the purpose of communication).
For the Stoics especially, the quintessential sign was what we know as the medical symptom.
The major foundation for the Western interrogation of signs was laid in the Middle Ages with the teachings of St. Augustine (354–430).
Augustine developed his theory of signa data – conventional signs. Contrary to Classical commentators, he promoted such signs as the proper objects of philosophical scrutiny.
He also served to narrow the focus of sign study by pronouncing on the way in which words seem to be the correlates of “mental words”.
Other scholars, such as the English Franciscan, William of Ockham (c. 1285–1349) exacerbated this version of the sign.
Although these figures in European philosophy are in some senses proto-semioticians, it is not until the 20th century that a full-blown semiotic awareness appears, under the auspices of two founding fathers.
In 1906 the University of Geneva, by fluke, provided the catalyst for him to produce a landmark in linguistics and, subsequently, semiotics.
Saussure was assigned the task of teaching a course in general linguistics (1906–11), a task he had not previously undertaken, and dealing with a topic upon which he would not publish in his lifetime.
Nevertheless, when Saussure died in 1913, his students and colleagues thought the course was so innovative that they reassembled it from their preserved notes and published it in 1916 as the Cours de linguistique générale.
In opposition to a “historical” – diachronic – linguistics which looks at the changes which take place over time in specific languages, Saussure pursued a synchronic linguistics. He presented an analysis of the state of language in general, an understanding of the conditions for existence of any language.
The Cours focussed on the nature of the linguistic sign, and Saussure made a number of crucial points which are integral to any understanding of the European study of sign systems.
Saussure defined the linguistic sign as a two-sided entity, a dyad. One side of the sign was what he called the signifier. A signifier is the thoroughly material aspect of a sign: if one feels one’s vocal cords when speaking, it is clear that sounds are made from vibrations (which are undoubtedly material in nature). Saussure described the verbal signifier as a “sound image”.
Inseparable from the signifier in any sign – and, indeed, engendered by the signifier – is what Saussure calls the signified.
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Citation styles for Introducing SemioticsHow to cite Introducing Semiotics for your reference list or bibliography: select your referencing style from the list below and hit 'copy' to generate a citation. If your style isn't in the list, you can start a free trial to access over 20 additional styles from the Perlego eReader.
APA 6 Citation
Cobley, P., & Jansz, L. (2014). Introducing Semiotics ([edition unavailable]). Icon Books Ltd. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/569696/introducing-semiotics-a-graphic-guide-pdf (Original work published 2014)
Cobley, Paul, and Litza Jansz. (2014) 2014. Introducing Semiotics. [Edition unavailable]. Icon Books Ltd. https://www.perlego.com/book/569696/introducing-semiotics-a-graphic-guide-pdf.
Cobley, P. and Jansz, L. (2014) Introducing Semiotics. [edition unavailable]. Icon Books Ltd. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/569696/introducing-semiotics-a-graphic-guide-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Cobley, Paul, and Litza Jansz. Introducing Semiotics. [edition unavailable]. Icon Books Ltd, 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.