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Meaning as a sign

Humans give meaning to the world through linguistic signs, which are the link between the objects in the real world (the signified) and their representations in our mind (the concepts). Words (signifiers) are signs as they refer to a concept in our mind. This dualism is asymmetrical since both parts are not perfectly correspondent. Sign has also been traditionally defined as arbitrary because there seem to be nothing inherent in the nature of the objects that suggests a particular word or sound. There are three ways in which signs mean, which are not incompatible: Denotation: they refer to objects in a definable reality. Connotation: they evoke certain mental associations. Iconicity: they imitate their related object in some aspect. This is how members of a speech and even a discourse community encode their knowledge of the world, so cultural information is added to the meanings along these processes. But signs not only link words to the world, they also relate to other words: Within the same utterance (co-text) by cohesive devices based on common connotations in a particular community. Across the series of prior text stored on the communitys cultural memory, including linguistic metaphors that remain on their own. These shared semantic networks create a level of semantic cohesion which is almost impossible to translate into a different language, as its speakers would activate a different set of mental associations. They are part of the idiosyncrasy of communities. It is precisely this shared nature of meaning which make native users of a language believe their signs are not arbitrary, but absolutely necessary and natural. In fact they are created, not given, and combined by their users, with a motivation to intellectually interact with the world and the rest of the people. Across the years, signs often lose part of their meaning and become symbols. The overuse we make of them partially empties them from their denotative and connotative content, but also mythicise them and validates both the sigh and its users. This gives signs the power to influence their users. Cultural stereotypes, frequently used in advertisement or political speech, can illustrate this feature. Whether some guerrilla forces are named

freedom fighters or rebels would let them be legitimate or illegitimate depending on the ideology of the media and its audience. The use made of the shared semantic resources in a particular social context clearly defines those semantic resources, so how to split Pragmatics and Semantics? Although a systematic study is required, these to disciplines cannot work be completely separate. In my opinion, the achievements in one will help understand the other and vice versa. From the very beginning, words are born to be used, so use is our motivation to create the linguistic signs. And it is through the use we make of them that they gain meaning and develop. Thus an interdisciplinary work in this particular case seems essential to me. Talking about ideology implied in the meaning of signs, it has been always evident for me, but I have been recently thinking about it since the moment I read this article, to the extent that I have observed lots of examples of this phenomenon in my everyday life. For example, last Thursday when I get into the underground station of Ciudad Universitaria, I noticed a subtle change in the informative panels. They do not call us viajeros (travellers) anymore. Now we are clientes (customer). As far as I can see, this is a way of craftily putting into our minds the idea that the underground is not a public service but a private enterprise which sells their services like anyone else. But this is not an isolated case; it also happens in other public services such as the public health system. We are no longer pacientes (patients), we are always customers. Actually, these services are being gradually privatised, so we will end up being nothing else. For me this clearly responds to a planned strategy to settle the global market culture through introducing these kinds of terms in our everyday language to the extent we get used to them and find them natural and necessary. But I guess my point of view has something to do with my own ideology

ngela Almeida.