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LANGUAGE AS A SEMIOTIC SYSTEM

Jahanzeb Jahan
I.D: 100784-006

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LANGUAGE AS A SEMIOTIC SYSTEM

Contents:
(1): What is language? (2): Elements of language (3): What is semiotics? (4): Terminology (5): History of semiotics. (6): Important semioticians. (7): Charles Sanders Peirce’s theory (1839–1914). (8): Ferdinand d sausurre’s theory. (9) Signifier and signified in sausurre’s theory. (10): Conclusion. (11): Bibliography.

Barton. and desires by means of voluntarily produced symbols”. .3 LAGUAGE AS A SEMIOTIC SYSTEM (1): What is language?  According to sapir (1921) “Language is purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas. “Language is system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means which a social group co-operates”. literacy (1994) “Language is a symbolic system linking what goes on inside our heads with what goes on outside. morphology. It mediates between self and society. which decides the way to which these parts can be combined to produce massage (function) that have meanings (Semantics)”. It is a form of representation.Wardhaugh “Language is a system of conventional symbols used for communication by a whole community”. a way of representing the world to ourselves and to others”.  According to Cambridge Dictionary1995 “Language is system of communication consisting of set of rules (syntax).  According to D. emotion.  According to general definition quoted by R.(phonology.  According to Terger.

E Wood. SYNTACTICS: The study of structure of sentence or rules that govern how words are combined to form phrases and sentences PHONEMES: Smaller unit of speech sound. SEMANTICS: The Study of meanings. PHONOLOGY: The study of the sound patterns of language. in delayed speech and language development: “Language is an organized system of linguistics symbols (words) used by human beings to communication through words. (1): Language is basic to all communication (2): Encompass all forms of expression” (2): ELEMENTS OF LANGUAGE PHONETICS: The study of speech sounds. . MORPHEMES: Combination of phonemes makes morphemes.4  According to N.

But that doesn't leave enquirers much wiser. If you were to agree with them that semiotics can include the study of all these and more. people will probably assume that semiotics is about 'visual signs'. of symbolic behavior or of communication system”. pub signs and star signs.  Semiotics has been variously described by JHON LYONS as: “Science of signs. The kinds of signs that are likely to spring immediately to mind are those which we routinely refer to as 'signs' in everyday life. within semiotics. The shortest definition is that it is the study of signs. Semiotics could be anywhere.  Explanation of semiotics BY DANIEL CHANDLER: There has been much discussion. signs and symbols”. and of the scope of the term is ‘COMMUNICATION’. the free encyclopedia: “Semiotics. But if you are thick-skinned and tell them that it also includes words. also called semiotic studies or semiology. is the study of sign processes (semiosis). 'What do you mean by a sign?' people usually ask next. You would confirm their hunch if you said that signs can also be drawings. and by now they'd be keen to direct you to the art and photography sections. paintings and photographs. or signification and communication. of the difference between signs and signals and symbols. sounds and 'body language' they may .5 (3): WHAT IS SEMIOTICS? DEFINITION: From Wikipedia. such as road signs.

But if you study semiotics in linguistics than you can easily identify what type of explanation linguistics gives us in this respect." Charles Morris adds that semantics deals with the relation of signs to their designata and the objects which they may or do denote. with all the . some semioticians focus on the logical dimensions of the science.  SIGNS AND SYMBOLS IN COMMUNICATION ARE usually divided into three branches: Semantics: Relation between signs and the things to which they refer. syntactics deals with the "rules that govern how words are combined to form phrases and sentences. pragmatics deals with the biotic aspects of semiosis. They examine areas belonging also to the natural sciences – such as how organisms make predictions about. their denotata Syntactic: Relations among signs in formal structures Pragmatics: Relation between signs and their effects on those (people) who use them Semiotics is frequently seen as having important anthropological dimensions. their semiotic niche in the world). In general. Umberto Eco proposes that every cultural phenomenon can be studied as communication. More precisely. Syntactics is the branch of semiotics that deals with the formal properties of signs and symbols.6 reasonably wonder what all these things have in common and how anyone could possibly study such disparate phenomena. However. and adapt to. that is. and. semiotic theories take signs or sign systems as their object of study: the communication of information in living organisms is covered in biosemiotics or zoosemiosis. for example. If you get this far they've probably already 'read the signs' which suggest that you are either eccentric or insane and communication may have ceased.

7 psychological. Charles Morris followed Peirce in using the term "semiotic" and in extending the discipline beyond human communication to animal learning and use of signals. and hence of general psychology.. which was spelled semiotics (Greek: σημειωτικός. semeiotikos. Ferdinand de Saussure. (4): TERMINOLOGY The term. Chapter 21 of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). biological. It would form part of social psychology. 'sign').____ WIKIPEDIA ENCYCLOPEDIA. John Locke used the terms semeiotike and semeiotics in Book 4. Since it does not yet exist. one cannot say for . and sociological phenomena which occur in the functioning of signs. possible to conceive of a science which studies the role of signs as part of social life. which abstracts "what must be the characters of all signs used by. It would investigate the nature of signs and the laws governing them. and which is philosophical logic pursued in terms of signs and sign processes. however. an interpreter of signs).an intelligence capable of learning by experience". viewed the most important area within semiotics as belonging to the social sciences: It is. or formal doctrine of signs". 75) in a very precise sense to denote the branch of medical science relating to the interpretation of signs. p. Charles Sanders Peirce defined what he termed "semiotic" (which he sometimes spelt as "semeiotic") as the "quasi-necessary. In the nineteenth century. We shall call it semiology (from the Greek semeîon.... was first used in English by Henry Stubbes (1670.

The laws which semiology will discover will be laws applicable in linguistics. —Cited in Chandler's "Semiotics For Beginners". a place ready for it in advance. Morris. Umberto Eco. in his Semiotics and philosophy of language. Linguistics is only one branch of this general science. and Augustine considered the nature of the sign within a conventional system. But it has a right to exist. especially through Scholastic philosophy. More recently.8 certain that it will exist. (5): HISTORY OF SEMIOTICS The importance of signs and signification has been recognized throughout much of the history of philosophy. and in psychology as well. the founder of the philosophical doctrine known as pragmatism (which he later renamed "pragmaticism" to . perhaps all. Plato and Aristotle both explored the relationship between signs and the world. Introduction. (6): IMPORTANT SEMIOTICIANS • Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914). Max Black attributes the work of Bertrand Russell as being seminal. and linguistics will thus be assigned to a clearly defined place in the field of human knowledge. These theories have had a lasting effect in Western philosophy. major thinkers. Early theorists in this area include Charles W. has argued that semiotic theories are implicit in the work of most.

the sign is completely arbitrary. and Jean Baudrillard." ("Pragmatism". It is important to note that.9 distinguish it from the pragmatism developed by others like William James). or 3 to the 10th power) possible elements and relations. thereby creating a new signifying relation. which is." or the . to the signified as the mental concept. its object. Ferdinand de Saussure coined the term semiologie while teaching his landmark "Course on General Linguistics" at the University of Geneva from 1906–11. according to Saussure.e. this tri-relative influence not being in any way resolvable into actions between pairs. the "father" of modern linguistics. such as a sign. beginning with the triadic relation just described. who thought that there must be some connection between a signifier and the object it signifies. Roland Barthes." i. and ending with a system consisting of 59. written 1907).. Rather a word is only a "signifier. a cooperation of three subjects. relating the signifier as the form of the word or phrase uttered. there was no necessary connection between the sign and its meaning. For a summary of Peirce's contributions to semiotics. or influence. Saussure posited that no word is inherently meaningful. i. • Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913). or involves. Saussure's insistence on the arbitrariness of the sign has also greatly influenced later philosophers. In his Course in General Linguistics. Essential Peirce 2: 411. One reason for this high number is that he allowed each interpretant to act as a sign. and he considered semiotics and logic as facets of a wider theory. preferred the terms "semiotic" and "semeiotic.e. especially postmodern theorists such as Jacques Derrida. Saussure himself credits the American linguist William Dwight Whitney (1827–1894) with insisting on the arbitrary nature of the sign. His notion of semiosis evolved throughout his career." He defined semiosis as ".action.049 (= 310. the representation of something. see Liszka (1996). proposed a dualistic notion of signs. and it must be combined in the brain with the "signified.. This sets him apart from previous philosophers such as Plato or the Scholastics. and its interpretant. Peirce was also a notable logician.

Semantics studies the relation between the signs and the objects to which they apply." Saussure believed that dismantling signs was a real science. in order to form a meaning-imbued "sign. He introduced the concept of Umwelt (subjective world or environment. and pragmatics. Pragmatics studies the relation between the sign system and its human (or animal) user. thus establishing the field that is now called biosemiotics. whose work has been influential in the field of literary theory and Marxist theory of ideology. . for in doing so we come to an empirical understanding of how humans synthesize physical stimuli into words and other abstract concepts. • Louis Hjelmslev (1899–1965) developed a formalist approach to Saussure's structuralist theories. Voloshinov's Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (tr. Written in the late 1920s in the USSR. he defined semiotics as grouping the triad syntax. • Charles W. without regard to meaning. his scientific calculus of language. Morris (1901–1979). • Jakob von Uexküll (1864–1944) studied the sign processes in animals. • Valentin Voloshinov (Russian: Валенти́н Никола́евич Воло́шинов) (1895 – June 13. His best known work is Prolegomena to a Theory of Language. which situated language use in social process rather than in an entirely decontexualized Saussurean langue. Morris has been accused of misreading Peirce. semantics. a formal development of glossematics. Syntax studies the interrelation of the signs. In his Theory of Meaning (Bedeutungslehre. "world around") and functional circle (Funktionskreis) as a general model of sign processes. Morris was a behaviorist and sympathetic to the Vienna Circle positivism of his colleague Rudolf Carnap. which was expanded in Résumé of the Theory of Language.: Marksizm i Filosofiya Yazyka) developed a counter-Saussurean linguistics. he described the semiotic approach to biology. Unlike his mentor George Herbert Mead. In his 1938 Foundations of the Theory of Signs. 1936) was a Soviet/Russian linguist.10 thing itself. 1940). lit.

Sebeok insisted that all communication was made possible by the relationship between an organism and the environment it lives in. Claude Lévi-Strauss. this time relating to a new signified: the idea of healthy. that wine can be unhealthy and inebriating). developed a diagnostic method based on semiotic and biosemiotic analyses. Hjelmslev. However. • Thomas A. • Roland Barthes (1915–1980) was a French literary theorist and semiotician. His theories develop the ideas of Saussure. Though he insisted that animals are not capable of language. a signifier relating to a signified: a fermented. the "father" of modern psychosomatic medicine. trying to shift the focus of discipline from signs to systems of signification. He would often interrogate pieces of cultural material to expose how bourgeois society used them to assert its values upon others. relaxing wine. Morris.11 • Thure von Uexküll (1908–2004). A picture of a full. Barthes explained that these bourgeois cultural myths were second-order signs. dark bottle is a sign. a student of Charles W. and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. the bourgeois take this signified and apply their own emphasis to it. thus raising some of the issues addressed by philosophy of mind and coining the term zoosemiotics. For instance.e. Sebeok (1920–2001). He also posed the equation between semiosis (the activity of interpreting signs) and . • Algirdas Julien Greimas (1917–1992) developed a structural version of semiotics named generative semiotics. robust. alcoholic beverage – wine. Motivations for such manipulations vary from a desire to sell products to a simple desire to maintain the status quo. portrayal of wine in French society as a robust and healthy habit would be a bourgeois ideal perception contradicted by certain realities (i. These insights brought Barthes very much in line with similar Marxist theory. He found semiotics useful in these interrogations. making ‘wine’ a new signifier. he expanded the purview of semiotics to include non-human signaling and communication systems. was a prolific and wide-ranging American semiotician. or connotations.

we are surely Homo significans . encyclopedia. His most important contributions to the field bear on interpretation. Among his Moscow colleagues were Vladimir Toporov. which includes applied semiotic operations. • The Mu Group (Groupe µ) (founded 1967) developed a structural version of rhetorics. He has also criticized in several works (A theory of semiotics. icons. He also introduced the concept of the semiosphere. Le signe. and model reader. based on indexes. • Juri Lotman (1922–1993) was the founding member of the Tartu (or Tartu-Moscow) Semiotic School. Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov.meaning-makers. • Eliseo Verón (1935-present) developed his "Social Discourse Theory" inspired in the Peircian conception of "Semiosis". He developed a semiotic approach to the study of culture and established a communication model for the study of text semiotics. • Umberto Eco (1932–present) made a wider audience aware of semiotics by various publications. La production de signes) the "iconism" or "iconic signs" (taken from Peirce's most famous triadic relation. La struttura assente. and Boris Uspensky. . (7): Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) We seem as a species to be driven by a desire to make meanings : above all.12 life – the view that has further developed by Copenhagen-Tartu biosemiotic school. and symbols). and the visual semiotics. ostension. to which he purposes four modes of sign production: recognition. and invention. replica. most notably A Theory of Semiotics and his novel The Name of the Rose.

and investigates language as a structured system of signs. Signs take the form of words.” and “Part Five: Concerning Retrospective Linguistics. Linguistics includes such fields of study as: Phonology (the study of the sound patterns of language).172) (8): Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913) Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics (1916) is a summary of his lectures at the University of Geneva from 1906 to 1911. . we make meanings through our creation and interpretation of 'signs'.” and five main sections.” “Saussure defines linguistics as the study of language and as the study of the manifestations of human speech” . Indeed. 2.” “Part Four: Geographical Linguistics. but such things have no intrinsic meaning and become signs only when we invest them with meaning. Saussure examines the relationship between speech and the evolution of language. declares Peirce (Peirce 1931-58.” “Part Three: Diachronic Linguistics. sounds. entitled: “Part One: General Principles. and with the social or cultural influences that shape the development of language. images. acts or objects. 2.” “Part Two: Synchronic Linguistics. odours. He says that linguistics is also concerned with the history of languages. The text includes an introduction to the history and subject-matter of linguistics. flavours. 'we think only in signs' (Peirce 1931-58. 'Nothing is a sign unless it is interpreted as a sign'.13 Distinctively.302). according to Peirce. an appendix entitled “Principles of Phonology.

whereas competence does not presupposes performance the concepts of competence and performance is given by Chomsky. habitually or occasionally. and sounds have to be articulated. and language acquisition.____ by JHON LYONS. Semantics (the study of meaning). Saussure says that language is really a borderland . engages in a particular kind of behaviour or (b): that he has ability(whether he exercised it or not) to engage in this particular kind of behaviour referring to the former as PERFORMANCE and latter as COMPETENCE. for language to occur. we can say hat performance presupposes competence.  Language is a link between thought and sound: Language is a link between thought and sound and is a means for thought to be expressed as sound. that he. morphology (the study of word formation and structure). Thoughts have to become ordered. Speaking is an activity of the individual. pragmatics (the study of the purposes and effects of uses of language) . Language is a system of signs that evolves from the activity of speech. language is the social manifestation of speech. we can mean one of two things: (a). Explanation: when we say of someone that he speaks English. Syntax (the study of grammar and sentence structure).  Saussure draws a distinction between: language (langue) and the activity of speaking (parole).14 Phonetics (the study of the production and perception of the sounds of speech). LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTICS INTRODUCTION.

changes in linguistic signs originate in changes in the social activity of speech. or having indeterminate order). where thought and sound combine to provide communication. may be grouped simultaneously in several dimensions. A sign can be altered by a change in the relationship between the signifier and the signified. and the sound-image is the signifier. Language is a product of the speaker’s communication of signs to the listener. or associative (substitutive. A written word is an image of a vocal sign.” . He maintains that written language exists for the purpose of representing spoken language. and says that linguistics is a part of semiology. Saussure says “that a linguistic sign is a combination of a concept and a sound-image. or successive). Spoken language includes the communication of concepts by means of sound-images from the speaker to the listener. because they represent a span in a single dimension. According to Saussure. Visual signifiers. in contrast. The concept is what is signified.15 between thought and sound. Relations between linguistic signs can be either: syntagmatic (linear.e. because they succeed each other or form a chain. any sound-image can conceivably be used to signify a particular concept”..  Study of signs (Semiology): sassure defines semiology as the study of signs. “ Saussure argues that language is a structured system of arbitrary signs. i. The combination of the signifier and the signified is arbitrary. Saussure says that linguistic signs are by nature linear. sequential. Auditory signifiers are linear.

and the extent to which language can be influenced by social forces. He explains that this structural aspect means that language also represents a system of . A unit is a segment of the spoken chain that corresponds to a particular concept Saussure explains that the units of language can have a synchronic or diachronic arrangement. a symbol is never completely arbitrary. Deterrents to linguistic change include: the arbitrary nature of signs. Synchronic linguistics: is the study of language at a particular point in time.16 . Language is changed by the rearranging and reinterpreting of its units. Saussure says that nothing enters written language without having been tested in spoken language. and the complexity of the structure of language. Linguistic signs may. Saussure distinguishes between synchronic (static) linguistics and diachronic (evolutionary) linguistics. A symbol may be a signifier. Factors that promote change in language include: individual variation in the use of language. Speaking is an activity which involves oral and auditory communication between individuals. Language is the set of rules by which individuals are able to understand each other. According to Saussure. but in contrast to a sign. be changeable or unchangeable. Saussure’s investigation of structural linguistics gives us a clear and concise presentation of the view that language can be described in terms of structural units. Diachronic linguistics: is the study of the history or evolution of language. A symbol has a rational relationship with what is signified. Changes occur in individual patterns of speaking before becoming more widely accepted as a part of language. to a varying extent. diachronic change originates in the social activity of speech. the multiplicity of signs necessary to form a language.

. Linguistic value can be viewed as a quality of the signified. Saussure 1974. 67). You cannot have a totally meaningless signifier or a completely formless signified (Saussure 1983.  The sign is the whole that results from the association of the signifier with the signified (Saussure 1983. and the 'signified' (signifié) . the signifier. The relationship between the signifier and the signified is referred to as 'signification'.17 values. or the complete sign. A sign must have both a signifier and a signified. Saussure offered a 'dyadic' or two-part model of the sign. The value of the signified comes from its relation to other concepts. He defined a sign as being composed of:  a 'signifier' (signifiant) . and this represented in the Saussurean diagram by the arrows. 101. 67.the concept it represents. a signified concept: that the shop is open for business. Saussure 1974.the form which the sign takes. The horizontal line marking the two elements of the sign is referred to as 'the bar'. If we take a linguistic example. The value of the complete sign comes from the way in which it unites the signifier and the signified. the word 'Open' (when it is invested with meaning by someone who encounters it on a shop doorway) is a sign consisting of:   a signifier: the word open. (9): Signifier and signified: The linguistic value of a word (a signifier) comes from its property of standing for a concept (the signified). 102-103).

heard. many signifiers could stand for the concept 'open' (for instance. This sound pattern may be called a 'material' element only in that it is the representation of our sensory impressions.again. whilst the basic 'Saussurean' model is commonly adopted. smelt or tasted. Saussure 1974. dependent but comparable sign system (Saussure 1983. 15. with each unique pairing constituting a different sign. The sound pattern is not actually a sound. 16. 15. 117. 66) Saussure was focusing on the linguistic sign (such as a word) and he 'phonocentrically' privileged the spoken word.it is something which can be seen. Both were form rather than substance: “A linguistic sign is not a link between a thing and a name. (Saussure 1983. For Saussure. 12. referring specifically to the image acoustique ('sound-image' or 'sound pattern'). but between a concept and a sound pattern. for a sound is something physical. a small outline of a box with an open flap for 'open this end') . touched. Similarly. . A sign is a recognizable combination of a signifier with a particular signified. as given to him by the evidence of his senses. both the signifier and the signified were purely 'psychological' (Saussure 1983. on top of a packing carton. The same signifier (the word 'open') could stand for a different signified (and thus be a different sign) if it were on a push-button inside a lift ('push to open door'). Saussure 1974. 23-24. The sound pattern may thus be distinguished from the other element associated with it in a linguistic sign. secondary. 14-15. Saussure 1974. This other element is generally of a more abstract kind: the concept”. 66. A sound pattern is the hearer's psychological impression of a sound. 119). it tends to be a more materialistic model than that of Saussure himself. 66. 12. The signifier is now commonly interpreted as the material (or physical) form of the sign . 24-25. 65-66).18 Nowadays. seeing writing as a separate. 15.

69. signs have multiple rather than single meanings. edited by Charler Bally and Albert Sechehaye in collaboration with Albert Riedlinger. he described language .g. Saussure shows that the meaning or signification of signs is established by their relation to each other.g. There is no one-to-one link between signifier and signified. Lewis 1991. is always completely arbitrary (e. Introduction. 1966) pp.19 The arbitrary aspect of signs does help to account for the scope for their interpretation (and the importance of context). 69. the syntagmatic and associative. Synchronic reality is found in the structure of language at a given point in time. one signifier may refer to many signifieds (e. Thus._________ Cited in Chandler's "Semiotics For Beginners". The relation of signs to each other forms the structure of language. 68-73. Saussure 1974. Charles pierce and Ferdinand de Saussure also generator of this theory but saussurre is considered to be FATHER of modern linguistics. synonyms). Course in General Linguistics. Onomatopoeic words are often mentioned in this context. . though some semioticians retort that this hardly accounts for the variability between different languages in their words for the same sounds (notably the sounds made by familiar animals) (Saussure 1983. 29). translated by Wade Baskin (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. puns) and one signified may be referred to by many signifiers (e. Diachronic reality is found in changes of language over a period of time. Within a single language. Saussure views language as having an inner duality. Some commentators are critical of the stance that the relationship of the signifier to the signified. (10): Conclusion In early 19th century many semioticians described theory that language as semiotic system. which is manifested by the interaction of the synchronic and diachronic. even in language.g. the signifier and signified_____________ Ferdinand de Saussure.

edited by Charles Bally and AlbertSechehaye in collaboration with Albert Riedlinger.  Daniel chandler. translated by wade baskin(new york:Mc Graw-Hill Book Company. LINDA KOMESAROFF. semiotics for beginners introduction. course in general linguistics.68-73. His concept of language as semiotic system is based on structuralism. JHON POLLOCK. duality etc.  MARIE EMMITT. free encyclopedia.He has paved way for new researches in linguistics.20 as semiotic system in his book. Bibliography:  JHON LYONS.  Wikipedia. he described characteristics of language as arbitrariness. which was his famous theory based on language structure.1996)pp. . IN LANGUAGE AND LEARNING third edition oxford press. In describing language as semiotic system.  Ferdinand d Saussure. LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTICS AN INTRODUCTION.