I have acknowledged that media texts have their own language that’s communicated to an audience through auditory and visual codes; so to understand these codes, key concepts and ideas, the study of semiotics plays a significant part.
Furthermore, the French theorist Ferdinand de Saussure believed that all the ways in which humans communicate can be looked at as if they were languages; proclaiming the idea of language being a system of signs. Saussure created the phrase “Semiotics” as the study of signs and their meanings in the 19th century, or can also be viewed as:
Moreover, he stated that a sign is made up of two parts- the signifier and the signified. The physical form of the sign such as an image, words on a page etc, was referred by him as the ‘signifier’. The meaning/s the sign evokes and the concept the sign refers to is called the ‘signified’. Together the signifier and signified combine to make the sign.
This can be linked to another theorist called Roland Barthes as he developed a method by which the audience can analyse the literal and potential meanings of images seen in media texts. For instance he identified two orders of signification, explored in detail below:
- Denotation- The literal or primary meaning of an image or word.
- Connotation- The secondary cultural meanings of signs which are associated with the image or word.
To explain in more depth, I thought of a heart, where the denotation (literal meaning) would include: muscle, blood, organ etc, and then the connotation of a heart would be love, passion, and romance.
Therefore, Ferdinand de Saussure’s identification of signs being distinguished in two parts, the signifier and the signified links to Roland Barthes’ theory as the signifier refers to the connotation, and the signified relates to the denotation of a sign.
As well as, Saussure believed that images can be categorised in the following three ways:
- Symbolic signs can be defined as signs where the relation between the signifier and the signified is conventional and culturally specific. For example a country’s flag means patriotism.
- Iconic signs are where the signifier physically resembles the signified, eg an image of a star resembles the celebrity with the star career.
Indexical signs demonstrates how the signifier is caused by the signified; this is what Saussure identified as an image communicating non-visual information through a link, for example smoke signifies fire.