“There can be no word without Images” – Aristotle
DEFINING OF SEMIOLOGY
Semiology is the discipline, concerned with meaning-making, the study of sign processes and sensible communication. This also involves the study of signs and the processes, indication, designation, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification and communication. Semiology as a Science is connected to the word Semiosis which is a common word used in semiotics to delegate the yielding and interpretation of a sign. Semiology can further be defined, as the branch of knowledge (academic) that is taught and researched at the University level. In the social sciences, it could be regarded as the field of study concerned with society and human behaviour.
Semiology is tightly connected to the discipline of Linguistics, which, analyses the structure and meaning of language more pointly. The semiotic tradition research into the study of signs and symbols as a significant aspect of communications.
Researchers in the field of Semiotics have not only contributed in giving an adequate definition of Semiology, however, they have also come up with different fields of study in Semiotics. This are explained below;
Bio-semiotics: This studies the production and interpretation of signs and codes in the biologic realm. This field attempts to desegregate the findings of scientific biology and semiotics, representing a paradigmatic shift in the western scientific view of life, demonstrating that semiotics is its immanent and intrinsic feature
Cognitive semiotics: This refers to the study of meaning-making by adopting and integrating methods and theories developed in the cognitive sciences as well as in the human sciences. This also includes the conceptual and textual analysis as well as experimental and ethnographic examinations.
Computational Semiotics: This field tries to organise the process of semiosis, in the observation of and design for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and mimic area of human cognition through artificial and knowledge representation.
Product semiotics: This aspect of semiotics study the use of signs in the pattern of physical products. This could be credited to Rune Mono.
Organizational semiology: This sub-field of semiology examines the nature, charateristics and features of information, and studies how information can best be applied in the area of organized activities and business domains.
Semiotic engineering: This approach view Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) between architects and users at interaction time. The computer communicates for its designers in different forms of conversations specified at design time. These chatting communicate the designers’ understanding of who the users are, what they know the users want or need to do, in which favourite ways and why.
Others include; Music semiotics, Gregorian chant semiology, Semiotic anthropology, social semiotics, visual semiotics, Zoo semiotics, etc.
BRIEF HISTORY OF SEMIOLOGY
Although interest in signs and the way they communicate has a very long history (medieval philosophers, John Locke and others have shown interest), modern semiotic analysis could be accorded to two individuals – Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857 – 1913) and American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839 – 1914).
The first source was derived from Charles Sanders Peirce (1839 – 1914), an American realist and philosopher who advised theory of meaning which distinguishes the content of a proposition with the known difference of it being real or not. The second source was inferred from a Swiss Linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857 – 1913) through his published book “Course in general linguistics”, published in Paris, 1916, after his death.
Saussure concept of language was a system of reciprocally shaping entities. He differentiated diachronic from synchronic linguistics. Diachronic linguistics which is the study of language change (historical linguistics); while Synchronic linguistics studies the language used at any given point in time. Saussure also identified the distinction between contrastive linguistics which is when the focus is on the distinction among languages, most particularly in a language teaching setting. The primary purpose of relative linguistics is to know the common features of various language class.
From these two points of view, knowledge was born and semiotic analysis spread all over the world. Significant and crucial exercise was done in Prague and Russia early in the 20th century.
The area of linguistics was ressurected in the USA during the 60’s. Noam Chomsky (1928), who is a professor of innovative languages and linguistics at MIT vulgarized linguistics with his book “Syntactic structures” which was published in 1957. He schemed and justified a generative construction of language; in other words, the correlation between language and the human mind, particularly the philosophical and psychological deduction.
Marshall McLuhan, presents the notion of the “medium is the message” in his book “Understanding Media” (1964).
Roland Barthes (1915), a Professor at the College de France in Paris published “Elements in Semiology” in 1964. In 1977, Stephen Heath, a lecturer at Cambridge translated and merged a series of Roland Barthes essays into a book called “Image, Music, Text” which is now an essence text for students in the field of Semiotics.
Umberto Eco (1932), a Professor of Semiotics, indicated that semiotics involve the study of communication through signs and symbols, at the University of Bologna. A well-known philosopher, historian and a literary critic. He published ‘Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language’, in 1984. The subjects of his scholarly examinations includes; St. Thomas Aquinas, Jams Joyce and the Superman.
Another land mark in the making of Semiology is semiotics of culture, introduced by the Tartu school in the early seventies; mostly with a perspective of translating Russian history, and which was then built up by mostly Semioticians in Germany and North America.
Semiotics has been enforced, with interesting results, to theatre, medicine, architecture, zoology, and some other areas that involve or are concerned with communication and the sending of data/information. In fact, some Semoticians, possibly carried away, opined that everything can be analysed Semiotically; they view semiotics as the king of the interpretive sciences, the code that unravel the meaning of all things either large or minute.
Peirce debated that interpreters have to provide part of the substance of signs. He wrote that a sign “is something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity” (quoted in Zeman, 1977, p. 24). This opposed Saussure’s ideas about how signs work. Peirce conceived semiotics important because, as he put it, “this universe is perfused with signs, if it is not composed exclusively of signs.” Whatever we do can be seen as information or, as Peirce would put it, a sign. If all things in the universe is a sign, semiotics turns extremely crucial, if not all-important.
Above all, Semiotics is a particular perspective: a view which consists of asking oneself how things become bearers of meaning. Thus, the task of Semiotics includes the determination of benchmark which may assist separate various sign types and other kinds of signification. Popular examples of such typologies are Peirces, trichotonomy icon/index/symbol and the opposition between the analogue and the digital. Both these distinctions turn out to be insufficient, if not inadequate, when they are confronted with actually existing system of signification.
ELEMENTS OF SEMIOLOGY
While exploiting at the outset on non-linguistic substances, semiology is requisite, to explore language in its path, not only as a theory, but also as unit, relay or signified. Semiology is perhaps doomed to be assimilated into a trans-linguistics, the materials of which may be myth, narrative, journalism, or on the other hand objects of modernization, in so far as they are spoken. On this note, the Roland Barthes (1964) came up with distinctive and widely acceptable elements of Semiology. They are;
Language and speech
Signified and signifier
Syntagm and systems
Denotation and connotation
Language and Speech
Barthes (1964) enforced the concepts of language, or the part of the Semiological system which is consented upon by society, and speech, or the individual choice of symbols, to Semiological systems. The application of these concepts can be supplied to the Semiological study of the food system. According to Barthes (1964), someone is free to create his/her own menu, using personal choices in food mixtures, and this will become their speech or message. This is done with the overall national and social structures of the language of food mind. Barthes (1964) then spread on Saussure’s terms, by explaining that language is not really socially determined by the masses, but is sometimes decided by a certain minute group of persons, somewhat changing the correlation of language and speech. Barthes (1964) exact that a Semiological system can importantly exist in which there is language, but little or no speech. In this case, Barthes (1964) was of the believe that a third element called matter, which would provide signification would need to be added to the language/speech system.
Signifier and Signified
The signified was a representation of a concept, while the signifier was used to represent the sound-image of that concept. Barthes (1964) points out that the importance of both the signified and the signifier is the correlation that exists between them; it is within this relationship that sense is arrived at. “… that the words in the field derive their meaning only from their opposition to another (usually in pairs), and that if these oppositions are preserved, the meaning is unambiguous” (Barthes, 1964, p. 38). Out of the correlation, the sign is created. Saussure (1959) indicated the sign to be arbitrary in nature, initially based on the relationship between the signified and signifier. Barthes (1964) explained that the sign cannot be arbitrary forever when Semiological systems are conceived. Instead, Barthes shows that once sign assumes a role or use, it will earn its meaning along the line. The sign can definitely misplace its capricious in nature and become actuated (Barthes, 1964).
Syntagm and System
Barthes (1964) defines the Syntagm as an elongated mixture of signs. Within semantic analyses, this would be something like a sentence, where each is interwined to the other terms within the phrase. The Syntagm is likened to the system, which means other words within the mind, as in the case of the relations between “learning” and “internship” (Barthes, 1964, p. 58). Barthes goes further upon these minds by connecting them Semiologically to different systems, e.g. food. In food system, the systematic level becomes the various bags within a particular level (i.e. types of desserts), whereas the syntagmatic level becomes the menu choices selected for a full meal (Barthes, 1964).
Denotation and Connotation
The words denotation and connotation were used by Barthes for investigating the correlation between systems. Semiological system can be thought of as consisting of an expression, a plane of content and a relation between the two (Barthes, 1964). A connotation then unravels how one system can act as a signifier of this first relation, most especially how it represents the expression within the first system (Barthes, 1964). These elements were importantly useful for unravelling relations among systems of symbols, instead of just relations between elements.
SEMIOLOGY AND ADVERTISEMENT
The major common concepts in a highly distinctive market always comprise of marketing, advertising and communication. Especially, advertisements mainly bring the language, photo graphics, colours and other symbols for its own usage to make a product known and its grandeur on the customers and outside. In the current world, advertising is a large scale business and is a cogent part of the national economy in several sovereign countries.
By definition, advertising refers to a form of communication, whose author or sponsor sends information to a recipient with the denotative intention to sell an idea to the prospective customer. This process has its specialness and it is connected to both propagandistic model of communication defined by McQuail and persuasive concept of communication put forward by the Semiotician Jarmila Doubravová (Doubbravova, 2002). A popular linguist Guy Cook, (2001) examines advertising as a “parasite discourse”, because it takes over the contents, forms, authors as well as recipients of other discourses (similarly as the literary criticism depends on literature and the Sport News – on sport) (Cook, 2001). In fact, Judith Williamson indirectly builds on the idea of “parasite discourse” by Dyer’s characterization of advertising importance as something that uses the elements of real life and aims to create “new world and new language”. “The main purpose of advertising is not to create a new meaning, but to transform signs of the system that is have already known”, writes Williamson (Williamson, 2010).
Visual portrayals are able to communicate considerably more messages than words and noises, so they are coherently the main field to semiotic analysis of any television advertising. The viewers process and adopt the images more faster and recollect them more than the words (Vyekalova, 2007). The images do not send just important information, but they also serve for creation of mood – the whole emotional influence on the recipient, similarly as music. Mostly, in advertising, dealing with colour, shape, and font, as well as with perception of persons or specific emotions. It is noteworthy to understand that knowing of each of the elements may differ in various cultures and social classes, because the advertisements are formed by the culture and, on the contrary, assist them to form the bind. It is not possible to rely on generally valid symbols, because they are culturally determined. The advertising presents the product in relation with standards related to a supposed lifestyle of a certain social group and the presented products may become symbols of social status on the basis of effective advertising campaign”, psychologist Elena Hradiská points out (Hradiska, 1998).
Advertisement construct, form and manipulate the perception and the behaviour of its consumers and the outside. All the symbols are paying an immeasurable service of presenting and apprehending the culture and the world. Theoretical background clearly immerge the interdisciplinary doctrine with vast range of topics to make consciousness on the academics and public on this purpose.
One of the most prominent theories, Mick’s schema theory has fused semiotics and showed the viewer’s its capacity of specialization of the social structure, processing and involving attitudes, memory and cognition as well as written and spoken text (Brewer and Nakamura 1984). Goal, knowledge and text schemata are the three popular genres of schema theory of Mick proposed into marketing communication research. The goal and knowledge schemata are important factors and probably make the relations with both marketers and consumers. According to Mick, the text schemata mainly involves in the linguistic massages in marketing communication. This schema theory has the ability to enrich the marketing communication study.
Some scholars like Sherry highlighted that the advertising is a cultural document, a way of presenting and apprehending the world (Sherry 1985, P.1). Each and every advertisement is included in cultural shadow and let the readers to negotiate and share the cultural subject matter. Symbols are artistic and man-made. These symbols constructed the world and made the network of social relations in much the same way as religion, science and arts. Science and arts construct the scientific and aesthetic world. Symbolic action and symbolic interaction gratify in the social stream to construct the shadows of the distinctive behaviors of human.
The symbolic and iconic conversation and conventions in the advertisements moves its audience via ritualized enactments by the properties of experiences the cultural esteems (Fox 1984). This repetitive ritual will help to maintain the culture by reducing the variance in the cultural behaviour and probably help to lead the cultural perceptions to become natural perceptions. Advertisements construct the definitive reality in the viewpoint. This make the product therapy (Henry 1959) in the competitive marketing world, communicate powerfully and leads to the over consumption world.
In addition, by the transmission model of communication, the source (sender, communicator) relays an information, encodes it using the language or image code and sends it through a transmitter using a certain channel (route, medium) to a receiver (recipient). The recipient receives the encoded message through a certain receiver and decodes it. The content is then prepared to interpretation – such interpretation relies also on the amount of communication noise. The mode by which the recipient reacts is called feedback. Advertising communication has the following features: the communicator is the author of the advertisement, the recipient is the receiver and the transmitted message is commercial information that aims to fulfil the advertising goal, because all communication desire for a feedback (Popisil, 2012).
Each advertising sign has its own shape – whether it is big, small, rounded or angular – and by changing shapes, the advertisements reach certain rhythm. Ideally, colour also plays a special role too – mostly by putting crucial shapes into human attention. The basic shapes have their own symbolism. The square indicates stableness and unity, but, paradoxically, advertising uses it only rarely. The rectangle is rather typical for print media than for television promotion, but it can be stated that its features are like in the case of the square. The triangle is symbolically networked to spiritual world (Pravdova, 2013); it can symbolize any object in the spiritual realm (Galik, 2012). The circle may affect the receivers as easy impression; it reminds us of perfection or alteration. Generally speaking, the oval shapes evoke balance and peace. In thousands of cases, they are directly applied to the corporate logo. Unfinished shapes are the best for attracting attention, although they do not always communicate the most wanted significance.
Music is, no doubt the most used acoustic element in advertising in the past and in the present day. It is connected to symbolic audio stimuli that are able to prevail over all thought diegetic noises of environment (non-symbolic audio stimulus), or more exactly constitute them. Music can function without any natural language. Its fundamental elements are tones created by various musical instruments. Symbolic meaning is included exactly in tones grouped into accords, their sequence, height, pace, repetition, execution, etc. Certain regularity of tones grants individual the ability to talk about creation of joyful, sad, and all other emotions. The essential goal of advertising is to relate the reaction to music with the response to the product – to indicate the unconditioned stimulus (US) (music that the receiver likes) with the conditioned stimulus (CS) (product), so that the CS (product) is able to, even without the presence of music, achieve the conditioned reaction (CR) (pleasure, satisfaction, etc).
Colours are amongst the most important symbolic languages of advertising. They appeal directly to ones’ feelings and stimulate emotions. Combinations of colours help us to create fictitious worlds. The relationship of colours with attributes from the external world leads to setting of myth related to the advertised product (Williamson, 2010). Psychologists indicated that the effects of colours can be defined by connection with the world around us and they are a matter of spirit (Vysekalova, 2007), occultism seeks relations between colours, numbers and sets of notes on a musical scale. Although the features and also the individual perception of colour slightly differ across cultures and historical periods, scientific researches on colours taste gives allowance to come to certain conclusions, which may be generally applicable.
In conclusion, receivers of advertising may not be a group that shares common features/characteristics; therefore, their interpretations of particular product will always vary. In addition to Eco’s theory of the open work this concept is also related to the statements of Stuart Hall that identified how crucial groups and sub-groups of the society bring their own experience into the process of rendition. For instance, perception of the works is affected by individual pursuits and opinions, but also by present state of attention. The involvement of intellect during watching advertisements is constrained; this fact has been confirmed also by the research of some Psychologists. Emotional, automated brain processes that have been defined as System 1 correspond with the setting of the spectators that is related to common reception of any advertisement – they watch it with deep thought, react to it more emotionally instead of radically, while these tendencies are, in most cases, intentionally supported by the advertising itself – it is as much accessible as possible, mostly focused on the emotional communication. The absence of thorough thinking about advertising by nature does not indicate that the receivers accept the products without any objections. For example, the attitude of the receiver is affected by experience. Advertisements intend to form or relive this event(s). In order to get the best skills to do so, many researches rendered more attention to their convincingness, memorability and ability to be identifiable. However, convincingness is especially cogent for direct purchase of products. Truly effective advertising has a long-time effect that affects shopping behaviour by recalling the memory of a part of its content. Most memories are formed by the end of the advertisement itself, what is probably caused by peak-end effect. Guy Cook (2010) calls the advertising a positive discourse, as it takes other discourses, their content, form, authors and also receivers; however, it is a point that it often does so in quite imaginative ways. Identification of the symbolism while taking into account other meanings should lead individuals to replacement of stimuli that are very different from each other. Not everything suggestive must be inevitably a symbol, metaphor or metonymy. Television advertisements still include quite significant amount of such stimuli. Their interpretation shows how these clearly commercially-oriented products may head for pursuing higher (a little more artistic) objectives than only attracting the sharp attention of the recipients.
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