“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).
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