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Essay: Syntagm and System

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  • Syntagm and System
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Barthes (1964) defines the Syntagm as an elongated mixture of signs. Within semantic analyses, this would be something like a sentence, where each is intertwined 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.

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. 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.


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). 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.

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 audiences process and get the images quicker and remember them more than the words. 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.
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. 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. 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 behaviours 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 . 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 receiver gets the encrypted message via a particular receiver and deciphers 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 ad, the recipient is the receiver and the conveyed message is marketable material that targets to realize the ad objective, since all communication will be classed as being productive when there is a feedback.
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 terrestrial world; it can represent anything in the spiritual world. 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 consistency of tones gives individual the capacity to discuss formation of happy, unhappy, and every single other feeling. The key objective of ad is to connect the response to music with the reaction to the advertised product – to demonstrate the unconditioned stimulus (US) (music that appeals to the recipient) with the conditioned stimulus (CS) (product), so that the CS (product) can, whether in the presence or absence of music, accomplish the conditioned response (CR) (delight, fulfilment, and so forth)
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. 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. Identifying of the symbolism while considering different implications ought to lead people to substitution of stimuli that are altogether different from one another. Not everything suggestive must be inevitably a symbol, metaphor or metonymy. Television advertisements still include quite significant amount of such stimuli. Their meaning indicates how these money-making products might set out toward seeking after higher (somewhat more masterful) targets than just pulling in the sharp consideration of the beneficiaries.

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