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Friday, March 05, 2010


The idea of breakdown of fine objects started with Physics starting with the breakdown of atoms into electrons, protons and neutrons followed by the breakdown of mind by Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt. Breakdown of signs was also discussed in the class.
Semiotics is the study of sign processes. In today’s class we discussed semiotics as per the three people who contributed largely to the field of semiotics:

1. Ferdinand de Saussure: He was a Swiss linguist, and is widely considered to be one of the fathers of 20th-century linguistics and of semiotics. Course in General Linguistics was published in 1916 by former students Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye on the basis of notes taken from Saussure's lectures in Paris. This work became popular for its innovative approach that Saussure applied in discussing linguistic phenomena.
According to Saussure’s theory a sign is of two types:


The signifier is the pointing finger, the word, the sound-image. A word is simply a jumble of letters. The pointing finger is not the star. It is in the interpretation of the signifier that meaning is created.


The signified is the concept, the meaning, the thing indicated by the signifier. It need not be a 'real object' but is some referent to which the signifier refers.

2. Charles Sanders Peirce: He was an American philosopher, logician, mathematician, and a scientist. He also spoke about the two orders of signs. First-order can be defined as the first level of pragmatic meaning that is drawn from an utterance. Second-Order is concerned with the connection between linguistic variables and the metapragmatic meanings that they encode. According to his theory of signs he divided sings into:

It is a pattern that physically resembles what it `stands for. Example: A picture of your face is an icon of you.

An Index is that which correlates A and B. Thus A implies or `points to' B. Example: Smoke indicates fire.

This is arbitrary. A symbol has no logical meaning between it and the object. Example: Flags are symbols which represent countries or organisations.

3. Roland Barthes: He was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. He spoke about Myths. Eg: Roses can be a symbol of love and passion and for Barthes this is Myth and it is not arbitrary. So does flags it is a myth as it is only a piece of cloth but it stands for a country and it is accepted world wide.

Film Semiotics
Christian Metz contributed to the field of film semiotics. He argued that “one might call ‘language’…any unity defined in terms of its matter of expression…Literary language, in this sense, is the set of messages whose matter of expression is writing; cinematic language is the set of messages whose matter of expression consists of five tracks or channels: moving photographic image, recorded phonetic sound, recorded noises, recorded musical sound, and writing…Thus cinema is a language in the sense that it is a ‘technico-sensorial unity’ graspable in perceptual experience”.

Semiotics can be used as a method, some examples are:
1.Bob Hodge and David Tripp employed empirical methods in their classic study of Children and Television (Hodge & Tripp 1986).
2.Studying films
3.Studying text
4.Study of Denotation and Connotation.

We ended the class by discussing how the practices of present day date back to the past and how religion is used with politics in India.

I must admit that these notes are referred from the net as I personally find semiotic studies very complicated.

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