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Chapter Outlines
10th Edition

From the Instructors Manual


List mode: Normal (click on theory name to show detail) | Show All details | Clear details

Chapter 26—Semiotics

  1. Introduction.
    1. The goal of semiotics is interpreting both verbal and nonverbal signs.
    2. Roland Barthes held the Chair of Literary Semiology at the College of France.
    3. In Mythologies, he sought to decipher the cultural meaning of visual signs, particularly those perpetuating dominant social values.
    4. Semiology is concerned with anything that can stand for something else.
    5. Barthes is interested in signs that are seemingly straightforward, but subtly communicate ideological or connotative meaning.
    6. Barthes had an unusual style for an academic and was extremely influential.
  2. Wrestling with signs.
    1. Barthes initially described his semiotic theory as an explanation of myth.
    2. Barthes’ true concern was with connotation—the ideological baggage that signs carry wherever they go.
    3. The structure of signs is key to Barthes’ theory.
    4. Ferdinand de Saussure coined the term semiology to refer to the study of signs.
    5. A sign is the combination of its signifier and signified.
      1. The signifier is the image; the signified is the concept.
      2. In Barthes’ terms, the signifier isn’t the sign of the signified—rather the sign is the combination of signifier and signified, which are united in an inseparable bond.
      3. These distinctions come from Saussure.
      4. The relationship between the signifier and the signified in a verbal sign is arbitrary.
      5. The relationship between the signifier and the signified in a nonverbal sign is based on affinity and is therefore quasi-arbitrary.
    6. A sign does not stand on its own: it is part of a system.
      1. A structural analysis of features common to all semiotic systems is called taxonomy.
      2. Barthes believed semiotic systems function the same way despite their apparent diversity.
      3. Significant semiotic systems create myths that affirm the status quo as natural, inevitable, and eternal.
  3. The yellow ribbon transformation: From forgiveness to pride.
    1. Not all semiological systems are mythic.
    2. Mythic or connotative systems are second-order semiological systems built off preexisting denotative sign systems.
    3. Within mythic systems, the sign of the first system becomes the signifier of the second.
    4. The yellow ribbons, first popularized in the 1972 song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘round ol’ Oak Tree,” serve as an example of this transformation.
  4. The making of myth: Stripping the sign of its history.
    1. Every ideological sign is the result of two interconnected sign systems.
    2. The first system is strictly descriptive as the signifier image and the signified concept combine to produce the denotative sign.
    3. The second system appropriates the sign of the denotative system and makes it the signifier of the connotative system.
    4. This lateral shift transforms a neutral sign into an ideological tool.
    5. The original denotative sign is not lost, but it is impoverished.
  5. Unmasking the myth of a homogeneous society.
    1. Only those who understand semiotics can detect the hollowness of connotative signs.
      1. Mythic signs don’t explain, defend, or raise questions.
      2. Mythic signs always reinforce dominant cultural values.
      3. They naturalize the current order of things.
    2. Throughout his life, Roland Barthes deciphered and labeled the ideologies foisted upon naive consumers of images.
    3. All his semiotic efforts were directed at unmasking what he considered the heresy of those who controlled the images of society—the naturalizing of history.
  6. The semiotics of mass communication: “I’d like to be like Mike.”
    1. Because signs are integral to mass communication, Barthes’ semiotic analysis has become an essential media theory.
    2. Kyong Kim argues that the mass signification arising in a response to signs is an artificial effect calculated to achieve something else.
    3. Advertisements on television create layers of connotation that reaffirm the status quo.
  7. Semiotics goes to the movies
    1. More than one hundred years ago when Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure was describing a sign as the combination of the signifier and signified, American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce was independently developing his own model of how signs work.
    2. Peirce included nonverbal signs in his semiotic theorizing right from the start.
      1. Symbolic signs show no resemblance to the objects they reference.
      2. Iconic signs have a perceived resemblance with the objects they portray.
      3. Indexical signs are directly connected with their referents spatially, temporally, or by cause-and-effect.
  8. Critique: Do mythic signs always reaffirm the status quo?
    1. Roland Barthes’ semiotics fulfills five of the criteria of a good interpretive theory exceedingly well: New understanding of people, aesthetic appeal, qualitative analysis, proposal for reforming society, and clarification of values.
    2. Yet the majority of communication scholars in the United States ignore the field of semiotics and the work of its central theorists such as Barthes; thus it does not as strongly meet the standard of community of agreement.
    3. There are questions about Barthes’ view that all connotative systems uphold the values of the dominant class.
    4. Scholars such as Anne Norton and Douglas Kellner expand Barthes’ semiotic approach to argue that signs can subvert the status quo or exemplify a countercultural connotative system.
    5. Barthes’ semiotic approach to imagery remains a core theoretical perspective for communication scholars, particularly those who emphasize media and culture.

You can access the Outline for a particular chapter in several ways:

  • Switch to View by Theory, then select the desired theory/chapter from the drop-down list at the top of the page. Look in the list of available resources.
  • To quickly find a theory by chapter number, use the Table of Contents and link from there. It will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.
  • You can also use the Theory List, which will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.

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Resources
by Type




 OUTLINES


 VIDEOS


 ESSAY


 LINKS





Instructors can get
additional resources.
Read more

New to Theory
Resources?

Find out more
in this short
video overview
(3:01).

Chapter Outlines
10th Edition

From the Instructors Manual


List mode: Normal (click on theory name to show detail) | Show All details | Clear details

Chapter 26—Semiotics

  1. Introduction.
    1. The goal of semiotics is interpreting both verbal and nonverbal signs.
    2. Roland Barthes held the Chair of Literary Semiology at the College of France.
    3. In Mythologies, he sought to decipher the cultural meaning of visual signs, particularly those perpetuating dominant social values.
    4. Semiology is concerned with anything that can stand for something else.
    5. Barthes is interested in signs that are seemingly straightforward, but subtly communicate ideological or connotative meaning.
    6. Barthes had an unusual style for an academic and was extremely influential.
  2. Wrestling with signs.
    1. Barthes initially described his semiotic theory as an explanation of myth.
    2. Barthes’ true concern was with connotation—the ideological baggage that signs carry wherever they go.
    3. The structure of signs is key to Barthes’ theory.
    4. Ferdinand de Saussure coined the term semiology to refer to the study of signs.
    5. A sign is the combination of its signifier and signified.
      1. The signifier is the image; the signified is the concept.
      2. In Barthes’ terms, the signifier isn’t the sign of the signified—rather the sign is the combination of signifier and signified, which are united in an inseparable bond.
      3. These distinctions come from Saussure.
      4. The relationship between the signifier and the signified in a verbal sign is arbitrary.
      5. The relationship between the signifier and the signified in a nonverbal sign is based on affinity and is therefore quasi-arbitrary.
    6. A sign does not stand on its own: it is part of a system.
      1. A structural analysis of features common to all semiotic systems is called taxonomy.
      2. Barthes believed semiotic systems function the same way despite their apparent diversity.
      3. Significant semiotic systems create myths that affirm the status quo as natural, inevitable, and eternal.
  3. The yellow ribbon transformation: From forgiveness to pride.
    1. Not all semiological systems are mythic.
    2. Mythic or connotative systems are second-order semiological systems built off preexisting denotative sign systems.
    3. Within mythic systems, the sign of the first system becomes the signifier of the second.
    4. The yellow ribbons, first popularized in the 1972 song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘round ol’ Oak Tree,” serve as an example of this transformation.
  4. The making of myth: Stripping the sign of its history.
    1. Every ideological sign is the result of two interconnected sign systems.
    2. The first system is strictly descriptive as the signifier image and the signified concept combine to produce the denotative sign.
    3. The second system appropriates the sign of the denotative system and makes it the signifier of the connotative system.
    4. This lateral shift transforms a neutral sign into an ideological tool.
    5. The original denotative sign is not lost, but it is impoverished.
  5. Unmasking the myth of a homogeneous society.
    1. Only those who understand semiotics can detect the hollowness of connotative signs.
      1. Mythic signs don’t explain, defend, or raise questions.
      2. Mythic signs always reinforce dominant cultural values.
      3. They naturalize the current order of things.
    2. Throughout his life, Roland Barthes deciphered and labeled the ideologies foisted upon naive consumers of images.
    3. All his semiotic efforts were directed at unmasking what he considered the heresy of those who controlled the images of society—the naturalizing of history.
  6. The semiotics of mass communication: “I’d like to be like Mike.”
    1. Because signs are integral to mass communication, Barthes’ semiotic analysis has become an essential media theory.
    2. Kyong Kim argues that the mass signification arising in a response to signs is an artificial effect calculated to achieve something else.
    3. Advertisements on television create layers of connotation that reaffirm the status quo.
  7. Semiotics goes to the movies
    1. More than one hundred years ago when Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure was describing a sign as the combination of the signifier and signified, American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce was independently developing his own model of how signs work.
    2. Peirce included nonverbal signs in his semiotic theorizing right from the start.
      1. Symbolic signs show no resemblance to the objects they reference.
      2. Iconic signs have a perceived resemblance with the objects they portray.
      3. Indexical signs are directly connected with their referents spatially, temporally, or by cause-and-effect.
  8. Critique: Do mythic signs always reaffirm the status quo?
    1. Roland Barthes’ semiotics fulfills five of the criteria of a good interpretive theory exceedingly well: New understanding of people, aesthetic appeal, qualitative analysis, proposal for reforming society, and clarification of values.
    2. Yet the majority of communication scholars in the United States ignore the field of semiotics and the work of its central theorists such as Barthes; thus it does not as strongly meet the standard of community of agreement.
    3. There are questions about Barthes’ view that all connotative systems uphold the values of the dominant class.
    4. Scholars such as Anne Norton and Douglas Kellner expand Barthes’ semiotic approach to argue that signs can subvert the status quo or exemplify a countercultural connotative system.
    5. Barthes’ semiotic approach to imagery remains a core theoretical perspective for communication scholars, particularly those who emphasize media and culture.

You can access the Outline for a particular chapter in several ways:

  • Switch to View by Theory, then select the desired theory/chapter from the drop-down list at the top of the page. Look in the list of available resources.
  • To quickly find a theory by chapter number, use the Table of Contents and link from there. It will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.
  • You can also use the Theory List, which will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.

Back to top



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