Andrew Slatter – Semiotics

So prior to this lecture I did have a rough understanding of semiotics, having studied an English Language A-level but Andrew’s lecture took the meaning, for me, much further. 

A table is a table because it is not a chair. 

Essentially semiotics is a agreed system of meanings within our culture. These meanings of objects rely heavily on their relationships with other ‘things’ to work. Andrew gave the example that a table is a table because it’s not a chair. This sentence took me a while to get my head around because for me a table is a table because it’s a table. If a chair did not exist then surely it would still be a table? However, semiotics covers how meaning is created and communicated, so the chairs existence in relationship to the table is vital to communicate why the table is needed. Or so I hope that’s the correct understanding.


Even though many of us may believe we don’t understand semiotics – we do. Daily we respond to signs with the mutual understanding of what it is. For example in the UK a red traffic light means stop and a green traffic light means go. Simple. 

To help our group with understanding this term, Andrew introduced us to some key figures for this linguistic movement. Arguably the most important being Ferdinand De Saussure. Rather than look at the historical contributors to semiotics, Saussure looked at patterns and functions of how language was being used instead. Saussure once famously said that language is not a function of the speaker, it is a product passively assimilated by the individual, he believed that the relationship between the signifier and the signified is purely arbitrary and analytical. Another point Saussure made that I agree with is that language is a system of interdependent terms. What we say must be coherently used in order for the meaning to be correctly understood.

Essentially semiotics is just an agreed system of language that aids how we perceive meaning.


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