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Structuralism in Visual Communication

Linus Abraham

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Visual and Non-verbal Communication

Key-Topics sign, structuralism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


As a body of work structuralism assumes that social life and meaning are organized by a set of deep structures that frame understanding and perceptions of reality. Social meaning is the product of systematic conceptual structures through which we apprehend reality (→  Structuralism ). Structuralism traces its existence to the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, who set out his principles on language in his Course in general linguistics (published 1959, after his death). Saussure's interest was in the study of language as a system, and he made a distinction between langue (the formal structures of language) and parole (the way language is employed in varied and individuated ways in actual speech). His argument was that while the individual instances of use ( parole ) may vary, underlying all of them is a formal set of consistent codes and conventions of language (→  Code ; Language and Social Interaction ). Structuralism, of the kind influenced by Saussure, emphasized signifying systems, taking the production of meaning to be central to social life. Structuralism therefore puts communication at the center of society and is concerned with the identification of systems that generate meaning (→  Sign Systems ). While its central theoretical influences were in →  Linguistics , the general emphasis on signification has allowed the extension and application of Saussure's ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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