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Semiotics

Klaus Bruhn Jensen


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Semiotics is an interdisciplinary field that studies “the life of signs within society” ( Saussure 1959 , 16). While “signs” most commonly refer to the elements of language and other symbolic communication, it also may denote any means of knowing about or representing an aspect of reality (→  Sign ; Sign Systems ). Accordingly, semiotics has developed as an affiliate of such traditional disciplines as philosophy and psychology. In the social sciences and humanities, including communication research, semiotics became an influential approach particularly from the 1960s. Two different senses of “signs” can be traced from the pre-Socratic philosophers, through Aristotle, to St. Augustine. First, the mental impressions that people have are signs that represent certain objects in the world to them. Second, spoken, written, and other external expressions are signs with which people can represent and communicate a particular understanding of such objects to others. The first sense ( mental impressions ) recalls a classical understanding of signs, not as words or images, but as naturally occurring evidence that something is the case. For example, fever is a sign of illness, and clouds are a sign that it may rain, to the extent that this sign is interpreted by humans. The second sense ( means of communication ) points toward the modern distinction between conventional signs (verbal as ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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