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Clay Steinman

Subject Communication Studies » Visual and Non-verbal Communication
Theoretical Linguistics » Semantics

People Hall, Stuart

Key-Topics sign

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


The sign, in terms first articulated by Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913), the Swiss linguist, has come to serve as the basic unit of approaches to communication that focus on meaning-making relations rather than on the effectiveness of senders’ communication of intended messages to designated receivers (→  Linguistics ; Meaning ). Semiotic approaches have been taken up by general communication studies, →  cultural studies , post-1960s literary studies, and other fields. For Saussure and for those who analyze culture in his wake, communication involves not messages but signs, material forms that when articulated and then encountered engender meanings bounded by cultural schemata (→  Culture: Definitions and Concepts ). The study of signs, then, is at its core social: What conventions determine how signs are made? What conventions determine their readings? We communicate about the world indirectly through mediating sign languages – gestures, images, sounds, and words but also through such vehicles as decor, design, and dress (→  Code ; Gestures and Kinesics ). Signs may be studied as a matter of dispassionate interest, as instruments of persuasion, or as objects of social criticism. In the latter case researchers would ask: if communication is mediated by signification, what forms of economic, political, and social power determine the mediations? This question applies with force ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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