May 13, 2009
(Schirato, T. and Yell, S. “Signs and Meaning” Communication and Cultural Literacy: An Introduction. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2000, p18-33)
The concept introduced in the reading of semiotics, signs and meaning is quite complex, though through the use of strong definitions and clear examples the authors Schirato and Yell develop a concise argument in relation to it. They argue in terms of the ‘relationship between signs and meanings. Meanings are not just ‘out there’ waiting to be identified or discovered, but are ‘read into’ signs,’ (Schirato & Yell, 2000, p18) thus developing an argument in terms of the intrinsic relationship between the two. They develop this relationship as the theory of semiotics, ‘initially proposed by the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure,’ (Schirato & Yell, 2000, p19) with a number of issues stemming from this within the reading. Saussure is utilised as a key figure within the article, with much of the argument based on the theories developed by him. This creates a further sense of worth to the article, adding to its validity and raising its standard within the field of academia due to Saussure’s role as a respected linguist.
Within their argument based on semiology, the authors raise a number of key concepts and ideas, further broadening an understanding of signs and meaning. Notably, these ideas stem from examples sourced from popular culture, such as references to The Simpsons, and the use of professional photographs to create a sense of complexity in terms of signs as related to meaning. One key concept included is Saussure’s ‘linguistic sign’ (Schirato & Yell, 2000, p20) which brances into ‘the ‘signifier’…physical form of the sign…’signified’…concept that is ‘evoked’…’sign’…combination of the signifier and the signified.’ (Schirato & Yell, 2000, p20) This allows for a breakdown in semiotics, clarifying the way in which it functions in allowing for meaning to be developed from a sign, for example, a sign featuring a red cross signifying no entry. A second linguist discussed in the article is Volsinov, who can be viewed as having opposing theories to that of Saussure. For example, he states that ‘signs are adaptable and changeable…and the meanings that are read into signifiers…depend on the specific context,’ (Schirato & Yell, 2000, p26) thereby introducing the idea that signs aren’t reduced to singular meanings, that is, they can be ‘adapted’ to suit a range of conditions.
I found the issues addressed in the article to be quite complex, and althought it was quite clear through its examples, I found it difficult to digest. Perhaps it is because I am yet to fully understand its relatability to media in everyday life, and this is the one question I believe would need to answered.