Semiotics 23/01/2017

The Signifier is one of the following: (“Worker”, communication)

Charles Sanders Peirce “Discovered” semiotics at about the same time as Saussure. He made 3 different types of signifiers:

  • Icon
  • Symbol
  • Index

Icon – This kind of signifier always has a physical resemblance to the signified. This could be roads and rivers on maps as they follow the patterns of the real landmarks. It could be all images that are not abstract. The amount that a signifier is iconic is relative – a hologram of a person is very iconic, so is a photograph, painting, drawing, while a stick person is only just iconic of a human. Onomatopoeic words also have a (slight) resemblance to the sound they describe and are therefore iconic signifiers, where most words are not.

Symbol – Signifiers tat are symbols have no natural connection to their signifieds. They are cultural conventions that are agreed to have specific meanings in a given society. Again their context is important as the meaning can change.

All written words are symbols and all spoken words (except onomatapia) are symbols. All numbers are symbols (unless written as dots). All letters are symbols When clothing signifies this is also symbolic. Road signs, heraldry and logos are all symbolic (bit may have iconic elements within them).

Index – Signifiers that are indexes have an actual, physical link to their signifieds. The symbol cannot exist without the presence of the signified.

Smoke as a signifier of fire is a classic example. Symptoms of illness are signifiers of the condition. Lipstick traces of a glass, footprints are all indexes. Many elements of the weather are signifiers of weather conditions – such as rain, lighting, heatwaves, fog and rainbows. Smells and sounds are also indexes of the signifieds that caused them.

Indexical signifiers are used to forecast the weather, diagnose illness, and are evidence for detectives, historians, archaeologists and palaeontologists.

Identify signifiers from the 3 sections above for my subculture.

lsdThe photograph to the right contains all 3 types of signifiers for my subculture – Psychedelia. Firstly, the icon of the LSD tab on the humans tongue tells the viewer that the person is consuming psychedelic drugs. The smiley face on the LSD tab also tells us it is more than just a piece of paper and could potentially contain drugs, this symbol will be more significant to those that regularly consume psychedelic drugs. Finally the use of the tongue sticking out and we can see that the human is salivating, therefore they are consuming some sort of substance. lsd-madness





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