Semiology is the study of signs.
Roland Barthes (1913 – 1980) was a French linguist who pioneered semiotic analysis of cultural and media forms. He argued that words were not the only signs, but just one type of many systems of meaning. Saussure and Peirce were also important linguists.
In the concept of the function of signs there are two categories.
A) The Signifier – A word, sound, colour, or image signifying something else.
B) The Signified – Whatever a particular word, sound, colour, image, or combination of these may signify.
There are four types of signifiers. These are:
Arbitrary signifiers – Signs such as words which represent something but are in no way relative to the appearance or any traits of what is being signified. A word is just an agglomeration of letters signifying something but does not look, sound, feel, or is any way aesthetically assimilated with what is being signified.
Arbitrary Signifier of a chair =
C – H – A – I – R
Its referrant is the manifest in what you, good reader or readeress, are probably sat on whilst reading this. The sign above refers to what we are sitting on but is no way related to it; it is just letters.
Iconic signifiers – signify through their obvious resemblance to the signified. This could be a picture of someone or a photograph.
Its referrant is the manifest of the same type of vehicle that you, good reader or readeress, may probably have been driving around in today. This however, is just an image and, surprisingly enough, not the real deal. One cannot touch the picture and get in to a car.
Indexical signifiers – Evidential signs such as smoke evidenting fire, blood evidenting injury, sobs evidenting sorrow, pain or other forms of cerebratory perturbation.
Here is the picture of the car again as an example of indexical signification.
Its referrant is still the manifest vehicle but it could also be signifying the wealth, prosperity, lucrativity etc etc etc etc etc of the owner due to it being an object of some value. It could be signifying sadness, melancholy, cerebratory perturbation etc etc etc etc etc due to the presence of the colour blue. It could signify a western society and so forth.
Symbolic signifiers – Symbolic signifiers can be arbitary or iconic but are always visual representations of the signified. The Union Jack is arbitrary and does not aesthetically represent the United Kingdom in any way. It represents the kingdom (queendom) though, and also may connote anarchy or racism due to various other media linkages concerning the Union Jack.
Here is a picture of me in the Yukon and in a state of cerebratory perturbation at where my perambulation, my venture, my intrication in to the wilderness may take me. It is an example of a symbolic signifier =
So what does this show apart from the profound rotundity of my fingers? The words “You are in bear country” are arbitary signifiers. The picture of the bear however, signifies the same thing but is in a different form of signs – the symbolic variety.
The signified is an expansive term. It can refer to anything denoted or connoted by the signifier. This could be a concept – such as beauty, or a literal – like a person.
The signifier can manipulate the signified. Take the colour red for example. Over time it has become known as a representation of danger – traffic lights, warning signs; love – flowers, hearts; anger – plethoric complexities in situations evoking cerebratory perturbation; and sex – beauteous, pulchritudinous, resplendent, radiant girls in red dresses pictured everywhere which is always nice.
The manipulation of signifiers to convey particular meaning is called Anchoring.