Contextual Studies


John Locke (1632 – 1704)

Semiotics means mark or sign from the greek word “semeion”.

Ferdinand de Saussure (1857 – 1913)

Ferdinand de Saussure was a linguistics professor who studied the meaning of word and how they related to objects or things.


Words or phrases are completely arbitrary (random) yet express meaning. There is no connection between the sign and its meaning. The meaning expressed is unique to every culture.


This describes the transfer of information from the sign to the viewer. We have many platforms to transfer this into for example, social media.


Every sign is made up of a signifier (a sound, or image) and the signified (the concept or meaning).

Charles Sanders Peirce (1839 – 1914)

One of the founders of semiotics.


A graphic that resembles a sign, such as a road sign containing a picture of a car.


The measure of the link between the sign and the object, i.e. smoke and heat normally signal fire.


An arbitrary relationship between it and the object or concept signified, a symbol of a heart has no direct relationship to the concept of love but it is generally agreed that these two things are connected.


Transfer of meaning from the sign to the viewer. This depends heavily on the cultural background of the viewer and the context of the sign. The colour red in China means luck and fortune whereas in the United Kingdom it can mean love and danger.


This is the person experiencing the sign.

Roland Barthes (1915 – 1980)


A convention is an agreement specific to a group or culture that a sign represents a specific thing, object or concept.


Describes how clearly a sign represents the object or thing to which it refers, for example a photograph of a car is closer in representation that an picture of a car on a road sign.


In semiotics, modality refers to a specified method by which the information is to be encoded for presentation to humans i.e. a sign, text or genre.


In semiotics, denotation is the surface or literal meaning encoded within their particular culture to a signifier. Dentation is the surface or literal meaning encoded to a signifier, and the definition most likely to appear in a dictionary.


Arises when the dentation relationship between a signifier and its signified has layers beneath it’s immediate level of meaning. A second level of meanings it’s termed connotative. An example of this would be a photograph that has been given a sepia tone to bring about a feeling of nostalgia. Black and white we think is factual because of newspapers.


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