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Lecture 4

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University of Toronto Scarborough
James Stinson

Lecture 4 (Language and Meaning) Semiotics: science of produced meaning  From the Greek (semeiotikos) “observant of signs”  Signs can be defined as: intermediary btw thoughts and things  Goal of semiotics is to unravel the meaning that re built into all kinds of human products, from words, symbols, narratives, symphonies, paintings, comics etc…. Denotation vs Connotation  Denotation o To mark out, point out, specify, indication. The literal meaning of a word or sign  Connotation o Refers to the association that are connected to a certain word or the emotional suggestions related to that word o Constrained by culture Interpreting signs Example 1: Picture of cow  Denotation- the mature female of a bovine animal, especially of the genus Bos.  Connotation-  Slow we could be waiting till cows come home  Excitable Don’t have a cow man!  Food source of meat, milk etc  Cross cultural meaning-Sacredness Cows are sacred for Hindus Example 2: Picture of rose  Denotation- Any of numerous scrubs or vines of the genus Rosa, having prickly stems, compound leaves, and variously colored, often fragrant flowers  Connation: Love, Romance, and Passion  Longer we use the word, more we use the connotated meaning of the word Semiotics in Pop Culture  Dan Brown’s character Robert Langdon is Processor of Religious Symbology  Solves crimes and mysteries by interpreting signs and symbols hidden in artwork, architect  Browns interpreting of da vincis “the last supper” The Meaning of Language Ferdinand de Saussure th  Widely considered one of the founders of 20 century linguistics and semiotics  Binary (2 sided) model of the sign  Signifier and signified o Language is made up of signs and every sign has two sides: Signifier and Signified o Signifier- the shape of a word, its component, ex: the sequence of phonemes that make up the word o , , , , o Signified- the ideational component the concept or object that appears in our minds ex: a tall woody plant with lateral branches  All signs are arbitrary o Can use any sign to represent something o The relation btw the signifier and the signified is arbitrary ex: no direct connection btw the structure of a word and the concept it represents o No natural connection btw the sounds of a word and its meaning. Meaning comes from convention-agreement (and learned) that these letters or sounds evoke a certain image o The same object (tree) is referred to as arbre in French and baum in German o The same sounding word may have different meanings in different language ex: Ikea products (some words mean sexual in other language) Charles S. Peirce  One of the founders of modern semiotics  Triadic model of the sign o Object, representamen, interpretent o Triangle…object is the physical thing, representament is the image/symbol used (signifier), interpretent is the image we get in our minds when we see a sign or symbol (signified)  Signs vary in level of arbitrariness o Icon, index, symbol o Icon: share some of their physical form (shape, sound, etc) with the referent ex: no smoking sign…not arbitrary  Bang, Boom, Splash, Buzz, Hiss…icons because its not arbitrarily at all..sounds like what is intended to be (onomatopoeia) o Index: indexes don’t share any of their form with the referent. They “indicate” or point to what they refer to ex: skull and cross bones sign represents danger often used on poisonous products. Points to what will happen to use if we go ahead and use the product (death)  That, There, it, you, I…these words point to something o Symbol: symbols have arbitrary relation to signified (“referent”). Connected only via the symbol of conventional understanding. Most arbitrary. Ex: red octagon...represents stopping, we know this because we are taught that red means stop whereas green means go  Cat, dog, house, bird…represent something so it’s a symbol Language, Culture, Society Ethnosemantics  Semantics refers to a languages meaning system  Ethnosemantics is therefore the study of how different cultures (ethnos) understand and attach meaning to the world through language and symbols  The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects the ways in which its speakers conceptualize their word i.e. Their worldview, or otherwise influences their cognitive processes  Popularly known as The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis o Sapir and Whorf argued that the grammatical categories of particular languages lead their speakers to think about the world in different ways o I) Strong version- language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories o 2) Weak Version- linguistic categories and usage influence thought and certain kinds of non-linguistic behavior  Hopi Conceptions of Time o English divides “time” into past, present, future o Hopi language has no conception of time as an object or substance that may be divided and subdivided o Hopi distinguish btw events that exist or have existed, and those that don’t exist, or don’t yet o Whorf argued that this leads Hopi speakers to think about time and reality differently than English speakers  Focal vocabulary
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