Exam Study Guide – Group Presentations
Sign – Icon, Index and Symbol
Saussure had a two part model. He defined a sign as being composed of:
•The signifier – the form that the sign takes (not necessarily a physical form)
•The signified – the concept it represents
•Therefore the sign results from the association of the signifier with the
•Example: The ‘Open’ Sign on a shop door
oThe word OPEN is the signifier
oThe concept that the store is open is the signified
Peirce has a three part model.
oThe representamen is the form which the sign takes (not necessarily
material form) The representamen is equivalent to Saussure’s signifier.
oThe interpretertant is the sense made out of the sign. It is equivalent to
oPierce includes one further item which Saussure does not. He talks about the
object to which the sign refers.
oExample: Traffic light sign for ‘Stop’. The red light facing the traffic is the
representamen. The idea that a red light indicates stopping to vehicles is the
interpretant. The vehicles actually stopping are the object.
oPeirce also divides signs into fundamental groups which are; symbol, icon
The symbol is a mode in which the signifier does not actual resemble
the signifier but has been arbitrarily assigned and purely
conventional. The relationship must be learnt. Examples of symbols
are language, letters, numbers, etc
Icon is a mode in which the signifier is perceived as resembling or
imitating the signified by possessing some of its qualities. Examples of
icons are portraits and imitative guestures.
Index is a mode in which the signifier is not arbitrary but is directly
connected in some way to the signified. This kind of relationship can
be observed or inferred. An example of this is smoke to indicate fire,
Symptoms to indicate illness.
2.Denotation and Connotation
-Denotative: Most basic, face value, literal value of an image
-Connatative: Roland Barthes: cultural, historic meaning
Related to social codes. Judging unconsciously
-Applying your own personal bias
-Eg. Got milk ad- Denotative meaning: Caucasian woman, muscular, slim,
black shoes, wearing necklace, black hair. Text.
Connotative: Endorsement of the biggest loser, milk is the reason why
women look so good and lose weight.
Definition of Connotation:
According to Roland Barthes, the term 'connotation' is used to refer to the cultural,
historical and 'personal' associations of the sign allowing us to expand application of
signs creatively. Codes to which you have access are also used in connotation.
Usually, you don’t realize that your perception of something includes both
connotation and denotation. Since connotation is the “personal” judgment that’s
given to something, it means that you are applying your own, or socially accepted,
bias to your understanding of an ad, song, article, or anything.
EXAMPLE – GOT MILK ADVERTISEMENT