Semiotics - Levels of Meaning.docx

7 Pages
Unlock Document

University of Toronto Scarborough
Steven Hayle

Semiotics for Beginners Daniel Chandler Denotation Connotation and Myth Beyond its literal meaning its denotation a particular word may have connotations for instance sexual connotations Is there any such thing as a single entendre quipped the comic actor Kenneth Williams we all know that a thing is a phallic symbol if its longer than its wide as the singer Melanie put it In semiotics denotation and connotation are terms describing the relationship between the signifier and its signified and an analytic distinction is made between two types of signifieds a denotative signified and a connotative signified Meaning includes both denotation and connotation Denotation tends to be described as the definitional literal obvious or commonsense meaning of a sign In the case of linguistic signs the denotative meaning is what the dictionary attempts to provide For the art historian Erwin Panofsky the denotation of a representational visual image is what all viewers from any culture and at any time would recognize the image as depicting Panofsky 1970a 513 Even such a definition raises issuesall viewers One suspects that this excludes very young children and those regarded as insane for instance But if it really means culturally welladjusted then it is already culturespecific which takes us into the territory of connotation The term connotation is used to refer to the sociocultural and personal associations ideological emotional etc of the sign These are typically related to the interpreters class age gender ethnicity and so on Signs are more polysemicmore open to interpretationin their connotations than their denotations Denotation is sometimes regarded as a digital code and connotation as an analogue code Wilden 1987 224 As Roland Barthes noted Saussures model of the sign focused on denotation at the expense of connotation and it was left to subsequent theorists notably Barthes himself to offer an account of this important dimension of meaning Barthes 1967 89ff In The Photographic Message 1961 and The Rhetoric of the Image 1964 Barthes argued that in photography connotation can be analytically distinguished from denotation Barthes 1977 1531 3251 As Fiske puts it denotation is what is photographed connotation is how it is photographedFiske 1982 91 However in photography denotation is foregrounded at the expense of connotation The photographic signifier seems to be virtually identical with its signified and the photograph appears to be a natural sign produced without the intervention of a code Hall 1980 132 Barthes initially argued that only at a level higher than the literal level of denotation could a code be identifiedthat of connotation we will return to this issue when we discuss codes By 1973 Barthes had shifted his ground on this issue In analysing the realist literary text Barthes came to the conclusion that denotation is not the first meaning but pretends to be so under this illusion it is ultimately no more than the last of the connotations the one which seems both to establish and close the reading the superior myth by which the text pretends to return to the nature of language to language as nature Barthes 1974 9 Connotation in short produces the illusion of denotation the illusion of language as transparent and of the signifier and the signified as being identical Thus denotation is just another connotation From such a perspective denotation can be seen as no more of a natural meaning than is connotation but rather as a
More Less

Related notes for SOCB50H3

Log In


Don't have an account?

Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.