CMNS 110 Chapter Notes -Jacques Lacan, Semiotics, Arbitrariness

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Published on 16 Apr 2013
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Semiotics: The Basics
Saussure offered a 2 part model of the sign
o 1. signifier: form the sign takes
o 2. signified: the concept to which it refers
Saussure thought signifier and signified were psychological
nowadays signifier considered the physical form of the sign
sign is the whole that results from the signifier and the signified
a sign must have a signifier and a signified
the signifier can mean different things though
o open: “open for business”, “open the elevator”, “open this end”
Saussure thought signifier was a sound
o considered written word in a different system than spoken
o letter signifies a sound
Saussure believed signified was a concept not a thing
o when you hear signifier it makes you think of the signified
Two sides of a page
signifier and signified can be distinguished between each other, but cannot be separated
The Relational System
signs only make sense in a formal, generalized abstract system
no sign makes sense on its own, only in relation to other signs
it is not so much the individual word that signifies but the whole system
the value of a sign depends on its relation to the system
the system is the starting point from where we can then form meaning from the individual
words
what distinguishes a sign is what makes it different
signs defined by their negative opposition between other signs in the same system
characterized by whatever the others are not
2 signs are not different, but in opposition
Arbitrariness
signs are arbitrary
o no necessary, obvious link between signified and signifier
o any signifier could represent any signified
o Socrates, Plato, and Shakespeare all recognized the arbitrariness of language
o language plays a key role in constructing reality
o no two languages categorize reality in the same way
o signified slides under the signifier and resists our attempts to delimit it (Jacques Lacan)
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Document Summary

Saussure offered a 2 part model of the sign: 1. signifier: form the sign takes, 2. signified: the concept to which it refers. Saussure thought signifier and signified were psychological. Nowadays signifier considered the physical form of the sign. Saussure thought signifier was a sound: considered written word in a different system than spoken letter signifies a sound. Saussure believed signified was a concept not a thing: when you hear signifier it makes you think of the signified. Two sides of a page signifier and signified can be distinguished between each other, but cannot be separated. The relational system signs only make sense in a formal, generalized abstract system. What distinguishes a sign is what makes it different signs defined by their negative opposition between other signs in the same system characterized by whatever the others are not. 2 signs are not different, but in opposition.

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