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Chapter 5

MDSA01 – Chapter 5 – Rhetorical Analysis .docx

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Media Studies
Ted Petit

MDSA01 Chapter 5 Rhetorical Analysis (p 99-122) Rhetorical scholars of the media (rhetorical critics) analyze texts for the ways they encourage audiences to inhabit certain moods, believe certain ideas, or undertake certain actions. They view texts as complex webs of interrelated parts that work together to influence consumers in a particular way. RHETORIC: AN OVERVIEW Rhetoric- the use of symbols by humans to influence and move other humans Media msgs persuade as well as entertain us; they convey meanings that are never neutral or objective; songs, tv and radio invite us to adopt certain values, beliefs, attitudes etc This is bc all media products are rhetoric Both instances of rhetoric rely on symbols to influence what (and how) audiences think and feel THEORIES OF THE SIGN Sign- is something that invites someone to think of something other than itself, such as the way an image of a person invites one to think of that person or the unique letter combination d/o/g makes us think about a 4 legged canine Since nearly everything has that potential, virtually anything can function as a sign When multiple ppl agree on what a sign refers to, we say that it has shared meaning this is what makes human communication possible. Without it, no social structures or institutions could exist No sign can guarantee that everyone will interpret it the same way, communication is an extremely fragile thing Signs are fundamental building blocks of meaning and hence communication FERDINAND de SAUSSURE He is regarded as the founder of modern linguistics, he did this by shifting the study of language away from the historical roots (philology) and changing meaning of specific words (semantics) to the study of language as a structural system He called his unique approach semiology- a science which studies the role of signs as part of social lifeit would investigate the nature of signs and the laws governing them He began by asking what is a sign and what rules does it obey? He argued that all linguistic signs were a combination of a signifier (significant) and signified (signifie) Signifier- or sound image, refers to the material form of a sign as perceived by the senses such as the word dog as heard by a listener (auditory) Signified- or mental concept, is the idea evoked by the signifier; i.e. the idea of dogness (an actual dog is not part of this eqn, together they constitute a sign) For Saussure, the linguistic sign has two defining traits. First, signs are arbitrary, meaning there is no natural correspondence, no necessary relationship bw signifier and signified. i.e. the changing of meaning of existing words such as hot are an example of arbitrariness first it was extremely warm, also to a meaning of cool, sexy courtesy of Paris Hilton) Second key trait of the linguistic sign is linearity. This means that signifiers operate in a sequential chain, which if reordered, changes the meaning of what is being said. Methods for investigating the rules that govern signs, we need to understand three additional ideas: a) langue vs parole o langue- the linguistic system; to study langue is to study the rules and conventions that organize the systems o parole individual speech, acts or utterances; while to study parole is to study specific uses or performances of language b) synchronic vs diachronic 1o synchronic analysis, which was his principle commitment, concerns the state of language in general: the linguistic system in a static state; it aims to illuminate the conditions for the existence of any language by examining the rules of combination and substitutability within a system o diachronic analysis or evolutionary linguistics, concerns the origins of languages and changes in sound or pronunciation over time (phonology). He did not see this as a suitable method for investigating langue c) difference o he recognized that signs signify by virtue of their difference from other signs o it means that if we cannot distinguish one work from the other, then we cannot communicate o i.e. this is what occurs when someone is speaking to softly, though we can still hear sounds, we can no longer distinguish among the sounds i. it suggests that the specific relations of difference matter ii. dog sounds different then red, but red is not meaningful bc it differs from dog iii. It matters not what the bishop looks like in chess, only that he follows certain rules and looks diff from other pieces CHARLES SANDERS PEIRCE He called his program semiotic- the quasi-necessary, or formal, doctrine of signs. His semiotic differs greatly from Saussures semiology bc it both repudiates the principle of arbitrariness and expands the category of signs to include all modes of human communication (not just language). His semiotic is based upon the triadic relation bw sign, object and interpretant. A sign or representation is something which stands to somebody for something in
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