Rhetorical critics analyze texts for the ways they encourage audiences to inhabit certain moods ,
believe certain ideas, or undertake certain actions
Rhetoric: refers to the ancient art or oratory, or asAristotle defined it, an ability, in each
particular case, to see the available means of persuasion.
Rely on symbols to influence what (and how) audiences think and feel
If we were to updateAristotle's definition of rhetoric: the use of symbols by humans to
influence and move other humans
Theories of sign
Asign: is something that invites someone to think of something other than itself, like the way
an image of a person makes one think of that person, or the way the unique letter combination
d/o/g makes one think of a four legged canine
Since nearly everything has that potential, virtually anything can function as a sign
When multiple people agree on what a sign refers to, we say that it has shared meaning
Without shared meaning, no social structures or institutions could exist
Ferdinand de Saussure
Called his unique approach to linguistics semiology
Ascience which studies the role of signs as part of social life
Semiology would investigate the nature of signs and the laws governing them
He argued that all linguistic signs were a combination of signifier and signified
Sign signifier & signified
Signifier: 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
Signified: mental concept. The idea evoked by the signifier, in this case, the idea of dogness.
Note that an actual dog is not part of the equation
Traits: arbitrary, linear
For Saussure, the linguistic sign has two defining traits (1) signs are arbitrary (2) signs are
Arbitrary: meaning there is no natural correspondence, no necessary relationship, between
signifier and signified.
The idea of dogness can be conveyed by different signifiers: dog (english), perro
(spanish), chien (French), cane (Italian).
We could even invent our own word for dogness such as plink, and if we agreed that plink
meant dogness, then we would have a new signifier
The constant creation and addition of new words, like Truthiness, and the changing meaning
of existing words highlight the arbitrariness of signs.
Linearity: Since the signifier, being auditory, is unfolded solely in time, it's impossible to utter
two distinct linguistic signs simultaneously.
It means that signifiers operate in a temporal chain, which if reordered, changes the meaning
of what is being said Parole vs. langue
For Saussure, it's important to distinguish between langue, the linguistic system, and parole,
individual speech acts or utterances (I.e actual manifestations of the sign system)
Langue: the rules and conventions that organize the system
Parole: specific uses or performances of language
He believed Parole to be the proper goal of linguistics
In understanding Parole, one could study Phonology, or the origins of language and changes
in sound pronunciation over time
Signs signify by virtue of their difference (I.e distinctiveness) from other signs
The word dog can signify because it sounds different than cat, horse, or mouse.
On a basic level, it simply means that if we cannot distinguish one word from another, then we
Ex: when someone is talking quietly. Though we can still hear sounds, we can no longer
distinguish among the sounds
On another level, it suggests that the specific relations of difference matter.
Dog sounds different than red. But red is not meaningful because it is different from
dog; it is meaningful because it differs from blue, green, yellow, etc.
Our ability to notice different colours in the world depends upon distinguishing between
The differences don't have to be universal, just socially agreed upon.
Ex: if you're playing chess but you lost a Bishop piece, the game could continue using a
bottle cap so long as both players agreed the object is representing the bishop and
therefore is limited to certain kinds of movement
*So 3 Characteristics of Signs
Arbitrary: they can be changed depending on cultural usage (ex: paris hilton saying that's
Linear: cannot speak two signifiers at the same time
Difference: without specific relations of difference between words, there can be no meaning
Charles Sanders Peirce
his theory was semiotics
Defined as: the quasi-necessary, or formal, doctrine of signs.
Pierce's Semiotics differs greatly from Saussure's semiology because it both repudiates the
principle of arbitrariness and expands the category of signs to include all modes of human
communication (not just language)
Semiotics is based upon the triadic relation between sign, object, and interpretant
A sign, or representamen, as Pierce called it, is something which stands to somebody for
something in some respect or capacity
The equivalent sign it creates in a person's mind is known as the interpretant
The something that the sign stands for is its object
The representamen (sign) loosely corresponds to Saussure's idea of the signifier and the
interpretant to his notion of the signified Ex: The picture of a dog functions as a sign that refers to an object, a real dog, and creates
an interpretant, or mental interpretation of the dog
Pierce classified signs into three categories: icons, indices, and symbols
(1) Iconic signs
Operate according to the logic of similarity or likeness; icons are representamens that
structurally resemble the objects they stand for
Ex: diagrams, maps, photos, and other types of image.
(2) Indexical signs
are linked by cause or association to the objects they represent.
Since smoke indicates fire, it functions as an indexical sign for fire
We see smoke, we think fire
Anything which focuses the attention is an index
are linked to their corresponding objects purely by social convention or agreement; symbolic
signs are learned rather than intuited
All words, sentences, books and other conventional signs are Symbols
Barthes's theory of signs: signifying system
draws heavily on the work of both Saussure and Peirce
The signifying system grew out of Barthes's fascination with how cultural practi