Semiotics is the study of signs. It is a recognised academic tool to allow students to interpret a range of texts. So in terms of Media Studies, it allows students to deconstruct (ie breakdown) specific media texts in order that they may be able to present a better understanding of both:

  • how they are constructed
  • what they mean

This is why semiotics is closely linked to Media Language, as the process of deconstructing and analysing helps students to identify what elements are used to construct a specific media text and more importantly why they might used. This approach is known as critical thinking. Critical thinking means asking not only ‘what’ but ‘why’ and ‘what does that mean’, it is a cornerstone of academic work and is encouraged to be used as part of any practical work. In other words, remember to think when you do, as this will make your work much more interesting, developed, informed, nuanced, intelligent, creative . . . etc etc.

I have written some blog posts about different media languages, for example the language of print, the language of radio, the language of moving image, so please look at these posts in conjunction with this one.

Key theorists

Usually in most media, cultural and communication courses there are three main theorists that are examined and applied:

  • Ferdinand De Sausure
  • C S Pierce
  • Roland Barthes

And generally the following key language is part of this process:

  • Ferdinand De Sausure – signifier / signified
  • C S Pierce – icon / index / symbol
  • Roland Barthes – denotation / connotation / myth

To provide some context and overview I will provide a brief explanation for each one:

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