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Semiotics: what it is and how it relates to communication

Semiotics: what it is and how it relates to communication

November 9, 2022

Semiotics, also known as semiology or theory of signs , is the study of how we use signs to create and transmit meanings and meanings while we communicate.

It is a theory that has had important repercussions in the human and social sciences because it has helped us to deeply understand our communication, the interactions we establish as well as some elements of the contexts in which we develop.

Next, we review in a general way what semiotics is, what are some of its antecedents and the effects it has had on the social and human sciences.

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What is semiotics?

Semiotics is the scientific discipline that is responsible for studying the signs and the ways in which the sense is constructed and transmitted during communication . It is part of the theories of language, where the sign is defined as the minimum unit of a sentence; an element (object, phenomenon, signal) that is used to represent or replace another that is not present; whereupon, the sign is an element loaded with meanings.


To study this, semiotics is divided into three main branches: semantics, pragmatics and syntax. Among its antecedents is Saussure's theory of signs, which is also known as semiology.

In fact, the term semiology comes from the Greek "semeion" meaning sign. His background can be found in the field of atomistic philosophy , and also in the seventeenth century, when John Locke spoke of semiotiké as a science or a set of principles to explain the signs.

In the same century, the German philosopher Johann Lambert wrote a treatise where he addressed the same subject, already under the concept of semiotics. However, the most recognized antecedent of this discipline comes from the twentieth century and the studies of Ferdinand de Saussure and Charles Sanders Peirce.


Like any other discipline, semiotics has gone through different stages and It has been transformed according to different philosophical and scientific currents . Zecchetto (2002), speaks of three generations of semiotics: the first of them arises approximately in 1950 and is characterized by structuralist thinking; the second, in 1970, has an approach that moves towards poststructuralism; and in the third, about 1980, the question arises about the interaction between the text and the interlocutor, so it is an interactionist paradigm.

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Semiotics or semiology? Differences

Although the answer depends to a large extent on which author is asked, in general terms are used interchangeably .

Nevertheless, there are those who defend that semiology is the theoretical description of symbolic systems in general; and semiotics refers to the study of particular systems, for example, images, fashions, cinema, advertising, among others.


At a formal level, and especially since 1969 when the International Association of Semiotic Studies (IASS) became institutionalized, a single term is recognized: semiotics; to cover the two types of study that we have mentioned.

Beyond the text: semiotics of the image

We humans communicate by means of almost all (if not all) of the things we do: what we say and what we do not; through our movements, gestures or postures, and even through more complex tools that involve our senses, such as advertising, cinema, music, etc.

Therefore, semiotics is a science that has more than one method: it can investigate the meaning that is constructed and transmitted not only through oral language or written language, but can analyze, for example, an advertising poster and its elements (the how its language, images or aesthetic forms are structured and used), and in this way understand what is the meaning , the meaning and even the effect or relationship to be established with the recipients.

Its importance in the social sciences

Semiotics has had an important repercussion both in the studies of language and human communication, and in the understanding of the psychological and social phenomena that are generated through this communication.

That's why semiotics is related in an important way to the problem of knowledge , and with the way by which the signs allow us to reach him.In other words, semiotics, the study of signs, offers us a point of view about reality, and about the way in which things acquire and transmit meaning, which has been especially useful for extending the scope of science human

Some of his criticisms revolve around that semiotics is a discipline that tries to cover too many things, with which his methods become diffuse and sometimes difficult to justify by means of traditional scientific methods.

Bibliographic references:

  • Bobes, M. (1973). Semiotics as a linguistic theory. Madrid: Editorial Gredos.
  • International Association of Semiotic Studies (IASS). (S / A). Short Story Retrieved April 10, 2018. Available at //iass-ais.org/presentation-2/short-history/.
  • Zecchetto, V. (2002). The dance of the signs. Notions of general semiotics. Ecuador: ABYA-YALA Editions.

What is SEMIOTICS? What does SEMIOTICS mean? SEMIOTICS meaning, definition & explanation (November 2022).


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