Semiotics and Visual Communication

Communication 504, University of North Dakota

Month: January, 2013

Course in General Linguistics – Ferdinand de Saussure

by 504student

Parts 3-5 Summary with Class Notes

Diachronic v. Synchronic

  • Diachronic – how language has evolved over time, usually a set time period
  • Synchronic – study of language at a given state

Literary language, once formed, is generally stable

Alternation – the forces of change for the signified and signifier

Mechanism of change

“False analogy”

  • Ex: sink, sank, sunk –> think, thank, thunk – follows the pattern – able to understand without it being grammatically correct

Analogy – separating language from speaking

Folk Etymology – misidentification of a word and it becomes part of common usage

  • Ex: swag v. stuff we all get; buck-naked v. butt-naked

Agglutination – how signs evolve

  • Ex: God be with you –> goodbye

To legitimate linguistics as a study, turned into a science with units

Families of modern languages

Language is not stationary – people move

Intercourse v. Provincialism (think of them on a spectrum)

  • Provincialism – keeps a restricted linguistics community faithful to its own traditions
  • Intercourse – limits their effect



Things to read for in Saussure

by undcomm103

Things to read for in the first half of Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics:

In what relation does semiotics stand to the human sciences?

What is “a language” or “linguistic structure” (langue)?
What is “speech” (parole)?
Why does Saussure advocate the study of linguistic structure rather than speech?

What is the structure of a sign?
What is a “signifier” (signifiant)?
What is a “signified” (signifié)?

What is synchronic linguistics?
What is diachronic linguistics?
How do diachronic elements of language affect synchronic states of language?

What is linguistic value?
How does the idea of value apply to the signifier?
How does the idea of value apply to the signified?

What does Saussure mean when he describes signs as “arbitrary”?
In what ways are signs mutable?
In what ways are signs immutable?
What does Saussure mean when he states, “language is a form and not a substance” (p. 122)?

Semantic Asymmetry and “The War on Terror” Notes

by 504student


By Martin Montgomey

Notes by Bailey Anderson for Comm 504 – Semiotics & Visual Communication

Intralingual Translation: “an interpretation of verbal signs by means of other signs in the same language” (R. Jakobsom).

  •  Example: After 9/11 and the words war and terror. “Broaden[ing] the meaning of the item war while narrowing the meaning of terror” (p.23)

‘War on Terror’ – Declared by President G.W. Bush

  •  Terror is not a physical thing/object/country/etc. to declare war on, so the meaning was blurred.
  •  Clarification of meaning of ‘war on terror’ came from US Secretary of State C. Powell. “When you attacked two places such as the World Trade Center building and the Pentagon, that is an act of war against out sovereignty, against the security of our people” (p.24) (Interview on National Public Radio, 9/12).
  •  What it came to mean was war on the Taliban in Afghanistan and Iraq. “These became wars in the more literal and traditional sense” (p.24).

War – “especially since 9/11, [it] has assumed a protean elasticity. It includes the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq” (p.24)

  •  “Encompasses detention without trial, forms of electronic surveillance, extraordinary rendition and the introduction of identity cards” (p.24) Patriot Act?
  •  “War of Ideas” – losing the “war” not in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, but in the newsrooms around the war. (p.25)

Terror – “the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are poltical, religious, or ideological in nature…through intimidation, coercion or instilling fear” (p.25-6) (US Army Operational Concept for Terrorism Counteraction, 1984)

  •  “Rigidly and discriminately applied to a limited class of acts” (p.25).
  • Acts of Terror – ex: suicide bombers
  •  ‘Terror legislation’ – “laws designed to stop those bent on instilling fear in a population by indiscriminate acts of murder for political purposes” (p.25)
  • Reign of Terror – beginning of French Revolution between rival political groups vying for power
  • WWII – “shock and awe” (bombing of civilians).

*Question by author: “Why then do we routinely adopt an interpretive default position in which terror applies to a highly restricted class of acts in which terror is visited violently and indiscriminately only on ‘us’ by ‘them’ (while ‘we reluctantly prosecute an honorable war in return)?” (p.26)

New age of asymmetric warfare.

Selections from Williams’s Keywords

by undcomm103

For Wednesday, Jan. 16, we’ll be reading selections from Raymond Williams’s Keywords, in addition to the other things listed on the syllabus. Each student will choose two (or more, if there are more you want to read) entries and list them below. First is my entry — “Culture” — which might be the most cited one from the book.

So here’s the list — please add your own:

Kyle’s: “Culture”

Sam:  Dialectic & Ideology

Michelle: Violence and Reform

Bailey: Hegemony & Imperialism

Eric:  Democracy & Socialism

How to post

by undcomm103

Log in.
Pass the cursor over the “Semiotics and Visual Communication” tab in the top left corner.
Click on “dashboard” in the menu that comes down.
Click on “posts.”
Click on “add new.”

I find I have the best luck if I edit in text mode rather than visual mode (the tabs on the top right of the text box). That way, if you cut and paste from a word processor, the editor strips away the hidden markups.* You’ll have to add markups back in yourself, however.

* Markups are commands that instruct the browser how to display the text. They have two parts. The first is a command in angle brackets (which look like less-than and greater-than symbols) that indicates whether a word or phrase should be italicized, bolded, hyper-linked, etc. The second is the same command preceded by a forward slash, which indicates the end of the word or phrase to be altered. So

less-than strong greater-than this sentence is bolded less-than forward-slash strong greater-than

(where the signs are substituted for the words “less-than” and “greater-than”) yields

this sentence is bolded.

Facilitation sign-up list

by undcomm103

Here’s the facilitation sign-up list. Please edit directly in the post by logging in, passing the mouse cursor over the “Semiotics and Visual Communication” tab in the top left corner, and clicking “edit” in the menu that comes down.

Each person should sign up in three slots.

Reading schedule:

Week 2, Jan. 16: Tropological analysis
Facilitator: Bailey

Week 3, Jan. 23: French structuralism: building it up
Facilitator: Sam

Week 4, Jan. 30: French structuralism: breaking it down
Facilitator: Bailey

Week 5, Feb. 6: Mythologies
Facilitator:  Eric

Week 6, Feb. 13: Deconstruction
Facilitator: Michelle

Week 7, Feb. 20: Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics
Facilitator: Sam

Week 8, Feb. 27: Peirce: Foundations and semiotic grammar

Facilitator:  Eric

Week 9, Mar. 6: Peirce: Logic and rhetoric
Facilitator: Sam

Week 10, Mar. 20: Dialogism
Facilitator:  Eric

Week 11, Mar. 27: Semiosphere
Facilitator: Bailey

Week 12, Apr. 3: Race and class in US television
Facilitator: Michelle

Week 13, Apr. 10: Religion in post-9/11 television
Facilitator: Michelle