Sign  

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Signified (concept) and signifier (sound-image) as imagined by de Saussure
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Signified (concept) and signifier (sound-image) as imagined by de Saussure
The Bouba/kiki effect (1929)

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
sign (semiotics), sign (linguistics)

A sign is a representation of an object that implies a connection between itself and its object. A natural sign bears a causal relation to its object—for instance, thunder is a sign of storm. A conventional sign signifies by agreement, as a full stop signifies the end of a sentence. (This is in contrast to a symbol which stands for another thing, as a flag may be a symbol of a nation).

The way a sign signifies is called semiosis which is a topic of semiotics and philosophy of language.

How a sign is perceived depends upon what is intended or expressed in the semiotic relationship of:

  • Signification
  • Significance (i.e. meaning)
  • Importance

Thus, for example, people may speak of the significance of events, the signification of characters, the meaning of sentences, or the import of a communication. Different ways of relating signs to their objects are called modes of signification.

Uses of conventional signs are varied. Usually the goal is to elicit a response or simply inform. That can be achieved by marking something, displaying a message (i.e. a notice), drawing attention or presenting evidence of an underlying cause (for instance, medical symptoms signify a disease), performing a bodily gesture, etc.

Nature

Semiotics, epistemology, logic, and philosophy of language are concerned about the nature of signs, what they are and how they signify. The nature of signs and symbols and significations, their definition, elements, and types, is mainly established by Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. According to these classic sources, significance is a relationship between two sorts of things: signs and the kinds of things they signify (intend, express or mean), where one term necessarily causes something else to come to the mind. Distinguishing natural signs and conventional signs, the traditional theory of signs sets the following threefold partition of things:

  1. There are things that are just things, not any sign at all;
  2. There are things that are also signs of other things (as natural signs of the physical world and mental signs of the mind);
  3. There are things that are always signs, as languages (natural and artificial) and other cultural nonverbal symbols, as documents, money, ceremonies, and rites.

Thus there are things which may act as signs without any respect to the human agent (the things of the external world, all sorts of indications, evidences, symptoms, and physical signals), there are signs which are always signs (the entities of the mind as ideas and images, thoughts and feelings, constructs and intentions); and there are signs that have to get their signification (as linguistic entities and cultural symbols). So, while natural signs serve as the source of signification, the human mind is the agency through which signs signify naturally occurring things, such as objects, states, qualities, quantities, events, processes, or relationships. Human language and discourse, communication, philosophy, science, logic, mathematics, poetry, theology, and religion are only some of fields of human study and activity where grasping the nature of signs and symbols and patterns of signification may have a decisive value. ...

Types

A sign can denote any of the following:

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sign" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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