Monday, 11 August 2014

Symbols and semiotics

Semiotics is the study of signs, symbols, and signification as communicative behavior. Semiotics studies focus on the relationship of the signifier and the signified, also taking in to account interpretation of visual cues, body language, sound, and other contextual clues. Semiotics is linked with both linguistics and psychology. Semioticians thus not only study what a symbol implies, but also the way it got its meaning and the way it functions to make meaning in society. Symbols permit the human brain continuously to generate meaning using sensory input and decode symbols through both denotation and connotation.

Burke goes on to describe symbols as also being derived from Sigmund Freud's work on condensation and displacement, further stating that symbols are not relevant to the theory of dreams but also to "normal symbol systems". He says they[clarification needed] are related through "substitution", where word, phrase, or symbol is substituted for another in order to modify the meaning[clarification needed]. In other words, if person does not understand a positive word or phrase, another person may substitute a synonym or symbol in order to get the meaning across. However, on learning the new way of interpreting a specific symbol, the person may modify his or her already-formed ideas to incorporate the new information[clarification needed].

The square and compasses, symbol of the Freemasons
Psychoanalysis, rhetoric, and archetypes[edit]
Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who studied archetypes, proposed an alternative definition of symbol, distinguishing it from the term sign. In Jung's view, a sign stands for something known, as a word stands for its referent. He contrasted this with symbol, which he used to stand for something that is unknown and that cannot be made clear or exact. An example of a symbol in this sense is Christ as a symbol of the archetype called self.[9] For example, written languages are composed of a variety of different symbols that generate words. Through these written words humans communicate with each other. Kenneth Burke described Homo sapiens as a "symbol-using, symbol making, and symbol misusing animal" to recommend that a person creates symbols as well as misuses them. example he makes use of to indicate what he means by the misuse of symbol is the story of a man who, when told that a specific food item was whale blubber, could barely keep from throwing it up. Later, his mate discovered it was actually a dumpling. But the man's reaction was a direct consequence of the symbol of "blubber" representing something inedible in his mind. In addition, the symbol of "blubber" was created by the man through various kinds of learning.

Jean Dalby Clift says that people not only add their own interpretations to symbols, they also generate personal symbols that represent their own understanding of their lives: what he calls "core images" of the person. He argues that symbolic work with these personal symbols or core images can be as useful as working with dream symbols in psychoanalysis or counselling.[10]

William Indick suggests that the symbols that are often present in myth, legend, and fantasy fulfill psychological functions and hence are why archetypes such as "the hero," "the princess" and "the witch" have remained popular for hundreds of years.[11]

No comments:

Post a Comment