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Elements of Semiology by Roland
A Terse, Dense Book On Struggling With Symbols
In his Course in General Linguistics, first published in 1916, Saussure
postulated the existence of a general science of signs, or Semiology, of
which linguistics would form only one part. Semiology, therefore aims to
take in any system of signs, whatever their substance and limits; images,
gestures, musical sounds, objects, and the complex associations of all
these, which form the content of ritual, convention or public entertainment:
these constitute, if not languages, at least systems of signification . . . The
Elements here presented have as their sole aim the extraction from
linguistics of analytical concepts which we think a priori to be sufficiently
general to start semiological research on its way. In assembling them, it is
not presupposed that they will remain intact during the course of research;
nor that semiology will always be forced to follow the linguistic model
closely. We are merely suggesting and elucidating a terminology in the
hope that it may enable an initial (albeit provisional) order to be introduced
into the heterogeneous mass of significant facts. In fact what we purport to
do is furnish a principle of classification of the questions. These elements
of semiology will therefore be grouped under four main headings borrowed
from structural linguistics: I. Language and Speech; II. Signified and
Signifier; III. Syntagm and System; IV. Denotation and Connotation.--
Roland Barthes, from his Introduction
Personal Review: Elements of Semiology by Roland Barthes
Semiology had its birth with Saussure and the publication of his lecture
notes by students in 1916, entitled Course in General Linguistics.
Semiology was to be a general science of signs, of which linguistics would
be one part. However, over time it has become clear that there exist no
complex systems of symbols completely removed from language.
Semioticians have recognized, then, that "linguistics is not a part of the
general science of signs, but rather it is semiology which is a part of
linguistics".In this clearly written work, Barthes thus undertakes this task of
semiolgy, under four main headings borrowed from structural anthropology
(Claude Levi-Strauss) and clearly reliant on Saussure:I. Language and
Speech. (Saussure's langue and parole) II. Signified and Signifier. III.
Syntagm and System. IV. Denotation and Connotation. This book is
written in a dense and terse style, and dates from 1964. For an
introductory text, therefore, I would suggest instead Umberto Eco's
"Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language". Yet for those who are set on
studying Barthes, a very important figure in this field, then this book can be
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