Week 9 Post
Schirato, T. and Yell, S. “Signs and Meaning.” Communication and Cultural Literacy: An Introduction. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2000, 18-33.
In this week’s reading, Schirato and Yell discussed the relationship between signs and meaning, how we interpret them in everyday life. Also, they explored how semiotic or semiology theories came into practice. I find the reading very interesting as it expanded my view in how signs and meaning work in our daily life.
The article is divided into three sections. The first one is the “Meaning as a system of relations”. From referencing Saussure, the linguistic sign is divided into three aspects: signifier, signified and sign. He explained that “signifier” is related to the physical state of the sign, “signified” is related to the idea or “evoked” understanding of the word and last, “sign” is a compilation of the first 2 terms. Schirato and Yell then explorered the three major messages of Saussure’s theory. First, semiotic systems were not produced by or responding the world. They are actually editing and producing our world. Second, signs are emphasizing the role of the sender. Last, meaning is always policical. Meanings and words are not joining together accidentally. What Saussure did has changed my understanding of meaning. Meaning is relational rather than substantive. We could only understand something to be the meaning of another due to the “arbitrary” relations.
The second section: Signs, History and Contexts mentioned how Volosinov criticised Saussure’s theories by saying that in our world, there is no permanent semiotic system. He said that signs are adaptable and changeable. He suggested that, words as the signifiers, have a history of meanings. Moreover, the meaning of a word is determined by its context.
In the third section: the politics of meanings, the authors brought out an example discussing whether Australia was invaded or settled by Europeans. The role of meaning which it is connected to policits, dependent on things like context, culture and participants are emphasised.
I found this reading not quite easy to understand when I first read it. However those good examples in the reading like Simpson’s on the perception of “violence” did a good job to explain the concept. I know from today after finishing this blog, I will notice more of the signs surrounding me. For me. signs are not just simple signs anymore.
Horace Li (z3232900)