Saussure’s work in semiotics set the pediment for a
wide swath of linguistic theory. Despite the fact that many of his ideas are no
longer in favour, his work still remains as a good entry point into the basic
ideas surrounding language. Also, the questions he raises about what language
is made of and how humans use it, are questions that the field is still very
much interested in (Thatoneguyinlitclass, 2014).
consider two objections when it comes to the arbitrary nature of signs;
onomatopoeias and interjections. We can use onomatopoeias as proof that the choice of the signifier isn’t always arbitrary. The quality of their present sounds, or rather
the quality that is attributed to them, is an unpredicted result of phonetic evolution. With regards to the
authentic onomatopoeic words like; tick-tock, thud, etc., not only are they restricted
in number, but also they are chosen somewhat randomly. They are only
approximate and are imitations of different sound. In addition, these words are
subjected to change throughout time and thus go through more or less the same
phonetic evolution that other words undergo. Related closely to onomatopoeia
are interjections, although for most interjections we can illustrate that there
is no permanent bond between their signified and their signifier. To see how
much these expressions differ from one language to the next, we have to compare
two languages together. For example the English word for the French term ‘aie’
is ‘ouch’. Furthermore, we know that a lot of the interjections were once words
with specific meanings (Nature of the
linguistic sign, n.d.).
Saussure then describes the bond between the signified and the signifier
as being arbitrary. If we take a ‘tree’ as an example, it
takes form of the signified notion which is illustrated with the signifier, the word ‘tree’. A culture decides to name
this a ‘tree’, thus the culture creates this term
that they can collectively allude to. However,
since the world is a place of various languages,
the concept can always be
communicated by using different methods. For example, the word ‘tree’ in German
is ‘baum’ and is ‘arbor’ in Latin. Thus, the interconnection between ‘a tree’
and ‘the word tree’ is not what transmits meaning, although, language sometimes
can rely on this bond between thoughts and sounds.
We know that the definition of ‘tree’ is; a
green plant that lives in a forest. We can find out what it is referring to from the sentence’s
context. If we write,
“A balloon is a green plant that lives in a jungle” we can mistake the term ‘balloon’ as the notion of a ‘tree’.
Thus, the word meaning isn’t
settled upon with the word itself or the connection of word with
notion. More so, the meaning of a word is fixed between itself and
other terms. The
word ‘tree’ can be separated from its context because it is different from
other words or signifiers. Now, everything leads to this point: In language, one can find solely differences. We understand ‘tree’ from its relation to other words
in that context. Words are written or spoken linearly in any context, i.e one
after another. Usually, two or more words are not written or said on top of
each other, but are stated after each other in a sentence or phrase. This is
called syntagm. The value of understanding the word ‘tree’ is grounded on the syntagm of the sentence. Also, when we hear the
word ‘tree’ we start associating other things that are within the same context.
Nature comes to mind and other endless connotations start to emerge. Thus, the
meaning comes out from syntagmatic relations that is the
linearity of the structure of context and syntax, also associative relations (Magill, 1989).
At a simultaneous moment while Saussure was constructing
the sign theory, Peirce who was a logician and a philosopher, came up with his composition
of the sign theory. On the contrary to Saussure’s dyadic theory, he postulated a triadic model. Pierce’s
model introduces three parts of the model. These are; the ‘Representamen’ being how
the word occupies a structure, an ‘Interpretant’ which is the sense
derived from that word, and an ‘Object’ defined
as the thing that the word alludes to. These
do not feature directly in Saussure’s model. Pierce states that our species appears to be
driven by the yearning to make meaning. This same meaning is derived by the
fact that we create our own signs to interpret. As Pierce states, ‘We think
only in signs’. We find such signs in the form of auditory and visual images,
words, smells and tastes and also actions, although they have no natural
meaning and are only signs when one interprets them as a sign. We understand objects
as signs involuntary through correlations.
Concerning Peirce’s triadic model, it sometimes arises a historical reposition throughout Pierce’s modes. Despite
him being more focused on the signs which are non-linguistic unlike Saussure himself,
Pierce also highlighted some of the importance at
symbolic signs (Semiotics for beginners, n.d.).
. A signifier is described to be an apparent shape which the sign holds
and the signifier is the notion which it refers to. In his theory of signs, he
states that the relation of an object and its
given label are not a connection of a linguistic sign,
but the tie is between a notion which is the signified and its sound sequence; signifier.
For better understanding, a signifier is the psychological mark that the sound
leaves and the impression it has on our senses. It is how we think of something
in our heads. It makes up the whole sign together with the signified which is
the sound that refers to the concept. If the signifier is how we think about a
thing, then the signified is what we think of when we think (Semiotics for
Beginners, n.d.) (Thatoneguyinlitclass, 2014).