Personal Notes pt1 for Semiotics

General Idea about Semiotics

Based on the introduction part of The Grammar of Meaning Systems (Martin Irvine, 2018), I made myself a diagram, reminding me several key concepts and the relationships between them. There are still a lot to add into the diagram but I want to perfect it after gaining clearer and more complete ideas about the discipline.


Symbol & Sign & Icon?

During working on the first diagram, the difference of these three words, especially the two of symbol and sign are not that way of clear. With the explanation in Semiotics: the basics (Daniel Chandler, 2007), it seems to make more sense to me. So I would like to answer my personal question about the three words here somehow with a rearrangement of the material in the book.

Due to Peirce, a symbol is “a sign which refers to the object that it denotes by virtue of a law, usually an association of general ideas, which operates to cause the symbol to be interpreted as referring to that object” (Peirce 1931-58, 2.249). We interpret the symbols according to “a rule’ which can be regarded as part of the conventional association, as Peirce held the idea that symbols are based purely on conventional association.

A sign is an icon “insofar as it is like that thing and used as a sign of it.” (???) An iconic sign represents its object mainly by the similarity.Icons have the qualities which resemble the objects they represent and excite analogous sensations in the mind.We can see several key words about icon, which are like, similarity, resemble and analogous sensations.

Here, it can be easier to understand if we have a look at Saussurean terms signifier and signifies. There are three modes here which are 1)Symbol/ symbolic; 2)Icon/ iconic; 3) Index/ indexical. In the mode of Symbol, signifiers do not resemble the signified, but can be interpreted based on the collective mind (or to say, conventional association). The Icon mode is where the signifier can be recognized through human sense organ as resembling or imitating the signified. The difference between Symbol mode and Index mode is that, the key words of the former one is fundamentally arbitrary while in the mode of Index, the signifier is not arbitrary but directly connected to the signified. A set of examples that help me distinguish the Symbol and Index is that the traffic light is symbol and the phone ringing is index. What somehow confuse me is the distinguish between icon and index here, especially when it “recordings” are regarded as index because from my perspective, the “recordings” to some extents also fit the definition of icon mode. Is the difference here relevant to imitating and directly recording?

Even though there are still questions left to the three modes of Saussurea, with the explanation of the modes, at least we can understand the difference between symbol and icon better.