Semiotics is the science or discipline that is interested in the study of the different types of symbols created by humans in different and specific situations. This study is based on the analysis of the meanings that each type of symbol can have and how that meaning can vary over time or space.
Semiotics (or also known as semiology) can be considered as a very important section of anthropology since its work deals with the culture of the current human being and of other times. The term semiotics comes from the Greek Semeiotikos, which means 'sign interpreter'.
This implies that it will try to explain the way in which beings use signs to understand the world that surrounds them and of course also to communicate with other people, an action that is certainly important in any life.
The study that formalizes semiotics regarding the attribution of meaning is usefully used at the scientific level, a context in which the way in which knowledge is generated turns out to be vital.
The sign refers to something and refers to a mental image of it
For semiotics, a sign always refers to something. Meanwhile, that sign will refer to something concrete in the mind of a person. So the word table is a sign that will refer us mentally to the figure of this furniture normally made of wood and used for eating.
One of the most complex and interesting elements of culture is the set of symbols and forms that human beings create for different situations or circumstances.
Each set of symbols is applied to a type of events or phenomena and therefore its meaning or its interpretation is completely particular and specific. Symbols are more or less arbitrary or subjective representations of these phenomena and their birth has to do with the human being's need to integrate such phenomena into language.
Semiotics will then be interested in analyzing why these symbols can have a meaning in a moment or space and change, or remain over time if this were the case. This is the task of anthropologists, language specialists, archaeologists, and other scientists who work with questions of culture. Semiotics is considered to be born from the observations of different anthropologists and language specialists who noticed that different symbols (not only graphics but also language, thought or emotional forms) were repeated in different spaces and possessed the same or different meanings according to each community.
People are constantly using signs and attributing meaning to each issue that is perceived. Given this presence, semiotics has a relevant place at the beginning of the knowledge process, and a profound approach to the sign, which is its object of study, is proposed, for example.
The fundamental contribution of the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure
The Swiss-born linguist Ferdinand de Saussure made enormous contributions to semiotics. He gave courses on the linguistic sign and this subject was approached precisely from a linguistic perspective.
Saussure opposed the consideration of the sign as a unitary entity that results in considering language as a list of words that correspond to certain things. His proposition is that concepts precede signs and in this sense is that he proposes that the linguistic unit is composed of two elements, on the one hand a concept, and on the other an acoustic image of it.
The concept remains archived in the minds of the speakers of a certain language and thus the concept of a table manifests itself as a set made up of the following characteristics: furniture, wood, rectangular, square, used for eating. Meanwhile, the acoustic image is the imprint that this word leaves on our psyche.