In semiotics, sign is something that can be interpreted as having a meaning, which is something other than itself, and which is therefore able to communicate information to the one interpreting or decoding the sign. Signs can work through any of the senses, visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory or taste, and their meaning can be intentional such as a word uttered with a specific meaning, or unintentional such as a symptom being a sign of a particular medical condition.
There are two major theories about the way in which signs acquire the ability to transfer information; both theories understand the defining property of the sign as being a relation between a number of elements. In the tradition of semiotics developed by Ferdinand de Saussure the sign relation is dyadic, consisting only of a form of the sign (the signifier) and its meaning (the signified). Saussure saw this relation as being essentially arbitrary motivated only by social convention. Saussure's theory has been particularly influential in the study of linguistic signs. The other major semiotic theory developed by C. S. Peirce defines the sign as a triadic relation as "something that stands for something, to someone in some capacity" This means that a sign is a relation between the sign vehicle (the specific physical form of the sign), a sign object (the aspect of the world that the sign carries meaning about) and an interpretant (the meaning of the sign as understood by an interpreter). According to Peirce signs can be divided by the type of relation that holds the sign relation together as either icons, indices or symbols. Icons are those signs that signify by means of similarity between sign vehicle and sign object (e.g. a portrait, or a map), indices are those that signify by means of a direct relation of contiguity or causality between sign vehicle and sign object (e.g. a symptom), and symbols are those that signify through a law or arbitrary social convention.
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Famous quotes containing the word sign:
“When politicians and politically minded people pay too much attention to literature, it is a bad signa bad sign mostly for literature.... But it is also a bad sign when they dont want to hear the word mentioned.”
—Italo Calvino (19231985)