What is semiology?

What is semiology?

Semiology is the science that studies signs and symbols of written and spoken language, which is its main difference with the semiotics studies that is responsible for understanding the thought and the act of knowing through the signs (any type of signs).

How it works?

The semiotics studies the semantic and linguistic phenomena specifically within a given language, like Spanish, English, French, Japanese, and etcetera, describing its inner functioning and reducing it to simple rules that are easy to understand. According to semiologists, communication occurs mainly through the words, either written or spoken, where the linguistic sign is the smallest particle that has within a reference to something existing in reality.

This linguistic sign mainly consists on the relationship between the signifier and the signified. Semiology places a special emphasis on the linkage between the object of reality and the way languages have special rules to create words, which at the same time will have the ability to bring to the mind of the speaker (or writer, or listening to) the signified or meaning. This means that when the word “dromedary” is spoken, the mind will bring the smells, the colours, the sounds and maybe the textures of a camel. These neuronal impulses are the signified, also called by Ferdinand Saussure as acoustic image.

What is it for?

Semiology was initiated by Ferdinand de Saussure, considered by many authors as the father of modern linguistics. As their thinking is heavily influenced by structuralism, the semiology of Saussure was conceived as a tool to study specifically the phenomenon in oral communication and writing, ordered in systems that operate in unambiguous ways.

We can find different uses of semiotics particularly to understand how the meanings, which are arbitrarily given, can contain any concept convened by the society. This peculiarity allows us to make new words or ways to call elements of reality so that they can be easily distinguish from the rest.

Marketing and advertising can use the Semiology, especially because of the mentioned characteristics of giving to a sign a meaning. For example, there is a Sony Ericsson campaign where they substitute the word Love with the brand logo in the following sentence: "I (Sony-Ericsson) music”. The convened order of the clause goes: “I (LOVE) music”, which fits better as we, as society, have already a bond between the phrase and its meaning. That is exactly what Sony Ericsson wants to produce with this kind of advertisings, they want to create new links in which we substitute love with Sony Ericsson. The objective is to change the words but not the meaning; the objective is to make people relate Sony Ericsson with the love for music.


Saussure's Diagram

Ferdinand De Saussure

We recommend:

ROLAND BARTHES, Elements of Semiology.

JONATHAN CULLER, Ferdinand de Saussure.

FERDINAND DE SAUSSURE, Course in General Linguistics.