There are many models of the linguistic sign (see also sign (semiotics)). In Semiotics, a sign is "something that stands for something else to someone in some capacity" A classic model is the one by the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. Ferdinand de Saussure (fɛʁdinɑ̃ də soˈsyːʁ ( November 26, 1857 – February 22, 1913) was a Swiss linguist According to him, language is made up of signs and every sign has two sides:
(The signified is not to be confused with the referent. In general a reference is a relation between objects in which one object designates by linking to another object The former is a mental concept, the latter the actual object in the world)
Furthermore, Saussure separated speech acts (la parole) from the system of a language (la langue). Parole was the free will of the individual, whereas langue was regulated by the group, albeit unknowingly.
Saussure also postulated that once the convention is established, it is very difficult to change, which enables languages to remain both static, through a set vocabulary determined by conventions, and to grow, as new terms are needed to deal with situations and technologies not covered by the old.
According to Saussure, the relation between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary, i. e. there is no direct connection between the shape and the concept (cf. Bussmann 1996: 434). For instance, there is no reason why the letters C-A-T (or the sound of these phonemes) produce exactly the image of the small, domesticated animal with fur, four legs and a tail in our minds. The phoneME project is Sun Microsystems reference implementation of Java virtual machine and associated libraries of Java ME with source licensed under the GNU It is a result of convention: speakers of the same language group have agreed (and learned) that these letters or sounds evoke a certain image.
Compare an aerial drawing of London (field of potential signifieds) with a grid (field of signifiers) placed on it. The grid is arbitrary. Its structure (however motivated) divides the drawing into areas (which can then be referred to). The division of the drawing is arbitrary. A square 'EC1' is an inseparable fusion of grid and area of drawing i. e. is a sign - just like two sides of the same sheet of paper - which refers to 'real' land. EC1 does not have to refer to the particular part of London it does. Drawing + grid = map = language.
Two concepts are often cited to disprove Saussure’s claim, however, he provides reasons as to why these concepts are irrelevant. They are:
Which applies only in a very limited number of cases, and stems from phonetic approximation of sounds, which can themselves evolve into a more standard linguistic sign, and
Which fall much to the same logic as onomatopoeia, as is demonstrated by comparisons of the same expression in two languages (e. Onomatopoeia (also spelled onomatopœia, from Greek: ονοματοποιΐα is a Word or a grouping of words that imitates the sound it is describing An interjection is a Part of speech that usually has no connection with the rest of the sentence and simply expresses Emotion on the part of the speaker g. the French aïe and the English ouch).
Likewise, the figures made in writing are arbitrary, and not connected to the sounds which they inspire. The only requirement is the ability to differentiate between separate figures, such as t, l and f, and that the difference in the symbols is understood by the collective consciousness (i. e. that "i" is recognized as "i" by all members of the community, no matter what word it is placed in).
Saussure’s theory has been criticised, for instance for confusing words as sound-patterns with words as signs. As Marya Mazor states, “It does not makes sense to say that a word can be exchanged with an idea if, as a sign, such an idea is part of its makeup. ” She goes on to point out that in the exchange of words, Saussure views words as signs, as Mazor calls it, “meaning-and-form combinations,” leading to a rejection of real-world context. In viewing words as the “coins” of the language, Saussure sees them as interchangeable with other words or ideas-a viewing of words as sound-patterns. However, in word exchange, the word is contextually defined, and the exchange of another word “coin” in its place will never be precise; in short, it is an inexact trade (Mazor, 7).
Rudi Keller gives a simplified definition of linguistic signs, if not signs in general, stating
“Signs, therefore, are clues with which the speaker “furnishes” the addressees, enabling them and leading them to infer the way in which the speaker intends to influence them. Signs are not…containers used for the transport of ideas from one person’s head to another. Signs are hints of a more or less distinct nature, inviting the other to make certain inferences and enabling the other to reach them. ”
Keller dubs the process of making inferences “interpretation,” and the goal of the process “understanding. ”
Michel Foucault proposed a linkage between linguistic signs and their cultures, stating that language practices help to maintain assumptions in a culture by serving as a tool for knowing and constructing the world. Michel Foucault ( (15 October 1926 – 25 June 1984 was a French philosopher, Historian, Intellectual, Critic and Sociologist. He calls this connection between the physical reality and the discursive reality the “dominant discourse” and gives the example of “freedom” in the United States. The United States of America —commonly referred to as the The “freedom” stressed in the U. S. places emphasis on the individual, unhampered, and this viewpoint persists despite workplaces that require subordination and laws that refine freedom’s limits. “Freedom” in the U. S. persists in being defined as such, despite physical realities to the contrary (Rivkin, 54).