Sei sulla pagina 1di 15


Ferdinand de Saussure

Now what did he say?

Signifier produced a signified He summarised his argument like this...

Yes but what does that all mean?

The sign is the whole that results from the association of the signifier with the signified (Saussure 1983, 67; Saussure 1974, 67).
The relationship between the signifier and the signified is referred to as 'signification

Signifier: the word OPEN Signified concept: that the shop is open for business

The magazine- just a collection of signs?

Thats what Jonathan Bignell argues (Bignell 1997: 78). These signs may include paradigmatic and syntagmatic signifiers. Elements such as the title of the magazine, the fonts used, the layout, the colours, the texture of the paper, the language adopted, the content of the articles and so on, and each of these signs have been chosen to generate a meaning.

The magazine is therefore a complex collection of signs that can be extensively decoded and analysed by its reader.

Paradigmatic and syntagmatic

Imagine a girl picking out an outfit


She selects signs from three paradigms (i.e. sets of possible signs - upper body garments, lower body garments, and footwear). Each paradigm contains a possible set of pieces from which she can choose only one. From the upper-body-garment paradigm (including blouses, tee-shirts, tunics, sweaters), she selects one.


She combines the selected signs through rules (i.e., hot pants go with flats, not high heels), sending a message through the ensemble - the syntagm.

Our interpretation of an individual shot depends on both paradigmatic analysis (comparing it, not necessarily consciously, with the use of alternative kinds of shot) and syntagmatic analysis (comparing it with preceding and following shots).

How does this apply to image/film?

What did Barthes have to say?

Roland Barthes argued that 'an important part of the semiological undertaking' was to divide texts 'into minimal significant units... then to group these units into paradigmatic classes, and finally to classify the syntagmatic relations which link these units' (Barthes 1967, 48)

If we think about paradigms as sets of possible signs e.g- upper body garments, lower body garments, and footwear. Then a set of possible signs could be a various range of shots that could have been used to present the subject. In film, the same shot used, within another sequence of shots, could have quite a different preferred reading.

Another paradigm is the use of typography in the copy of the magazine. The different choices for example of typeface are examples of the possible set of pieces which influence the syntagmatic meaning .

So the syntagymatic analysis considers the combination of the selected paradigmatic signs sending a message through the ensemble - the syntagm.

Example of paradigmatic and syntagmatic signs

To analyse image through semiology

Connotation Denotation Icon Index Myth Paradigm Syntagm Sign Signifier Signified Symbol Relay

To analyse the codes and conventions of magazine covers

Main image Banner Masthead Lead article Flash- usually used to
promote another article within

Image Cover lines Anchorage text Skyline Institutional information

Anchorage and relay

Anchorage is text (such as a caption) that provides the link between the image and its context; the text that provides relevance to the reader. The term was introduced by Barthes (1977). Barthes introduced the idea of anchorage along with another, the idea of Relay, which is a reciprocal relation between text and picture, in that each contributes its own part of the overall message. It also relates a sequence of pictures to each other.