Understanding sign and semiotics 13
The word ‘semiotics’ comes from the Greek for ‘observation of signs’. Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), who was primarily a logician, as well as being competent in mathematics and many other branches of science including astronomy, chemistry, physics, geology and meteorology, was a founder of semiotics as the ‘formal doctrine of signs’. At almost the same time, Ferdinand de Saussure (18571913) founded semiology, a European school of semiotics. Semiology aims to discover ‘what constitutes signs and what laws govern them’ (Saussure, cited in Hawkes 1977: 123), with a slight emphasis on social psychology and general psychology. Semiotics covers the whole cycle of signs from their creation and processing to their use, with a greater emphasis on the effect of signs. Although sometimes in literature no clear distinction is made between semiotics and semiology, it is the former which will be the theme of study in this book.