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marker. This is illustrated with what this figure represents for the people of the United States
and how it symbolizes the United States outside its borders. The human ability to create and use symbols, seems to be universal, some
anthropologists claim that the symbol usage differentiates man from animals (Leeds-Hurwitz
29). The problem of symbols, their creation and interpretation (the relationship of the symbol
and object it represents, its meaning) is a very complex one. It has been dealt with by many
researchers from different fields among which are linguistics, semantics, semiotics,
philosophy, sociology, and cultural anthropology. Each of these fields has certain specific
approach towards the interpretation of symbols. They all emerge from the roots of work of
Swiss linguist Ferdinand the Saussure. Jonathan Bignell explains in Media semiotics, An
Introduction: “Saussure believed that language is made up of signs (like words) which
communicate meanings, and that all kinds of other things which communicate meanings could
potentially be studied in the same way as linguistic signs” (Bignell 5).
The production of signs is essential characteristics of human beings. Saussure came up
with the idea that extralinguistic reality can be interpreted and analyzed by the means of
language. Bignell argues, “Saussure proposed that our perception and understanding of reality
is constructed by the words and other signs which we use in a social context” (Bignell 6). LeeHurwitz continues, summarizing the work of Levy Strauss, that sign production is inherent
competency of humans, “as the work of Levi Strauss and others indicates, any aspect of
human activity carries the potential for serving as, or becoming a sign: we only have to
activate it” (cited in Lee-Hurwitz 29). And when sign production is activated the following
step is the interpretation of a produced sign. This interpretation largely depends on the cultural 7 8 context of the interpreter. As Ivan Dubovický points out in his essay Symbol on the ethnic In his analysis of linguistic signs, Saussure showed that there are two components to borders citing Saussure, “[Man] has the tendency to organize things into systems, with the every sign. One is the vehicle which expresses the sign, like a pattern of sound which help of which he can change the meaning” (Dubovický 21). Dubovický also mentions the makes up a word, or the marks on paper which we read as words, or the pattern of importance of cultural background of people using symbols. shapes and colors which photographs use to represent an object or person. This vehicle
which exists in the material world is called the signifier. The other part of the sigh is
called the signified. The signified is the concept which the signifier calls forth when 1.1 Sign vs. symbol
we perceive it (Bignell 12).
Signs are often terminologically confused with symbols. Even sometimes
interchangeably used. Umberto Eco explains in his Semiotics and the philosophy of language:
“Every sign is a symbol, but not every symbol is a sign” (Eco 18). Current textbooks of
semiotics and semantics provide us with numerous definitions of the concept of the sign.
Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz cites Eco’s definition of a sign: “Everything that, on the grounds of a
previously established social convention, can be taken as something standing for something
else” (cited in Leeds-Hurwitz 22). Anything can be a sign when agreed on its meaning.
Hurwitz expands Eco’s definition by citing Bogatyrev: “Any item of nature, technology, or
everyday use can become a sign whenever it acquires meaning beyond the bounds of its
individual existence as a thing of itself” (cited in Leeds-Hurwitz 29). This says, that if the
meaning is conventionally agreed among people, anything can serve to the purpose of a sign.
There have been several interpretations of signs, and theories of signs and their
classifications. There are two main streams or schools of interpreting the sign. Wendy LeeHurwitz summarizes two main streams interpretations. “Traditionally there have been two
main interpretations of signs: either they consist of a dichotomy (a two-part relationship) or a
trichotomy (a more elaborate three-part relationship)” (Lee-Hurwitz 23).
The concept of dichotomy was originally introduced by Swiss linguist Ferdinand de
Saussure. Bignell explains, Ferdinand de Saussure thinks of a sign on the bilateral level. He offers dichotomic
interpretation of sign usage and interpretation. This interpretation outlined by de Saussure
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