Connotation to meanings which lie beyond denotation

Connotation is a term used to refer to meanings which lie beyond denotation but are more dependent on it’ (Dyer, 1992). Within semiotics, denotation and connotation are terms describing the relationship between the signifier and the signified. Connotation is widely linked with secondary meanings in the second order of signification and depends upon context and interpretation. At this stage of the language other metaphoric associations are articulated, such as links with private, personal experiences, implications and suggestions.The denotative point is exploited and used to develop a higher level of meaning; this is where the ideology is first expressed. The term ‘connotation’ is used to refer to the socio- culture and personal associations (ideological, emotional) of the sign. These are related to traits within the viewer such as class, cultural background, gender, age etc. ‘Connotation is regarded as an analogue code’ (Wilden, 1987), and is much more open to interpretation as opposed to denotation, the connotative signs are also much more polysemic.

Saussure’s semiological system concentrated more upon denotation, at the expense of connotation; Barthes gave his own interpretation of the model of the sign some years later. Although viewers draw on their own experiences to reach a conclusion concerning the connotative meaning, connotations are not purely ‘personal’ meanings; they are determined by the codes to which the interpreter has access. Everyone’s belief about particular connotations may differ, when they’re own educational background and knowledge is brought into play, connotation is very much a question of how language is used.Myths are a culture’s way of thinking about something; Roland Barthes has defined ‘myth’ as the ‘rhetoric of ideology’- the way that ideology speaks to us. At any one time our society has many ideologies, feminism, Christianity, etc, a particular ideology usually dominates the society and the rest of the ideologies assume subordinate positions.

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A text becomes ‘mythic’ at the point where ideology enters into it and the text is no longer innocent. ‘A myth is a type of speech, a system of communication, a message, it is a mode of signification, a form’ (Barthes 1972).Myth builds upon the first order of signification (denotation), when denotative ‘sign’ becomes the signifier in second order of signification (connotation). It emerges at the same level as connotation, however Barthes claims it is the third level or order of signification and it works as a chain of related concepts or ideas about something within the culture. Barthes has based his studies of culture upon linguistic models developed by early writers such as C.

S.Pierce, Ferdinand and Saussure. Saussure worked on a semiological system where the signified is the concept, the signifier is the acoustic image (which is cerebral) and the affiliation between concept and image is the sign (the word).

Myth is constructed from a second order semiological system. This is where the sign (the concept and image) in the first system, becomes a signifier in the second. As soon as anything is captured be myth it is condensed to a signifier.

The myth can be looked at as the final term of the linguistic system or as the first term of the mythical system. Ideologies work through symbolic codes, which represent and explain cultural phenomena; Barthes claims this symbolic representation is mythic, not as in fairy tales, the traditional sense of being false, but having the appearance of being ‘natural’ or ‘commonsense’. A myth is a social and historically determined idea that has gained the status of accepted truth or naturalness, and a cultures way of thinking about things.


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