‘Signifiers’ and ‘Signified’

When talking about Signifiers and Signified, we relate it to semiotics; the study of signs and symbols and their use.

A key thinker in semiotics is ‘Ferdinand de Saussure’, a Swiss linguist who dramatically changed linguistics in the 19th century and still has an effect now. He had created his own theory for reading and viewing signs, his theory was that a sign was not just a plain old sign to look at, but had two sides to it. He named these the ‘signifier’ and the ‘signified.

  • Signifier – the material aspect of it, such as the image, mark, sound, written word etc.
  • Signified – Mental concept of what the signifier stands for, it could be a concept, object or emotion.

Here is an example of this theory that I drew up quickly.


The chair being the signified, which is what the viewer has thought of when they have read the signifier. It can also work for words that you would associate with certain signs, when you think of ‘chair’, words like wooden, comfy, four-legged, seat can be associated with it.

Another example could be, when you hear a sound like a bird squarking; your mind will initially create a mental image of a bird to support the sound you just heard.


~ by reeceharry on February 19, 2013.

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