Ferdinand De Saussure (a857 – 1913) is known as being the founder of linguistics. According to his version of semiotics, the basic unit of meaning is the sign. He also argued that language is arbitrary, conventional and relational:
Arbitrary-symbolic – non-natural or necessary connection between word meaning / sound / form.
Conventional – something to do in accordance / believed / intended to be in normal / general ways.
Relational – pair of words where opposites only make sense in context of relationship between two meanings e.g. teacher-student.
Signifier = any material thing that signifies, e.g. words, facial expressions etc.
Signified = concept / idea
e.g. Rose, though a plant, signifies concept e.g. love, romance.
Denotation is the literal meaning of something / what it is. Connotation is the associations we have with something.
Roland Barthes once said “Everything is a connotation”