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What is Semiotics in General?

Generally speaking[1], semiotics is the study of:

  • Signs production,
  • Signs communication
  • Signs interpretation

What is a sign?

In general[2], Anything that has meaning is a sign.

Types of Signs (In relation to our 5 senses)

  • Sight ↔ Visual signs
  • Hearing ↔ Auditory signs
  • Smell ↔ Olfactory signs
  • Taste ↔ Gustatory signs
  • Touch ↔ Tactile signs

Sign Productors (Some examples)

  • Nature (Day, Night, Clouds, Rain, Thunderstorms…etc.)
  • Animals
  • Humans (This is what interests us)
  • Machines, robots, computers…

From this example, we can learn that semiotics does not concern humans only: In combination with other sciences, it can, for example, study biological signs (Biosemiotics) or animal communication (Zoosemiotics) …, etc.

Note: Almost all signs are considered as such in relation to humans: They are the ones that attach meaning to them.

Humans: Two Types of Language

Verbal and Non-Verbal Language
(Verbal Signs / Non-Verbal Signs)


  • Verbal communication is carried through words.
  • Non-verbal communication refers to all signs that the person communicates outside of words. This means that all transmitted signs by the body (body language) fall within non-verbal communication.

There is also the paraverbal which refers to all that accompanies spoken words such as the intonation, debit, pauses…, prosody…, etc.[3].

[1] This definition is not that of a specialist or an expert. It is simplified for pedagogical purposes.

[2] The same goes here: An expert might for example distinguish between signs and indexes (L. J. Pierto distinction in “SFU: Introduction to French Linguistics I.”)

[3] Cf. (Chabanne, “Verbal, Paraverbal et Non-Verbal Dans l’interaction Verbale Humoristique.”)

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“What is Semiotics in General?” is part of:

Khettab, Sid Ahmed. Semiotics and Semiology: From Sign to Semiosis and From Code to Discourse [Course]. 2021. (Datacite), [Online Article]

KHETTAB, Sid Ahmed. Semiotics and Semiology: From Sign to Semiosis and From Code to Discourse. Independently published, 2021, [Paperback]

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