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See also surplus meaning; compare denotation

1. In linguistics and literary theory, a ‘secondary’ (often emotional) meaning (or a range of associations) evoked by a word beyond its explicit denotation or dictionary meaning. Such meanings may be implied by the writer or speaker and/or inferred by the reader or listener. More broadly in the arts the same process generated by an image, sound, gesture etc. A photograph of a tree denotes what it depicts—for instance, an old oak tree—but the same image could also connote Englishness for an English viewer.

2. (semiotics) The process by which sociocultural associations are produced as a reader decodes a sign or text in any medium in a particular context (some theorists also include purely personal associations). For Barthes, connotation was a second (but not secondary) order of signification which uses the denotative sign (signifier and signified) as its signifier and attaches to it an additional signified. In this framework connotation is a sign which derives from the signifier of a denotative sign (so denotation leads to a chain of connotations).

Subjects: Arts and Humanities.

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