For Lotman, semiotic structures which can be regarded as languages insofar as they have basic units combinable by rules and an analogical relation to what they represent. He sees spoken language as a primary modelling system and writing as a secondary modelling system (a semiotic superstructure) which is built upon it. Since this stance grants primacy to the spoken form, it has been criticized as phonocentric. The American semiotician and linguist Thomas Sebeok (1920–2001) argues that nonverbal ‘language’ can be seen as a primary modelling system. Other theorists have extended this notion to texts in other media, seeing them as secondary modelling systems built out of a primary language. Cinematic texts, for instance, have sometimes been seen as built upon a primary modelling system of ‘graphic language’. However, whether such a ‘language’ has basic building blocks and what these might be has been hotly disputed.
Subjects: Media Studies.