referential fallacy

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(semiotics) The assumption that it is either a necessary condition of a sign that the signifier has a referent (in particular, a material object in the world), or that the meaning of a sign lies purely in its referent. Such assumptions are flawed because many signifiers do not have referents (e.g. a connective such as ‘and’ in language). The existence of a sign is no guarantee of the existence in the world of a corresponding referent. The reference in texts is primarily—*poststructuralists say that it can only be—to other texts (see intertextuality) rather than to the world. The fallacy is reflected in judgements that the (referential) Peircean model of the sign is superior to the Saussurean model.

Subjects: Media Studies.

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