semiotic square

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A spatial representation of the logical relations of a semantic category. Greimas introduced the semiotic square as a means of mapping the logical conjunctions and disjunctions relating key semantic features in a text. If we begin by drawing a horizontal line linking two familiarly paired terms such as ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’, we turn this into a semiotic square by making this the upper line of a square in which the two other logical possibilities—‘not ugly‘ and ‘not beautiful’—occupy the lower corners. The semiotic square reminds us that this is not simply a binary opposition because something which is not beautiful is not necessarily ugly and that something which is not ugly is not necessarily beautiful. Occupying a position within such a framework invests a sign with meanings. The semiotic square can be used to highlight ‘hidden’ underlying themes in a text or practice.

Subjects: Media Studies.

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