Sign, Code, Myth, Ideology

Barthes’ work, then, provides us with an epistemological starting point for the understanding of textual representation. We will assume that a discursive representation is realised at four levels of sign, code, myth and

A semiotic heuristic for considering written language

Fig. 3.1 A semiotic heuristic for considering written language

ideology. Figure 3.1 represents this idea diagrammatically, but we have noted that, crucially, each level is interdependent, so that signs can only be understood in the context of codes, signs and codes can realise myths and ideologies and so on. These four levels provide a framework within which we can eventually locate the different levels of our text analysis, which range from close examination of the text to a consideration of the discourses that run through them which are connected to the culturally- situated beliefs and attitudes that constitute ideology.

An analysis of the sort I propose does not seek to treat these different levels as entirely discrete. However, it is useful for the sake of completeness to envisage that we are building up a complete picture or “map” by addressing relevant language issues at each level—looking at choices of sign, paying attention to the codes in which they operate and moving from there to build a picture of connotation, myth and ideology.

Chapters 8, 9, 10, and 11 will demonstrate what this means in terms of the practical analysis of the BP data. This chapter gives theoretical examples of how sign, code, mythic meanings and ideology can be conceived specifically in the case of written language. Not all of the examples I give here were relevant to my data set. In the methodology I propose, an early stage consists of immersion in the data and it is at this point in the research process that relevant language features are identified. It is the data themselves that will drive the identification of relevant features at each level.

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