Introducing Social Semiotics

By Theo Van Leeuwen | Go to book overview

PART I

Semiotic principles
In part I, I discuss some of the principles that make social semiotics a new and distinctive approach to the practice and theory of semiotics. Where necessary, social semiotic concepts and methods are contrasted and compared to concepts from structuralist semiotics.Above all, I hope two things will become clear in this part of the book:
1 Social semiotics is not 'pure' theory, not a self-contained field. It only comes into its own when it is applied to specific instances and specific problems, and it always requires immersing oneself not just in semiotic concepts and methods as such but also in some other field. When, in chapter 1, I explore the semiotics of office space, for instance, I need not just social semiotic concepts and methods but also concepts and methods from the theory and practice of office design and management. The same applies to the 'social' in 'social semiotics'. It can only come into its own when social semiotics fully engages with social theory. This kind of interdisciplinarity is an absolutely essential feature of social semiotics.
2 Social semiotics is a form of enquiry. It does not offer ready-made answers. It offers ideas for formulating questions and ways of searching for answers. This is why I end my chapters with questions rather than conclusions. These questions are not intended to invite readers to 'revise' the content of the preceding chapter but to encourage them to question it, to test it, to think it through independently - and to arrive at their own conclusions.

-1-

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