Comm 403 Blog 2-The Semiotics of a Road

     Semiotics, at its most basic level, is a study of communication that deals with signs and codes.  Anything and everything can be considered to be a sign, which includes signifiers and signifieds.  A sign is anything that symbolizes or represents something else.  A signifier is something that has a material or physical existence in the world while a signified is the value that is attached to a sign and there can be more than one per sign.  On a higher level, a sign has a denotative and connotative meaning.  The denotative meaning deals with a physical description of a sign and the connotative meaning deals with anything associated with the sign that can not be defined by its description or, more simply, its meaning in everyday life.  Because examining the semiotics of anything can be interesting and important to understand communication better, the examination of the semiotics of a road is a simple way to break down semiotics.

      In a very general, denotative sense, the road depicted in this picture is dark gray or black with a yellow line down the middle. (This road is not considered a signifier because it has no physical sense in the picture.  Although where the road actually exists, it would be considered a signifier.) To the direct right side of the yellow line, a broken yellow line can be observed.  On either side of the road, close to the the edge, a white line exists.  With no additional knowledge, these signs mean absolutely nothing.  However, to pass a driving test and legally be able to drive, one must understand the signified or connotative meanings of the lines in the road.  To begin, it is important to understand that a road automatically connotes that one should be driving to the right of the yellow line.  That way, cars in the other lane to the left will be traveling the opposite direction.  There are exceptions to this rule though.  For example, in the picture the broken yellow line signifies that one can legally pass another car by going into the other lane if that car is going at least ten miles under the speed limit.  Alone, a broken yellow line does not mean this, but society has given that meaning to it.  In addition, a white line at the edge of road indicates not to pass over it because the road ends there.  However, if the white line was down the middle of the road, it would connote that both sides of traffic are traveling in the same direction and it is acceptable to pass any cars not going the speed limit by traveling around them.
     Overall, a road can be a simple breakdown of semiotics.  There are many other examples of signs on the road, including stop lights, stop signs, and speed limit signs.  Each of these things have a denotative meaning that is a simple description of the sign.  On an everyday, connotative level, though, meaning has been given to these signs by a society.  This is the level that individuals live at.  Pictures, ads, and other things can all be broken down into simpler understandings.  

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