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Semiotics: The Basics. Routledge. 2007. Hardcover – 2007


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  • Hardcover: 307 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0203014936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0203014936
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

More About the Author

I lecture on Media and Communication in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies at Aberystwyth University, where I have been based since 1989. My best-known publication is Semiotics: The Basics (Routledge: 1st edn. 2002, 2nd edn. 2007), which has become an international academic bestseller and is set reading for countless university courses. More recently, I co-authored (with Rod Munday) the Dictionary of Media and Communication (Oxford University Press, 2011) of which Professor Laurie Taylor (BBC Radio 4) declared: 'How on Earth have I managed for so long without having such a volume?'.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte's Web on 27 Feb. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Most people when I say I'm taking a course in semiotics look at me blankly, because they haven't got a clue what semiotics is. And neither did I even after several lessons! Why take the course I hear you ask? Well after reading Chandler's Semiotics The Basics (and using the online version) I can say that the book helped me. I now enjoy the course and I'm writing a semiotics paper... If I get a terrible grade I'll post again.
Look up Chandler Semiotics on any search engine and you will probably find an online version of this book. But after buying and reading this new updated version on my Kindle I would say that this version is much better.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
The best introductory text on semiotics 2 Dec. 2007
By Parrhesiastes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read maybe a dozen books about semiotics and I must say this is the best yet. It is both easy to understand and surprisingly comprehensive given the topic. His book is so good that I bought the second edition of the book when it came out even though its available for free online. My sister is even using this book for as part of the required readings for a graduate level university course she is teaching and I know she isn't the only professor on the faculty to do so.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
An excellent introduction to semiotics; but with one major flaw 25 Oct. 2012
By Gregory J. Casteel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Any specialized field of study will invariably develop its own distinctive jargon -- its own unique set of terminology that everyone who works within the discipline is expected to understand and use -- which can be confusing to anyone who is on the outside looking in. The use of jargon is essential in any highly technical field, because it makes it possible to communicate complex ideas much more quickly and efficiently than could be done using ordinary language alone. A lot of information can be packed into a single technical term; so, just a few words of jargon can often do the work of an entire sentence -- perhaps even an entire paragraph -- of plain English. Without jargon, the discussion of complex ideas would become practically impossible; and academic scholarship would essentially grind to a halt. So jargon is both necessary and beneficial to any scholarly discipline. But this boon to scholars is the bane of students trying to learn the subject, and of laypeople trying to understand it. The biggest obstacle preventing the average person from understanding the rudiments of any academic discipline has to be the jargon barrier. Breaking through that barrier is essential to the task of education; and, in my opinion, if an educator fails at this task, he or she has failed to educate.

Semiotics is a specialized field of study with its own peculiar jargon. Understanding that jargon is essential to understanding semiotics. The particular jargon used by semioticians is especially difficult for the uninitiated to grasp. That's why breaking through the jargon barrier is the single most important thing that an introductory text on semiotics has to do. Unfortunately, that's the one thing that this otherwise excellent text fails to accomplish, in my opinion. Though it provides a thorough overview of the subject, readers who are new to semiotics may have difficulty "grokking" some of the concepts discussed in this book, not because the concepts themselves are all that challenging, but because the terminology used to explain those concepts can be. Novice readers who are not yet accustomed to the jargon of semiotics may lack the necessary frame of reference for making intuitive sense of some of these terms. Although the author does explain each new term as he introduces it -- and he also provides a helpful glossary of these terms at the back of the book -- there are so many unfamiliar new terms for the beginner to learn, and their meaning and usage within the field of semiotics can be so convoluted, that it's difficult to keep track of them all and not get bogged down in all the jargon. The author needs to bear in mind that he is writing an introductory text for novice readers who are not yet in the habit of using these terms as part of their everyday vocabulary. He throws too many new terms at the reader too quickly, without taking sufficient measures to ensure that the reader has the necessary frame of reference in order to make sense of these terms and the concepts they represent. There's a certain irony in this, since the book itself discusses the fact that no text can be understood unless the reader understands the "code" in which the text is written. Here's a short passage from the book that both discusses and illustrates this very phenomenon: "A textual code can be defined as a set of ways of reading which its producers and readers share. Not everyone has access to the relevant codes for reading (or writing) a text. The phatic function excludes as well as includes certain readers. Those who share the code are members of the same 'interpretive community'" (page 194). In my view, the primary responsibility of an introductory text on any subject is to initiate novice readers into the "interpretative community" of people who understand and discuss that particular subject. Though I feel that this book does a good job of covering the basics of semiotics, I'm just not convinced that it lives up to this primary responsibility. Does the first-time reader with no prior exposure to the subject come away from this book with the feeling that he or she has been taught the secret "code" needed to interpret the academic literature on semiotics, or does he or she come away feeling that this subject is so jargon-laden as to be virtually unintelligible to anyone outside of the discipline itself? While I can't be entirely sure (since this book was not my first exposure to semiotics) I suspect the latter is more likely than the former.

What improvements could the author have made to this text in order to break through the jargon barrier and help novice readers make sense of it? There are a number of things he could have done, such as occasionally refreshing the reader's memory about what certain terms mean. But, in my opinion, the single biggest way to improve this book would have been to include more examples illustrating the concepts being discussed. The author does provide a number of illustrative examples throughout the text, which really help to clarify what he is talking about; but, personally, I felt that there just weren't enough of them. On virtually every page of this book I had occasion to wish that I could ask the author to give me an example to illustrate what he meant. Perhaps if he had given me every example I wished for, this book would have ended up being two or three times as long as it now is; but I don't think that would have been such a bad thing. As far as I'm concerned, a long book that you can understand the first time you read it is preferable to a short book that you have to read two or three times in order to fully digest.

I'm glad I read this book. It's very informative. I think it would make an excellent text for a university course on semiotics, where a professor is available to help the students with some of the more difficult terminology. But, if you're trying to learn semiotics on your own, I wouldn't recommend using this book as your only text. You should read this, of course, since it does give a very thorough introduction to the subject; but you'll need to supplement it with other materials to help you get a better intuitive grasp of the jargon.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Excellent guide for starters 12 Jan. 2008
By Semih - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As intended, this is a very good summary of Semiotics and Structuralism. I discovered the book on the Web and decided that it is worth buying it in book format as an excellent reference to keep around. The book seems to contain more information and seems to have gone through some good editing. My only criticism is about its organization -- maybe Mr. Chandler could have thought of a more narrative organization where one concept gives way to the next, although I am very aware that the subject matter is very complex to control.

I firmly believe that these extremely important "diagnostic" and critical approaches of the 20th century will make (and, I think, are making) a come back. I am mostly interested in creation of contemporary dance and theatre and I read about semiotics and structuralism with a very pragmatic, worldly eye. In that respect, I believe that post-Barthes French thinkers diluted the issues towards pure speculation and inapplicable and frequently unintelligible brain gymnastics and denied their methodological aspects for use in linguistics, anthropolgy, film, etc. I have not been able to deduct practical benefits from the critical movements of the past 30 years either.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Good starting point for your own explorations of this field 29 Mar. 2012
By Dmitry Vostokov - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In 2008 when writing the first version of this review I admitted that Semiotics was a big gap in my education which mostly lied in natural and computer sciences. I knew less about social sciences and tried to fill various gaps. The reason why I came upon this discipline is that I'm interested in signs and their interpretations, especially their relation to various structures. I started reading this book in September, 2008. As a by-product of reading I was able to provide the kind of a theoretical explanation for the phenomenon of bugtations. Now after more than 3 years of intermittent reading I finally finished this book. In the mean time I was able to apply Semiotics to memory dump and software trace analysis (Memiotics) and now I also use it in connection with Software Narratology (an application of literary narratology to software narratives such as traces and event logs). What is also good about this book in addition to clearly explained concepts is a very good closing chapter summarising the whole book and the field, extensive reading guide, summary of leading schools, and a very good glossary. There is also an online book with extra materials.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Perfect Semiotics Source Book 1 July 2011
By Philip Vassallo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an exceptional primer on the study of signs, which was popularized by the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce. To learn semiotics is to open a door to understanding human communication.
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