This Means This This Means That

This Means This This Means That A User’s guide to semiotics by Sean Hall is a book which was recommended by a fellow student on the OCA Level 1 Facebook group.

The book covers all aspects of semiotics in a very clear and concise method. Each aspect is accompanied by at least one example and is written in everyday language which makes it very easy to comprehend.

This Means This This Means That by Sean Hall
This Means This This Means That by Sean Hall
ISBN 978-1856697354

I found myself having quite a few “Aha!” moments having struggled with Barthes’ Elements of Semiology  and Mythologies and parts of Daniel Chandler’s Semiotics for Beginners. Take for instance Barthes’ definition (1968, p.58) of a syntagm: ‘the syntagm is a combination of signs, which has space as a support.’ Chandler’s definition is: ‘A syntagm is an orderly combination of interacting signifiers which forms a meaningful whole within a text – sometimes, following Saussure, called a ‘chain’.’ As we can see Chandler’s definition is definitely more explicit than Barthes’.  Hall ( 2015, p. 138) offers his explanation by way of using a clothing example :‘When we put clothes together to form an ensemble we call this a “syntagm.” A syntagm is any combination of things that conform to a specified set of social rules’. Definitely much easier to understand!

Hall breaks down his chapters into different concepts. Under the heading Signs and Signing he covers signifier and signified, sign, icon, index, symbol, sender, intention, message, transmission, noise, receiver, destination and feedback. His other concepts deal with Ways of Meaning (metaphor, depiction, representation i.a.); Conceptual Structures (truth and falsity, subjectivity and objectivity, continuity and discontinuity, i.a.); Visual Structures (viewer and image, center and margin, foreground and background, i.a.); Textual Structures (Readers and Texts, functions, intertextuality and intratextuality, i.a.); Matters of Interpretation (connotation and denotation, langue and parole, tokens and types, i.a.); Framing Meaning (semantic units, ideologies, discourses, i.a.) and finally Stories and Storytelling (fact and fiction, legends, viewpoints, i.a).

I would highly recommend this book as a companion piece to anyone wanting to get to grips with semiotics. Its not a substitute for Barthes and Chandler by any means, but it helps to cut to the chase and eliminate the waffle and confusing noise.

Reference List

Barthes, Roland (1968). Elements of Semiology. New York. Hill and Wang

Chandler, Daniel. Semiotics for Beginners [online]. Available from: [Accessed 27 February, 2016]

Hall, Sean (2015). This Means This This Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics. Second Edition. London. Laurence King Publishing


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