Tuesday, September 30, 2008



            Roland Barthes defines myths as the dominant ideologies of our time. They are naturalized as common and shared among all of the members of the society, making them accepted as normal.

 The practice of emphasizing on myths in the Philippine advertising industry is now known to be widespread.

An Atenean, or anyone in our society for that matter, would often encounter the myth: “If you have fair skin, you are beautiful.” That is an underlying myth in one of our country’s best-selling products.


The (print and tv) ad for Silka Papaya whitening lotion, as endorsed by Iya Villania, is a clear exemplification of this particular myth.


Whether or not buyers of this product consider weighing out the information to see if the papaya extracts this product seems to be boasting is effective, it boils down to one thing: It gets people to buy them because they continually suggest and emphasize on the myth that: to be beautiful is to desire whiter skin. And this is accepted to be a normal and natural phenomenon among a lot of people.




Myth. RDillman.com. 2 October 2008.


Myth Today. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2 October 2008.


Silka Papaya. Iyavillania.com. 2 October 2008.





Monday, September 29, 2008

Paradigm and Syntagm

 Paradigm and Syntagm 

Signs have two dimensions, the paradigmatic and the syntagmatic. These two treat signs as part of a system, and their determines the “value of a sign”.

         By definition, paradigmatic tells us that it is a set of signs, those of which that have a common function. It can be seen as a contrastive factor because the signifiers in the same paradigm set shapes each other’s preferred meaning by virtue of mental associations. For example, a set of verbs, nouns, etc.

          On the other hand, the syntagmatic is known to be the “chain” of signifiers, refers to the combination of signifiers taken from a paradigm to form a meaningful order. It is commonly found in drawing, painting and photography, drama, cinema, television and the world wide web. A few of examples of which are sentences (which make up paragraphs), paragraph (which make up chapters), chapter, print advertisment.

         The illustration below shows the presentation of the 2 dimensions as "axes", with the paradigmatic as the vertical axis and the syntagmatic is the horizontal one.

           An easier way to understand the paradigm and syntagm is to use a simple and relevant example. The movie, “Chasing Liberty”, starts out with Mandy Moore raiding through her closet, trying to figure out what to wear for a date. She tries on one outfit after another by mixing and matching the tops and undergarments. We can apply the Paradigm and Syntagm in this situation by substituting each piece of clothing as the “signifiers” in the paradigm, while utilizing the act of “mix and match” as a representation of paradigm. The paradigmatic elements are the items, which cannot be worn at the same time on the same part of the body (such as hats, trousers, shoes). The syntagmatic dimension is the juxtaposition of different elements at the same time in a complete ensemble from hat to shoes.


Mandy selects signs from three
(i.e. sets of possible signs - upper body garments, lower body garments, and footwear). Each paradigm contains a possible set of pieces from which she can choose only one. From the upper-body-garment paradigm (including blouses, tee-shirts, tunics, sweaters), she selects one.


           These items share a similar structure, function, and/or other attribute with others in the set: they are related to one another on the basis of similarity.

She further selects items related by similarity from the lower-body-garment and footwear paradigms. A socially defined, shared classification system or code shapes her selections.


3. Ana, as played by Mandy Moore, combines the selected signs through rules (i.e., mini-skirts go with stilettos for a date, not sneakers), sending a message through the ensemble - the syntagm.

4. Selection requires her to perceive similarity and opposition among signs within the set (the paradigm), classifying them as items having the same function or structure, only one of which she needs. She can substitute, or select, a blouse for the tee-shirt - conveying a different message. The combination, long sleeves–mini-skirt–stilettos, requires her to know the 'rules by which garments are acceptably combined. The combination is, in short, a kind of sentence. The long sleeves-mini-skirt-stilettos syntagm conveys a different meaning (sends a different message) at the beach than at a formal occasion.


Source: http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/S4B/sem03.html





Langue and Parole

“Langue is the whole system of language that precedes and makes speech possible while parole is the concrete use of the language, the actual utterances.”(“Langue and Parole”) Different types of langue have different elements. Language, for example, is characterized by grammar, spelling, syntax, and punctuation. The end result or parole would be speech. According to Ferdinand de Saussare, "parole is a dynamic, social activity in a particular time and space." ("Parole") For our video, we used the different techniques of television grammar and set it in our short spiel of a typical day for an Ateneo student. We thought that it would be an easy and fun way to showcase langue and parole.

Langue and Parole. ChangingMinds.org. 29 September 2008.


Parole. Parole—Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 29 September 2008. 


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Signs, Denotations, and Connotations

What are signs?

As we said earlier, signs are all around us. This is exactly why we chose to do an educational film on the Semiotic Theory. The presence of signs in the typical Ateneo college student’s life is astounding. We are no longer blank canvases, and are instead partly-molded sculptures. With this being said, we are still vulnerable and open to change, be it in our views, values, or opinions. The way we interpret signs and give meaning to them is a reflection of how molded and influenced our belief and value systems are.

It is important, however, to stress that signs are not confined to the likes of billboards or the picture of a girl posted on the door of a ladies bathroom. Photographs, artwork, and sculptures are also visual signs. Many may be amazed to find out that sounds, body language, facial expressions, and words are also signs!


Signs have two parts: the signifier and the signified. According to linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, the signifier is the form which the sign takes, while the signified is the concept it represents, with the sign being the product of the association of the two. These are tackled further in the video along with a very Atenean-inspired example.


Denotations and Connotations

We have all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  This mainly meant that the artist or photographer could capture a thousand things that he wanted to say to the audience. Well then, a sign is worth a million words! That’s because each person sees a sign differently and therefore is able to give his or her own meaning to it. The authority is no longer in the hands of the source of the sign but is instead in the perception of the audience.

Denotation is the literal meaning of a sign. For us Communication majors, we are used to studying certain advertisements and commercials. Signs are all advertisements in the sense that they are all selling something. Yes, even the little stick figure of a girl on the door of the ladies bathroom is a salesperson. That sign is selling the thought “Come inside if you’re a girl.” Now the denotation is the flat out message as to what the sign is selling you. It is the straight to the point meaning that we get right away when we see the sign.


Connotation requires reading between the lines. Now, does that little stick figure really want us to just go inside if we’re girls, or does she stand for feminism? Or perhaps the idea that females are better than males? Why is she in a dress, can’t women wear jeans?


In our video, we further illustrated denotation and connotation by tackling the idea of branding. We chose two popular brands: Starbucks and Louis Vuitton and went around the campus asking random students on their thoughts on these. Denotatively, Louis Vuitton and Starbucks are selling bags and apparel, and coffee respectively. However, on a connotative level, both brands are selling the lifestyle, status, and sophistication that comes with buying their product. Connotatively, certain brands have certain lifestyles attached to them and people think that by buying their products, they too can attain the luxurious lifestyles that they strive to achieve.


We also played this game we called the Name Game. We made a list of names of some friends we know, read the names to random people walking around on campus, and asked them for their impressions of these people without seeing them at all! Their names were their only basis for judgment. We wanted to show how a name is like a brand for people. Certain names already give off a particular impression, be it of their physical attributes or their attitudes. The media has also influenced our thinking in this aspect. Denotatively, names like Teeny, Shorty, or Biggie clearly give out the impression that one is either small, short, or big. The late rapper Notorious B.I.G., nicknamed, “Biggie”, does uphold the impression given by his name. However, there is also Tiny Ron, the actor Star Trek who was once a professional basketball player and was 7 feet tall.

Notorious B.I.G., "Biggie" 

Tiny Ron(right)

Some names also give off certain impressions on a connotative level. Though not literally or understood right away, certain names give impressions because of the stereotype attached to them due to their use in the media. For example, characters who are heavy-set are often called Bertha, Lotta, or Betsy. Also, how many rich and powerful socialites have we seen on The O.C. named Corazon or Mai Ling? Not too many. Some names are also androgynous, which means that they can be for both boys and girls. Despite this category, when most people hear names such as Joey or Andy, one usually has the connotation that the person is a guy because of their past experiences of perhaps knowing more men who are named Joey or Andy. Watch the video to see what people thought when they heard the names Chabeli, Giovanna, Maiki, Al, Jo, Ruben, and Quino.

Semiotics for Beginners. Daniel Chandler. Semiotics for Beginners: Introduction. 28 September 2008. 


Why the Semiotic Theory?

We chose to focus on the Semiotic Theory because we thought that it was the best theory that we could relate to.  As college students and Communications majors, we know the value of signs and we understand how verbal and non-verbal signaling can influence one’s audience. We see signs everyday on our way to school and in the campus itself. We sometimes do not realize that impact that these signs have on us or on the way we see things. We realize that the media greatly influences the youth, especially that of our generation, and we wanted to go deeper into that and to see what kind of images and ideas are already pre-programmed into the minds of the youth. We chose to make an educational film targeted at the Ateneo college community so that we could show them just how much signs have influenced their way of thinking and perception without them knowing. Our group wanted Ateneo students to realize that though they are already affected by the Semiotic Theory, it is an ever-changing theory in the sense that we play a big role in its evolution. “Meaning is not 'transmitted' to us - we actively create it according to a complex interplay of codes or conventions of which we are normally unaware.” (“Semiotics for Beginners”) Thus, our interpretations of these signs are critical to the Semiotic Theory and the meaning that these signs will have for the future. We are responsible for building, constructing, and molding the meanings that will be associated with them. So jump on board, Ateneans and learn more about the Semiotic Theory, because you are responsible for it. 

Semiotics for Beginners. Daniel Chandler. Semiotics for Beginners: Introduction. 28 September 2008.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

First Post!

Hey Ateneans! This blog was created by three students from the Ateneo de Manila University as part of our final requirement for Ms.Borsoto's COM 101 class. Our project is a 2-part project. We chose to utilize the two sources of media that Ateneo students use the most, so aside from creating this blog, we also have an educational film/documentary available on DVD! 

Please continue reading as we continue to write posts about our chosen topic, the Semiotic Theory! Soon, we will also give details on our DVD so that not only can you read our blog entries, but you can get the full experience of what we have in store as well :)