Semiotic square  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The semiotic square, also known as the Greimas square, is a tool used in structural analysis of the relationships between semiotic signs through the opposition of concepts, such as feminine-masculine or beautiful-ugly, and of extending the relevant ontology.

The semiotic square, derived from Aristotle's logical square of opposition, was developed by Algirdas J. Greimas, a French-Lithuanian linguist and semiotician, who considered the semiotic square to be the elementary structure of meaning.

Greimas first presented the square in Semantique Structurale (1966), a book which was later published as Structural Semantics: An Attempt at a Method (1983). He further developed the semiotic square with Francois Rastier in "The Interaction of Semiotic Constraints" (1968).

Basic structure

The Greimas Square is a model based on relationships:

Structure Relationship Type Relationship Elements
Complex Contrary S1 + S2
Neutral Contrary ~S2 + ~S1
Schema 1 Contradiction S1 + ~S1
Schema 2 Contradiction S2 + ~S2
Deixes 1 Implication ~S2 + S1
Deixes 2 Implication ~S1 + S2
  • S1 = positive seme
  • S2 = negative seme
  • S = complex axis (S1 + S2)
  • ~S = neutral axis (neither S1 nor S2)
  1. The Semiotic Square is formed by an initial binary relationship between two contrary signs. S1 is considered to be the assertion/positive element and S2 is the negation/negative element in the binary pair:
  2. The second binary relationship is now created on the ~S axis. ~S1 is considered to be the complex term, and ~S2 is the neutral term. This is where the principle of difference is brought into play: every element in a system is defined by its differences from the other elements.
  3. In most modes of interpretation, the S-axis is a hyponym of the ~S-axis. The ~S1 element combines aspects of S1 and S2 and is also contradictory to S1 . The ~S2 element contains aspects of neither S1 nor S2 .
  4. Finally, the ~S2 element can be identified. Considered to be "always the most critical position and the one that remains open or empty the longest time, for its identification completes the process and in that sense constitutes the most creative act of the construction.".

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Semiotic square" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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