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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Explorations in the semiotics of text : a method for the semiotic analysis of the picture book Trifonas, Peter


The premise for the study is based upon the observations of Lewis (1990), Kiefer (1988) and Landes (1987) who identify the bifurcate nature of the picture book form to be its most unique characteristic and express the need for a structural analysis of the textual dimensions of representative works within the genre. This study, therefore, addresses how textual form of the picture book works, both lexically and visually, as a system of signs and codes to create meaning. Dependent upon two systems of signification, lexical and visual, the picture book possesses "high semantic or semiotic capacity" (Landes, 1987, p. 30). In order to understand how the bifurcate nature of textual form in the picture book functions to convey meaning in the presence of a reading/viewing consciousness, the epistemological, theoretical and methodological principles of semiotics (after Eco, 1976; 1979; Greimas, 1983; Barthes, 1964; Saint-Martin, 1987 and others) are utilized within the context of the study to develop a method for the semiotic analysis of the picture book which is identified, defined and applied in the study to representative works within the genre. The findings of the study demonstrate in semiotic terms how the formal dimensions of text in the picture book work to guide the reader/viewer through the circumstances of its lexical and visual production, or structure, from the recognition of elements and levels below the sign (e.g., semes or coloremes) (Greimas, 1983; Saint-Martin, 1987) to elements and levels above the sign (e.g., possible worlds or fabula) (Eco, 1979). Meaning-making is shown to be dependent upon the reader/viewer's ability to actualize intensionally and extensionally motivated responses (cognitive, affective and aesthetic) according to individualized systems of conceptual apparati based upon real world experience(s).

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