Saturday, January 2, 2010

On Symbols and Signs

In the symbol entry culled from Wikipedia, a symbol is defined as "something such as an object, picture, written word, sound, or particular mark that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention." An abstract idea or concept and its corresponding realization are joined together to form a symbol.  This synthesis is evident from the etymology of the ancient Greek word symbolon, meaning "to throw together," a literal "co-incidence" between two halves of the same whole.

Taken further, the "co-incidence" of a symbol can lead to the embodiment of several levels of representation.  Language is a prime example of a multi-level symbol.  Simply put, words are symbolic of both the phonetic sound strung together with vowels and consonants, as well as the image that the word itself is referent to.  When the a person utters the word "dogs," a listener who does not undestand English would hear the sounds of the consonants d, g, s and the vowel o in combination.  A listener who speaks English, on the other hand, would immediately understand the speaker is referring to a particular member of the Canidae family.

The imminent German psychologist, Carl Jung, suggested another definition for a symbol.  For him, as symbol is used to "stand for something that is unknown and that cannot be made clear or precise." He differentiates it from a sign, which he deems as a referent to something that is already known.  With this definition, language becomes a sign (i.e. "dogs" refers to an already known object) vis-a-vis the Filipino tradition of the mano, which becomes a symbol for respect for the elders or those in power and authority (nagmamano sa pari).

So what's the point of this post?

Nothing much really.  I just thought that some brain-farting accompanied by the requisite word vommiting would be fun for first post of the year!


P.S. New year, new look. How's that for a symbol sign? ;)


  1. halfway reading this one, i thought, what's with the carl jung and the dog? haha.

    but horaay for the new look. :D

  2. parang napakaconservative ng bagong look... mapapanindigan mo kaya ligaya?

    looks nice though!!!

  3. Sniff! NOSEBLEED.... ANEURISM!!! ('Di na 'to TING TING... this is DEATH! LOL) Haha, reminds me of my readings of Saussure, Semiotics, and Structuralism in college! Just so you know, I really did hate that school of thought.. Haha! Cheers!

  4. brings back memories from my communication theory class way back in college :)

  5. muntik ko na d marecognize blog mo ah

  6. Hmpph.

    I thought something looked different.

  7. Max: musa was culed up at my eet while writing this, so i thought of using dog as a example lolz

    Juhnski: but of course.

    for am I not dalisay, busilak and mayumi ?


    Bon: readings of semiotics and the psychological/philisophical aspect of language are DEATH indeed! lolz

    Lee: aw. it's just a brain-fart hahaha

    hey, thanks for doppping by! do eel free to have a look around my blog :D

    Xtian: do you like the new look? hihihi

    Rude: really now? i didn't quite notice it myself lolz

  8. i ranked number 8, kuya ternie?!

    ano yun?

    anyways, ang ganda naman ng dating ng blog mo

    and ahm, nasakyan ko yung post mo kasi tulad ng sabi ni lee, ito ang isa sa mga highlight ng kauna unahang major subject namin sa maskom, communication theory

  9. The elementary distinction between a sign and a symbol is that signs occur in the absence of a symbol, usually representing another in its place. Whereas, a symbol is valued from an ideological standpoint as to the semiotics of its use. To put it simply, an image of an apple is a sign, whereas a bitten abstracted apple with a singular leaf is a symbol.

    Unless, the word 'sign' here is used in congruence with harbinger and omen. In which case, the dynamic I just expounded would be utterly amiss.

    Cranial calisthenics, what a sweet way to welcome the new year.

  10. Anteros: yun yung lumabas sa javascipt lolz

    Mod: ouch.

    now THAT gave an aneurysm wahahahahaha

  11. Oh, and the 'new look' is a sign, not a symbol. Hehehe. Happy New Year Eternal Wanderer. Peace! :)