Semiotics (also called semiotic studies and in the Saussurean tradition called semiology) is the study of meaning-making, the philosophical theory of signs and symbols. This includes the study of signs and sign processes (semiosis), indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication. Semiotics is closely related to the field of linguistics, which, for its part, studies the structure and meaning of language more specifically. As different from linguistics, however, semiotics also studies non-linguistic sign systems. Semiotics often is divided into three branches:
- Semantics: relation between signs and the things to which they refer; their denotata, or meaning
- Syntactics: relations among signs in formal structures
- Pragmatics: relation between signs and sign-using agents
Semiotics frequently is seen as having important anthropological dimensions; for example, Umberto Eco proposes that every cultural phenomenon may be studied as communication. Some semioticians focus on the logical dimensions of the science, however. They examine areas belonging also to the life sciences – such as how organisms make predictions about, and adapt to, their semiotic niche in the world (see semiosis). In general, semiotic theories take signs or sign systems as their object of study: the communication of information in living organisms is covered in biosemiotics (including zoosemiotics).
Syntactics is the branch of semiotics that deals with the formal properties of signs and symbols. More precisely, syntactics deals with the “rules that govern how words are combined to form phrases and sentences”.