Semiotics was defined by Ferdinand de Saussure as "the science of the life of signs in society." Robert Hodge and Gunther Kress here confront the conceptual difficulties that have limited its growth as a field of inquiry and demonstrate how it can be integrated with the social analysis of power, ideology, gender, and class.
Social Semiotics explores the many possibilities for semiotic analysis that are created by the assumption that signs and messages must always be situated within the context of social relations and processes. Approaching semiotics as an evolving theory, Hodge and Kress first review the work of theoretical founders, including Saussure, C. S. Peirce, I. Voloshinov, and Freud. They build on the legacy of Voloshinov, who linked semiotics with the study of ideology, and develop the implications of his assertion that the form of signs is determined not only by the social organization of the participants but also by the immediate conditions of their interaction. Showing how such an approach can illuminate key issues is literary theory and communications, the authors analyze messages ranging from literary texts, television, and billboards to social interactions at home and school.