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David Crow’s lessons on reading signs

Chapter three in “Visible Signs” by David Crow, teaches us about the reading of signs. In this blog entry, I would like to focus on some of the concepts covered in that chapter, including denotation, connotation, and motivation.

I have attached three photos with representations of trees. At the denotative level, the meaning of all three photographs is the same, because they all picture the same physical object – trees.

The connotation, however, is different for all three photos. The photo with two trees can be read by the viewer as a landscape photograph for a calendar, because it shows a wider view of the surrounding area. The photo of a tree trunk can be read as texture photography for graphic design purposes, because it zooms in on the trunk and the ground around it. The photo of the tree drawing can be recognized by the viewer as such, because of the texture, the abstraction of the object, and the fact that the photo includes the drawing paper edges.

Motivation, according to Crow, denotes “how much the signifier denotes the signified”. The tree drawing photo is the only one of the three that has low motivation, also called unmotivated. It is an abstracted tree image that relies on the reader for recognition. The other two photographs directly represent a tree. They are very easily recognized as such by the reader.

As you are probably able to tell – I love trees! 🙂 I stare at them, I photograph them, I draw them, and use them as inspiration for other artwork of mine. I hope that in addition to learning something about sign reading, you were also able to enjoy these images of trees, and the serenity they bring.


Crow, David. Visible Signs (Advanced Level). Grand Rapids: AVA, 2003. Print.


Unlimited Semiosis and Paradigms

Sets 1 and 2

Sets 1 and 2

Unlimited semiosis is the repeated process of an interpretant or mental concept becoming a sign or representament for someting else. As a result, one could end up with a group of images that all have something in common – they are part of the same cycle and are somehow linked by the same idea, resulting from the sequenced mental images of the viewer. All of these images are also different, because when each cycle repeats, a new representament is being used. Thus, we end up with a paradigm.

It is then conclusive to say that some paradigms are a result of unlimited semiosis. It is also conclusive to say that unlimited semiosis can create a paradigm.

The two sets of images to the right, are two examples of paradigms created by unlimited semiosis. The first one starts with a sign for Apple technologies. The second image is a teacher’s apple, as a result of the observer’s mental image triggered by the Apple technologies sign. The same process is repeated with the bookworm and the apple tree images. This set is a paradigm because all of the images are distinctly different from each other, but have something in common – the apple.

The second set starts with a wooden pencil, continues with wooden fireplace logs, and ends with a piece of paper. All of the images in the second set also followed the unlimited semiosis cycles. This set is a paradigm because all of the images are distinctly different, but have something in common – wood.

Source: Crow, David. Visible Signs (Advanced Level). Grand Rapids: AVA, 2003. Print.

Linguistic Signs and Agreementc



Internet communication is the main way I keep in touch with my friends from Bulgaria. Facebook and e-mail have kept those friendships strong, but I had to make some adjustments in the way I communicate.

Since I have to use the English alphabet when I type ona  computer, I’ve had to learn how to communicate in Bulgarian by using the English alphabet. Acually I’m not the only one that does this. The Bulgarian community all over the world has now accepted this form of communication.

Agreement is achieved when a community of people agree and decide that one thing will be a representament for something else. That’s exactly what has happened in the Bulgarian community, because certain English letter combinations correspond to certain Bulgarian sounds.

A linguistic sign is comprised of a signifier and a signified. The signifier informs us about the identity of the signified or the object. I have shown a linguistic sign of a cake labeled with the signifier “TORTA”. “TORTA” is spelled with English letters, but when pronounced, it makes the sound of the bulgarian word for cake.

The first image shows the Bulgarian alphabet and the corresponding English alphabet letters that make up each Bulgarian sound. I need to note here that the Bulgarian language does not have word spelling that differs from the way the word sounds. In English, letters have different phonemes, depending on the type of word they are used for. An example is the letter “C” in City and Cat. In Bulgarian, the letter “C” only has the sound used in City, and it can not be used for a sound like the one in Cat.


Crow, David. Visible Signs (Advanced Level). Grand Rapids: AVA, 2003. Print.

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