The topic of the speech centers upon proposed new services for community members who are living with disabilities. How do you refer to the people who are mentioned in this speech? Do you refer to them as “handicapped people,” “the disabled,” or “people with disabilities?” Drawing upon semiotics, you would correctly reason that the concept you want to express (which is respectful, thoughtful consideration for people who are living with physical limitations) is best accomplished with the signifier “people with disabilities.”


Some semiotics signs carry intensive meanings that define our culture. These words and symbols gain added significance and meaning through their repeated use by groups and media. For instance, if you were growing up in the 1960s, when people held up their first two fingers in a V formation, you would recognize it as the peace sign. However, twentyfive years earlier during World War II, the same gesture meant “V for Victory,” made popular by Winston Churchill in Great Britain. This is an example of a sign that has become a cultural code.


In your writing, you can use many cultural code signs to evoke deep meanings about our society and the way we live. As another example, consider the National Rifle Association (NRA). What sorts of signs do these words conjure up for you? Depending upon where you stand, the NRA could signify freedom, the enjoyment of hunting, or the right to self-defense.