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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the content aspect of a linguistic sign. According to F. de Saussure, a linguistic sign is a combination of “concept,” or the signified, and “sound-image,” or the signifier. In other terminology, “content” and “expression” correspond to these two concepts.

The signified is an abstract unit of the content plane, a unit that is a class of concrete “messages.” (This definition uses the terminology of scholars who define concrete sign units as combinations of “signals”—entities of the expression plane—and “messages”—entities of the content plane.) A signified is a signified only in relation to the corresponding signifier, unlike a message, which can be expressed by different signals. Thus, a given signified and a given signifier are inseparably linked.

The sign, the signified, and the signifier represent three ways of treating the same entity. The terms “sign” or “signifier” are used when the sign is considered in its entirety or in its formal aspect, respectively. The term “signified” is used when approaching the sign from the point of view of meaning.


Saussure, F. de. Kurs obshchei lingvistiki. Moscow, 1933. (Translated from French.)
Obshchee iazykoznanie: Formy sushchestvovaniia, funktsii, istoriia iazyka. Moscow, 1970. Pages 96–170.
Prieto, L. J. Messages et signaux. Paris, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.