The terms "semiology" and "semiotics" are frequently used interchangeably by academics and film theorists. Broadly speaking, both terms refer to the study of signs and language systems, though the term semiology owes its provenance to the work of Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913) and semiotics to the American philosopher Charles Peirce (1839–1914). This is a deceptively simple definition of semiology, which in fact encompasses a wide range of academic debates and positions. Semiology is a theoretical model for the study of language, and its methods have been used for the analysis of a range of cultural texts, including film. This method has been championed by Structuralist academics, and its aim is to uncover what and why it is that the signs and symbols used in a cultural system mean what they do. Semiology, then, is concerned with language in its broadest sense and has given birth to some of the most notoriously difficult and abstract of theories. As a method, it focuses uncovering meaning in signs.

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