04336 - Semiotics (A-E)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student has acquired a good command of the basic concepts of the discipline and the ability to make basic semiotic analysis of verbal texts, especially short narratives.

Course contents

The first part of the course will examine and explain, starting from concrete cases, the basic concepts of linguistic and semiotic theories, together with practical exercises of lexical semantic analysis; the second part will provide the theoretical tools to address the semiotic analysis of texts.

The lessons will focus mainly around the following themes:

I week: Signs, signification and communication.

II week: Basics of linguistics (phonetics/phonology, morphology, syntax).

III week: Languages: Language system / process; Expression / Content; Commutability / Noncoformity; Regency / Combination). Comparison between different systems of signification; Images and words.

IV Week: Lexical Semantics: paradigmatic relations (with practical exercises).

V week: Lexical Semantics: syntagmatic relations (with practical exercises). Arbitrariness.

(Pause for intermediate examination, reserved for attending students).

VI week: Towards a semiotic redefinition of 'text': textual structures; the interpretative cooperation.

VII week: Semantic analysis of a text: lexemes and isotopies (with practical exercises).

VIII week: The semio-narrative structures: narrative and storytelling; fabula / plot; ideological structures (values) and actantial structures; modalities and narrative programs.

IX week: Case studies and practical exercises of analysis of short narrative texts.

X Week: The discursive structures: the enunciation; author and reader.


  1. Graffi-Scalise, Le lingue e il linguaggio, Bologna: Il Mulino, 2013, cap. 4, 5, 6, 7
  2. C. Marmo, Segni, linguaggi e testi: semiotica per la comunicazione, Bologna: BUP, 2015 (second updated edition).
  3. La semantica dei frame di Ch. J. Fillmore. Un'antologia di testi, a cura di C. Marmo, Bologna: Pàtron, 2017 (cap. 4, 7, 8, 9)
  4. U. Eco, Lector in fabula, Milano, Bompiani, 2001, cap. 1 e 3.
  5. Greimas-Courtès, Semiotica. Dizionario ragionato della teoria del linguaggio, Milano, Mondadori, 2007, voci: Attante, Attore, Débrayage, Embrayage, Programma narrativo, Quadrato semiotico, Schema narrativo.

Teaching methods

The course is divided into two parts. In the first half, moving from concrete cases, the basic concepts of linguistic and semiotic theories will be presented, together with lexical semantic analysis through practical exercises. The method will be mainly that of lecturing, so organized as to require the frequent intervention of students. The practical exercises of lexical semantic analysis will be carried out with a self-correction method, or collective discussion of the results of an analysis-model.

The second part is dedicated to the introduction to the analysis of narrative texts, and sides lectures with practical exercises. Class attendance, given the practical nature of the educational goals of the second part, is highly recommended.

Assessment methods

The exam is composed of three tests:

1. multiple choice Quiz with theoretical and applicative questions

2. lexical analysis (this analysis is of a word chosen by the student from a triplet assigned by the teacher)

3. textual analysis

For attending students the exam is divided into two parts: an in itinere test and a final test.

The in itinere test consists of a multiple choice Quiz (“in itinere Quiz”) on the first part of the course (during class the teacher will indicate which texts are to be studied for this part) and a lexical analysis to be submitted before taking the in itinere Quiz. The in itinere test is aimed at ascertaining: 1. the command of the theoretical foundations and of the theoretical analysis tools developed by linguistics, frame semantics and semiotics, examined during the first part of the course; 2. the ability to analyse different semiotic and communication phenomena by means of those theoretical tools. 3. the ability to conduct, with the aid of one or more dictionaries, a semantic analysis of a word of the Italian language. The final test consists of a multiple choice Quiz (“final Quiz”) on the second part of the course (during class the teacher will indicate which texts are to be studied for this part) and a textual analysis to be to be submitted before taking the final Quiz. This test is aimed at ascertaining: 1. the command of the theories of frame semantics, narrative and discursive structures in semiotics; 2. the ability to use semiotic tools in the analysis of a short narrative texts, with particular reference to semantic structures (isotopies and ideological structures); 3. and their narrative structures (narrative and actantial relations programs).

Students who do not pass the final test in the first occasion (usually in late May-early June) can take it again twice, in July and September.


For non-attending students, and for those who have not passed the in itinere test, the exam is not divided into two parts and consists in a complete test comprising a multiple choice Quiz (“complete Quiz”) on both parts of the course, a lexical analysis and a textual analysis.

The specifics of examination will be defined before the beginning of the course in February 2022 according to the safety protocols and regulations adopted by the University.

Those who intend to improve their marks can also request to have an oral examination, on the whole program, to be held during office hours (on-line registration on the Programme website: here).

All types of test will take account of the propriety and the adequacy of written and oral linguistic expression.

Exam registration is online.

The vote will be assigned by calculating the average of the votes assigned to each answer to individual questions, taking into account the following evaluation levels:

30 cum laude: excellent performance showing soundness of knowledge, rich discursive articulation, appropriate expression, interest of critical contribution;

30: Excellent performance, complete, and appropriate knowledge, well-articulated and appropriately expressed, with interesting critical contributions;

29-27: Good performance, more than satisfactory knowledge, correct expression.

26-24: Standard performance, essential knowledge, but not comprehensive and / or not always correctly expressed;

23-21: Sufficient performance, general but superficial knowledge; often inappropriate expression and/or confused articulation of speech;

20-18: Poor performance, sufficient expression and articulation of speech with significant gaps;

<18: Insufficient performance, knowledge absent or very incomplete, lack of orientation in the discipline, poor and seriously flawed expression.

Teaching tools

As a complement to the program and the selected bibliography, the images examined or used in the lectures and the texts examined during the course will be made available (follow the link: Teaching materials).

Office hours

See the website of Costantino Marmo