Media, Langue and Parole: The Language of Media

What is ‘media’?

  • Something that conveys a message.
  • Could be: an industry, a technology, a format, or a bit of content.
  • A broad and ambiguous term that relates to the various ways that stories, ideas and meanings are circulated within our society.
  • Media as ‘places which most of us inhabit’ (Branston, G and Stafford, R., ‘Meanings and Media’, The Media Student’s Book, 3rd Edition, LONDON: ROUTLEDGE, 2004. P9).

What is a ‘media text’?

  • Something that can be ‘read’ and interpreted. Any constructed media product or piece of communication that can be deconstructed and analysed in terms of its content and its possible meanings and effects.
  • Media messages and meanings are always influenced by the form in which they are presented: ‘The medium is the message’ (McLuhan, M., Understanding Media: The Extensions of Men, NEW YORK: Mentor, 1964).scrabble-media

The author constructs, we deconstruct. All media texts follow certain codes and conventions. All media forms have a system. A language through which they communicate meanings and generate effects.


These are terms used by Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure in ‘Course in General Linguistics’ (1916). These refer to other forms of language (e.g. the audio-visual language of film).

Langue is the system, the set of signs and rules used to convey meaning.

Parole is the use of this system.

Together the terms create the word LANGUAGE.

There are two ways in which media texts have been studied and understood:

  1. The Process School
  2. The Semiotics School

The Process School

  • Understands communication as the process of transmitting messages.
  • Interested in issues of accuracy and efficiency; How effective is this channel of communication? What factors can influence the success or the failure of transmission?
  • Media texts are seen as ‘vessels’ for the transmission of messages.

The Semiotics School

  • The science of signs and meanings.
  • Sees communication as the production and exchange of meanings, with media texts as a key site for such production and exchange.


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