David Lidov:  Elements of Semiotics: A neo-structuralist perspective

          “Semiotic theory constructs a comprehensive, comparative perspective of the artifacts of mental life. The method of semiotics is to regard these artifacts (stories, pictures, gestures, tunes, prices, etc.) as signs or sign systems.  Semiotic analysis exploits the perspective of semiotic theory to enrich our understanding of particular signs.  But these definitions, without a context, can serve here only as punctuation, like the illuminated capitals of a medieval manuscript or a fanfare.”

from Chapter 1.

Download Excerpts   (Public Domain)
(Excerpts include the full Table of Contents, the 2017 Preface and most of the 1999 Foreword, the Introductions to each of the six Parts and Chapters 1 and 2 complete.)

Read the author’s  Advertisement for Elements

[Comments from reviews of the 1999 edition are at the bottom of this page]

       The first edition of my Elements­ of Semiotics, St Martins Press, 1999, has become very difficult to find except in libraries. You can purchase the revised edition from me as a PDF download via the buttons below. When you purchase the book, I email you a link.  Keep the link for revisions, additions, updates, etc. (no cost).  For now, we are a small enough group to stay in touch by email.  When and if we set up a discussion list for the book, I wish to invite readers to join. Unless you say not, I will keep your email, only for this purpose. 

The standard price below is supposed to be less than 3 beers in a local bar you like to enjoy a beer in—or some cultural equivalent. I wish the price to be lightweight anywhere in the world.  Therefore, if you live in a more difficult economy than Canada and the price indicated feels heavy, email me and let me know an equivalent where you live; that should be fine.  Perhaps your beer is much cheaper than ours.

I am distributing the PDF download without any DRM (digital rights management) software.  I expect the PDF to be convenient to read and/or to print for your personal use. (No DRM means: you don’t need to be clever to steal my work.  Please don’t.  Please respect my copyright.*  To share the book, provide the URL for this page you are reading now.
          If you want more than personal use, for example, if you are a library, or want copies of a chapter for a class, just write me an email.

*The purchaser has permission for personal use, including printing one copy and including copying and pasting passages, so long as the source is identified in any secondary use. Apart from the excerpts in public domain, rights are reserved for reproduction and distribution of more than 5 pp.

Standard prices:  $8.40 US;  or  $10.50 CAD  – click to purchase
Other: Email author:

Critical Responses to the 1999 edition

Robert E. Innes. “The Semiotic Scramble of Consciousness

       “Lidov [furnishes] us with stimulating and novel systematic comparisons of different genres of sign. . . . one of the main tasks o semiotics. . . .[MORE] oscillates creatively between . . .the descriptive or analytical and the comparative or methodological. . .”
Lidov is especially strong in his brilliant structural analyses which belong to the comparative dimension of this book.”
. . . . throws of hints and insights on every page. . .”
Lidov’s book offers a direct and nuanced survey and discussion of these foundational elements and a demonstration of how they are to be used in concrete semiotic analyses. It establishes a subtle network of concepts and distinctions and it displays with admirable clarity and scope their consequences for the ubiquitous activity of interpreting signs.”

William Echard, pp 123-131, CUMR/RMUC 21/22 (2001)

        “One of Lidov’s great achievements is to do two things with structuralism. first, he places it in a dialectic relationship with pragmatics. Second, he expands its set of formal resources with respect to the study of articulation.”
Lidov . . . remains within the structuralist lineage without falling prey to its usual limitations.
Lidov by contrast argues in favour of system, and yet presents a final product which is mor of a toolkit than a totalizing theory. In this respect, both Lidov and [Monelle] preserve the abstractive, systematizing flavour of earlier semiotics, but are more modest in terms of grand claims to completeness or universality.

Raymond Monelle, in Semiotica

          “Lidov justifies his more general book with the proposal that linguists and literary people are too close to language to write a general semiotics. . . . But before describing this particular slant, we should record that the book is one of the best expositions of Peirce on the market. . . . But his approach is always critical. . . . Indeed, the influence of music and the other arts is especially noticed in the idea of the processive sign, a sign of which one function (representamen, object or interpretant) is a process rather than a thing. . . . “