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- In logic, linguistics and semiotics, the denotation of a word or phrase is a part of its meaning; however, the part referred to varies by context:
- In media-studies terminology, denotation is an example of the first level of analysis: what the audience can visually see on a page. Denotation often refers to something literal, and avoids being a metaphor. Here it is usually coupled with connotation which is the second level of analysis, being what the denotation represents
Denotation is often associated with symbolism, as the denotation of a particular media text often represents something further; a hidden meaning (or an Engima Code) is often encoded into a media text (such as the images below).
In order to understand the difference between denotation and connotation in the media studies and semiotics uses it may be helpful to consider the following examples:
The denotation is a brown cross. The connotation is a symbol of religion, according to the media connotation. However, to be more specific this is a symbol of Christianity.
The denotation is a representation of a cartoon heart. The connotation is a symbol of love and affection, not in the way of a rose, but a symbol of true love.