CMST 322-01 9/8/08 Where Signs, Symbols, Codes got their Meanings Meanings of symbols are established by two basic methods, some symbols imply their own meaning, by using images or sounds that correspond in some way to the concepts they represent. For example, a “Wheelchair Access” symbol shows an icon of a wheelchair, this would be recognized by most people. Symbols of this kind we call expressive symbols. Other symbols, such as the letters of the alphabet, have no logical connection at all with the things they refer to. These we call arbitrary symbols. People can usually figure out expressive symbols for themselves, but arbitrary symbols simply have to be memorized. People communicate with each other in many different ways. I think that the meanings for some signs, symbols, and codes are immensely different with some factors of: geography, religion, ethnicity, race, age, and gender. When people communicate, they have to use symbols, because these provide the only clues about what we are thinking. For communication to work, both the originator and the receiver have to agree on what the symbols mean. A language is a system of symbols with generally agreed-upon meanings. A symbol system that does not use words is called a code. Some codes use numbers, such as Zip Codes and ISBN’s, while others use gestures, such as the football referee’s signaling system. Braille is a tactile code for representing letters and numbers. Bar codes are patterns designed to be read by optical scanning machines.