Binary Opposition – “pairs of mutually-exclusive signifiers in a paradigm set representing categories which are logically opposed and which together define a complete universe of discourse (relevant ontological domain), e.g. alive/not-alive. In such oppositions each term necessarily implies its opposite and there is no middle term” (Daniel Chandler).
Mythemes – a term developed by Claude Lévi-Strauss–mythemes are the smallest component parts of a myth. By breaking up myths into mythemes, those structures (mythemes) may be studied chronologically (~ diacrhonically) or synchronically/relationally.
Sign vs. Symbol – According to Saussure, “words are not symbols which correspond to referents, but rather are ‘signs’ which are made up of two parts (like two sides of a sheet of paper): a mark,either written or spoken, called a ‘signifier,’ and a concept (what is ‘thought’ when the mark is made), called a ‘signified'” . The distinction is important because Saussure contended that the relationship between signifier and signified is arbitrary; the only way we can distinguish meaning is by difference (one sign or word differs from another). The relational nature of language implied by Saussure’s system rejects the concept that a word/symbol corresponds to an outside object/referent. Instead, meaning–the interpretation of a sign–can exist only in relationship with other signs. Selden and Widdowson use the sign system of traffic lights as an example. The color red, in that system, signifies “stop,” even though “there is no natural bond between red and stop” (105). Meaning is derived entirely through difference, “a system of opposites and contrasts,” e.g., referring back to the traffic lights’ example, red’s meaning depends on the fact that it is not green and not amber (105).
Structuralist narratology – “a form of structuralism espoused by Vladimir Propp, Tzvetan Todorov, Roland Barthes, and Gerard Genette that illustrates how a story’s meaning develops from its overall structure (its langue) rather than from each individual story’s isolated theme. To ascertain a text’s meaning, narratologists emphasize grammatical elements such as verb tenses and the relationships and configurations of figures of speech within the story”