Why is language sometimes referred to as a semiotic system?
Language by any definition is a semiotic system, that is, a series of signifiers referring to a “signified.” This can be an idea, object, action, concept, etc. Just as an American flag “signifies" the country of the United States, so the word “puddle” refers to any collection of liquid on a flat surface, or as the word “mother” refers to a female parent. Language is a system in that it has a syntax, a method of declension (nouns) and conjugation (verbs), a method of modification (adverbs and adjectives), a series of organizational rules, etc.-- all the elements of organization that make up a “system.” Of course, some signifiers are ambiguous out of context (“pot” for example, has changed its signifier in the last century), and, like all communications, the sender and the receiver must share the same “code.” For example, three dots followed by three dashes followed by three dots only “means” something if both parties know Morse Code. Ferdinand de Saussure, in the early 20th century, organized the study of semiotics, “the study of signs and symbols, especially the relations between written or spoken signs and their referents in the physical world or the world of ideas” (Webster’s Dictionary).