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Variously, either a text, its content, or its meaning—referents which literalists tend to conflate (see also transmission models). In semiotics, messages are regarded as requiring encoding and decoding. As Jakobson argued, understanding messages requires knowledge of relevant codes and contexts: the meaning is not ‘in’ the message but depends on the application of prior textual and social knowledge. Nor can the meaning of a message be reduced to what the sender intended (as in ‘the message of this film…’): even when we recognize a preferred reading we may reject it. As Jeremy Bullmore (b.1929), a British advertising executive, perceptively noted: ‘Sometimes we use the word “message” to mean what we put into communication; sometimes to mean what the receiver takes out. And however inconvenient and untidy that may be, we have to realize that these two can be, and indeed almost always are, different. I put in: “I am modest.” You take out: “He is conceited.”’ Even the medium used may contribute to the meaning of a message: see McLuhanism. In Jakobson's model of communication messages can have various linguistic functions: they are not confined to an information or referential function.

Subjects: Media studies

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