The study of the system of signs as means of communication; one of the synchronic methods of analysis. It claims that words do not have any meaning in themselves, but only in the context in which they appear; and hence the study of the function of contrasts in language. It is not interested in what might have been the process of composition of a text. The discipline arises from the observation of social behaviour and a network of relationships and conventions; a certain gesture or word receives its meaning from its context and not by reason of its inherent nature. Applied to biblical studies, semiotics is the attempt to discover the conventions by which the reader understands what is signified; to discern what significance a particular narrative conveyed to the first readers. Evangelists and readers shared common conventions. There existed rules and structures in discourse which enabled sayings and events transmitted during the ‘oral period’ to be captured in writing and made intelligible. Thus it was possible both for a writer to use shared conventions to manipulate the readers and yet for readers to infer quite different meanings from the same text e.g. of parables. This could be considered to be as valid a method of studying as traditional historical criticism. A group can discuss together how a parable was created and proclaimed, and what its purposes and effects were and are.