Text, Composition

Understand the term text refers to more than printed materials. For modern-day semioticians the world is a text. Anything that can be interpreted symbolically is a text.

A text, a composition, is

  • anything that can be read or interpreted
  • a dynamic, networked, socio-cultural-historical artifact.

Text & Composition are synonymous terms. Other similar terms include Discourse, Copy.

Key Concepts: Composing; Composing Processes; Composition Studies; Semiotics; Text, Textuality


When you first consider what text means, you probably think about books and magazines. Or maybe you think about text messages. And that’s certainly correct. Historically, text refers to literary products such as The Holy Bible, The Holy Quran, The Talmud.

Text is derived from textus, Medieval Latin for “the Scriptures, texts, treatsie.” To this day, text denotes written discourse, such as books, magazines, newspaper articles, or online text messages.

Over time, however, the denotation of text has broadened to reference much more than writing. For example, in contemporary discourse, a text can be pictures, recordings, a mathematical equation, computer code, painting, sculpture, sign language, body language/nonverbal language, a style of clothing—and so on.

In workplace and school contexts, a text is anything that can be read or interpreted to mean something. In this way, the term text is synonymous to sign, a term used in semiotics, a linguistic theory, to describe the intersection between thought and language.

Examples of Texts
eventsan event like Christmas day can be read as a text that conveys information about a culture’s history, religious traditions, gift-giving rituals, socioeconomics—and more.
physical spacephysical space between people can be interpreted as a measure of different cultures: researchers have found Romanians like 140.2cm space between themselves and strangers whereas Americans are okay with 94.5c.m; Argentinians, 76.2c.m. (Erickson 2017).

In summary, texts (and signs) are the embodiment of thought and language. Texts (and signs) are the shape of content.

[ Semiotics: The Signified & The Signifier ]