Text – Composition

"Text," traditionally associated with printed materials, has evolved to encapsulate anything that conveys symbolic meaning - signifying that in the lens of modern semiotics, the world is a text. Texts (and signs) are the embodiment of thought and language -- the shape of content.

In writing studies, a text or composition isn’t just a collection of words. It is:

  1. A work of art:
    • A text can be an artistic creation, a carefully curated tapestry of words and ideas that tells a story, shares knowledge, or provokes thought.
  2. A signifier:
  3. A socio-cultural-historical artifact:
    • A text is not created in a vacuum. It is influenced by the writer’s social and cultural background, their personal experiences, and the historical context in which it is created. This dynamic, networked nature makes each composition a unique reflection of its time and place.

While the terms “text” and “composition” are often used interchangeably, there are other synonymous terms you may come across in your writing journey:

  • Discourse:
    • This term is often used in linguistic studies to refer to language in use or the process of communication.
  • Copy:
    • In the field of advertising and marketing, written content is often referred to as “copy”.
  • Content:
    • This is a broad term that encompasses any piece of writing intended for publication, whether online or offline.
  • Prose:
    • This term is generally used to describe any form of writing that is not poetry.
  • Writing:
    • This is perhaps the most generic term, simply referring to the act of producing text.

Key Concepts: Composing; Composing Processes; Composition Studies; First-Year Composition; Semiotics: The Signified & The Signifier; Text, Textuality


How has the term text evolved over time?

When you hear the term “text,” the immediate associations that come to mind might be books, magazines, or even text messages. Indeed, these are some of the most traditional forms of text.

Tracing the etymology of the term, “text” is derived from “textus,” a Medieval Latin term used for Scriptures or treatises. It was historically applied to literary masterpieces such as The Holy Bible, The Holy Quran, or The Talmud. Even today, “text” typically refers to pieces of written discourse like books, magazines, newspaper articles, or online text messages.

However, the definition of “text” has expanded significantly over time, going beyond the written word.

In contemporary discourse, the concept of text has come to encompass a wide array of forms. It can now refer to images, recordings, mathematical equations, computer code, paintings, sculptures, sign language, nonverbal cues, clothing styles, and more.

In academic and professional environments, a text is essentially anything that can be “read” or interpreted to convey meaning. The term “text” is therefore synonymous with the concept of a “sign” from semiotics, the study of signs and symbols. This term is used to explain the connection between thought and language, further underscoring the versatility and complexity of what we now understand to be a “text.”

What are some examples of texts?

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).

Read More:

Other Topics: