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Early semioticians of film
Russian formalism (1910s–1930s)
Yury Tynyanov was a Russian writer and literary critic. Boris Eichenbaum outlined principles of syntagmatic construction. (see: syntagmatic analysis) Syntagmatic analysis deals with sequence and structure, as opposed to the paradigm emphasis of paradigmatic analysis. The cinema, for Eichenbaum, is a “particular of figurative language,” the stylistics of which would treat filmic “syntax,” the linkage of shots in “phrases” and “sentences.”” 
Eichenbaum and Tynyanov had different approaches to interpreting the signs of film. "Tynyanov spoke of the cinema as offering the visible world in the form of semantic signs engendered by cinematic procedures such as lighting and montage, while Eichenbaum saw film in relation to “inner speech” and “image translations of linguistic tropes.”" 
Structuralism and post-structuralism (1950s–present)
The film-language concept was explored more deeply in the 1960’s when post-structuralist thinkers started to criticize structuralism. Also, semiotics became popular in academia. Early work in this field dealt with “contrasting arbitrary signs of natural language with the motivated, iconic signs of the cinema” 
Umberto Eco – Italian novelist and semiotician
Pier Paolo Pasolini – Italian director and writer
Christian Metz – French film theorist
Roland Barthes – French literary theorist
Important and notable works
Umberto Eco’s Articulations of The Cinematic Code (1967)
Cited 52 times, important early work.
Umberto Eco’s research dealt with the semiology of visual codes using the work of Metz and Pasolini as a starting point. Eco viewed the task of semiology as important and radical. “Semiology shows us the universe of ideologies, arranged in codes and sub-codes, within the universe of signs, and these ideologies are reflected in our preconstituted ways of using the language.” 
Triple articulation codes consist of figures, signs and elements. Eco assumed that the cinematic codes are the only ones using triple articulation. Where current liguistic conventions might use two axes, the paradigmatic and the syntagmatic, the triple articulation can use kinesics to identify discrete units of time. Articulations are introduced into a code to communicate the maximum number of combinable elements. Because we normally experience non-artuculated and double-articulated codes, running across a code with triple articulation can be overwhelming. “The contextual wealth of this combination makes the cinema a richer form of communication than speech.” 
Summary of codes
1. Perceptive codes
2. Codes of recognition
3. Codes of transmission
4. Tonal Codes
5. Iconic Codes (Figures, signs and semes)
6. Iconographic codes
7. Codes of taste and sensibility
8. Rhetorical codes
9. Stylistic codes
10. Codes of the unconscious
Christian Metz’s Film Language: A Semiotics of Cinema (1974)
Cited 877 times
This collection of Metz’s writings on cinematographic problems was informed by insights from structural linguistics. “The study of the cinema as an art – the study of cinematographic expressiveness – can therefore be conducted according to methods derived from linguistics...through its procedures of denotation, the cinema is a specific language” 
Robert Stam, Robert Burgoyne, and Sandy Flitterman-Lewis’s New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics: Structuralism, Post-structuralism, and Beyond (1992)
Cited 422 times
This work highlighted film semiotics as a new tool in art criticism. The book provided an overview of previous thinkers and defined terms critical to semiotic film theory. “This book is intended as a didactic introduction to the vocabulary of the field, not as a series of interventions in film theory” 
Part One The Origins of Semiotics
Semiotics must be viewed through the broader context of the linguistic nature of contemporary thought.
"The overarching meta-discipline of semiotics...can be seen as a local manifestation of a more widespread "linguistic turn," an attempt to reconceptualize the world "through" linguistics."
Part Two Cine-semiology
Dealt with the cinematic sign, The Grand Syntagmatic, textual systems and analysis, semiotics of filmic sound, language in the cinema.
Part Three Film-narratology
Taking cues from structuralism and Russian Formalism, film narrative theory attempts to "designate the basic structures of story processes and to define the aesthetic languages unique to film narrative discourse."
Part Four Psychoanalysis
The relationship between human psyche and cinematic representation is explored. "One of the aims, therefore, of psychoanalytic film theory is a systematic comparison of the cinema as a specific kind of spectacle and the structure of the socially and psychically constituted individual."
Part Five From realism to intertextuality
Describes the evolution from an emphasis on realism in the 1950s to the intertextuality of the 1970s.
- Stam, R., Burgoyne, R., & Lewis, S. (1992). New vocabularies in film semiotics: structuralism, post-structuralism, and beyond. London: Routledge.
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- Eco, U. (1970). Articulations of the Cinematic Code. Cinematics, 1(1), 590-605.
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- Metz, C. (1974). Film language; a semiotics of the cinema.. New York: Oxford University Press.
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