Value is the sign as it is determined by the other signs in a semiotic system.
For linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, for example, the content of a sign in linguistics is ultimately determined and delimited not by its internal content, but by what surrounds it:
the synonyms redouter(“to dread”), craindre (“to fear”), and avoir peur (“to be afraid”) have their particular values because
If two of the terms disappeared, then the remaining sign would take on their roles, become vaguer, less articulate, and lose its “extra something” because it would have nothing to distinguish itself from.
For de Saussure, this suggests that thought is a chaotic nebula until linguistic structure dissects it and holds its divisions in equilibriums. This is akin to the philosophy of Sir William Hamilton, who indirectly influenced Saussure and believed that the mind could only grasp an idea through distinguishing it from something that it is not. He reasoned that the two objects would otherwise collapse together for the mind and become indistinguishable from one another.