Semiosphere is the sphere of semiosis in which sign processes operate in the set of all interconnected Umwelten. The concept was coined by Juri Lotman in 1982 and is now applied to many fields, including cultural semiotics generally, biosemiotics, zoosemiotics, geosemiotics, etc. The concept is treated more fully in the collection of Lotman's writings published in English under the title "Universe of the Mind: A Semiotic Theory of Culture" (1990).
Juri Lotman, a semiotician at Tartu University, Estonia, was inspired by Vernadsky's terms biosphere and noosphere to propose that a semiosphere comes into being when any two Umwelten are communicating. Later, Jesper Hoffmeyer suggested a variation to the effect that the community of organisms occupying the semiosphere will inhabit a "semiotic niche". This implies that the semiosphere may be partially independent of the Umwelten. Kalevi Kull argues that this suggestion is not consistent with the nature of semiosis which can only be a product of the behaviour of the organisms in the environment. It is the organisms that create the signs which become the constituent parts of the semiosphere. This is not an adaptation to the existing environment, but the continuous creation of a new environment. Kull believes that it is only possible to accept Hoffmeyer's view as an analogy to the concept of an ecological niche as it is traditionally used in biology, so that the community develops according to the semiotic understanding of the processes which are responsible for the building of Umwelt.
- Hoffmeyer, Jesper. Signs of Meaning in the Universe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. (1996)
- Kull, Kalevi. "On Semiosis, Umwelt, and Semiosphere". Semiotica vol. 120(3/4), pp. 299-310. (1998)
- Lotman, Yuri M. "Universe of the mind: a semiotic theory of culture" (Translated by A. Shukman) (1990)London & New York: I. B. Tauris & Co Ltd.
- Lotman, Yuri M. "O semiosfere". Sign Systems Studies (Trudy po znakovym sistemam) vol. 17, pp. 5-23. (1984)
- Lotman, Yuri M. On the semiosphere. (Translated by Wilma Clark) Sign Systems Studies, 33.1 (2005)