Biosemiotics (from the Greek bios meaning "life" and semeion meaning "sign") is a growing field of semiotics and biology that studies the production and interpretation of signs and codes in the biological realm. Biosemiotics attempts to integrate the findings of biology and semiotics and proposes a paradigmatic shift in the scientific view of life, demonstrating that semiosis (sign process, including meaning and interpretation) is one of its immanent and intrinsic features. The term "biosemiotic" was first used by Friedrich S. Rothschild in 1962, but Thomas Sebeok and Thure von Uexküll have implemented the term and field. The field, which challenges normative views of biology, is generally divided between theoretical and applied biosemiotics.
Biosemiotics is biology interpreted as a sign systems study, or, to elaborate, a study of
- signification, communication and habit formation of living processes
- semiosis (changing sign relations) in living nature
- the biological basis of all signs and sign interpretation
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According to the basic types of semiosis under study, biosemiotics can be divided into
- vegetative semiotics (also endosemiotics , or phytosemiotics), the study of semiosis at the cellular and molecular level (including the translation processes related to genome and the organic form or phenotype); vegetative semiosis occurs in all organisms at their cellular and tissue level; vegetative semiotics includes prokaryote semiotics, sign-mediated interactions in bacteria communities such as quorum sensing and quorum quenching.
- zoosemiotics or animal semiotics; animal semiosis occurs in the organisms with neuromuscular system, also includes anthroposemiotics, the study of semiotic behavior in humans.
According to the dominant aspect of semiosis under study, the following labels have been used: biopragmatics, biosemantics, and biosyntactics.
Apart from Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) and Charles W. Morris (1903–1979), early pioneers of biosemiotics were Jakob von Uexküll (1864–1944), Heini Hediger (1908–1992), Giorgio Prodi (1928–1987), Marcel Florkin (1900–1979) and Friedrich S. Rothschild (1899–1995); the founding fathers of the contemporary interdiscipline were Thomas Sebeok (1920–2001) and Thure von Uexküll (1908–2004).
The contemporary period (as initiated by Copenhagen-Tartu school) include biologists Jesper Hoffmeyer, Kalevi Kull, Claus Emmeche, Terrence Deacon, semioticians Martin Krampen, Marcel Danesi, philosophers John Deely, John Collier, Guenther Witzany and complex systems scientists Howard H. Pattee, Michael Conrad, Luis M. Rocha & Cliff Joslyn.
In 2001, an annual international conference for biosemiotic research known as the Gathering in Biosemiotics was inaugurated, and has taken place every year since.
In 2004, a group of biosemioticians – Marcello Barbieri, Claus Emmeche, Jesper Hoffmeyer, Kalevi Kull, and Anton Markos – decided to establish an international journal of biosemiotics. Under their editorship, the Journal of Biosemiotics was launched by Nova Science Publishers in 2005 (two issues published), and with the same five editors Biosemiotics was launched by Springer in 2008. The book series Biosemiotics (Springer, since 2007) is edited by Jesper Hoffmeyer, Kalevi Kull, and Alexei Sharov.
- Marcello Barbieri, 2008. Biosemiotics: a new understanding of life, Naturwissenschaften, Vol.95, Iss.7, pp.577-599
- Kull, Kalevi 1999. Biosemiotics in the twentieth century: A view from biology. Semiotica 127(1/4): 385–414.
- Kull, Kalevi 2000. An introduction to phytosemiotics: Semiotic botany and vegetative sign systems. Sign Systems Studies 28: 326–350.
- Witzany, Guenther 2008. The biosemiotics of plant communication. American Journal for Semiotic Studies 24: 39–56.
- See an account of recent history in: Petrilli, Susan (2011). Expression and Interpretation in Language. Transaction Publishers, pp. 85–92.
- Rattasepp, Silver; Bennett, Tyler (eds.) 2012. Gatherings in Biosemiotics. (Tartu Semiotics Library 11.) Tartu: University of Tartu Press.
- Favareau, Donald 2005. Founding a world biosemiotics institution: The International Society for Biosemiotic Studies. Sign Systems Studies 33(2): 481–485.
- Kull, Kalevi; Deacon, Terrence; Emmeche, Claus; Hoffmeyer, Jesper; Stjernfelt, Frederik 2009. Theses on biosemiotics: Prolegomena to a theoretical biology. Biological Theory 4(2): 167–173.
- Alexander, V. N. (2011). The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature and Nature. Litchfield Park AZ: Emergent Publications.
- Barbieri, Marcello (ed.) (2008). The Codes of Life: The Rules of Macroevolution. Berlin: Springer.
- Emmeche, Claus; Kull, Kalevi (eds.) (2011). Towards a Semiotic Biology: Life is the Action of Signs. London: Imperial College Press.
- Emmeche, Claus; Kalevi Kull and Frederik Stjernfelt. (2002): Reading Hoffmeyer, Rethinking Biology. (Tartu Semiotics Library 3). Tartu: Tartu University Press.
- Favareau, D. (ed.) (2010). Essential Readings in Biosemiotics: Anthology and Commentary. Berlin: Springer.
- Favareau, D. (2006). The evolutionary history of biosemiotics. In "Introduction to Biosemiotics: The New Biological Synthesis." Marcello Barbieri (Ed.) Berlin: Springer. pp 1–67.
- Hoffmeyer, Jesper. (1996): Signs of Meaning in the Universe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. (special issue of Semiotica vol. 120 (no.3-4), 1998, includes 13 reviews of the book and a rejoinder by the author).
- Hoffmeyer, Jesper (2008). Biosemiotics: An Examination into the Signs of Life and the Life of Signs. Scranton: University of Scranton Press.
- Hoffmeyer Jesper; Kull, Kalevi (2003): Baldwin and Biosemiotics: What Intelligence Is For. In: Bruce H. Weber and David J. Depew (eds.), Evolution and Learning - The Baldwin Effect Reconsidered'. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
- Kull, Kalevi, eds. (2001). Jakob von Uexküll: A Paradigm for Biology and Semiotics. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. [ = Semiotica vol. 134 (no.1-4)].
- Sebeok, Thomas A.; Umiker-Sebeok, Jean (eds.) (1992): Biosemiotics. The Semiotic Web 1991. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
- Sebeok, Thomas A.; Hoffmeyer, Jesper; Emmeche, Claus (eds.) (1999). Biosemiotica. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. [ = Semiotica vol. 127 (no.1-4)].
- Witzany, G. (2006). The Logos of the Bios 1. Contributions to the foundation of a three leveled biosemiotics. Helsinki: Umweb.
- Witzany, G. (ed.) (2007). Biosemiotics in Transdisciplinary Contexts: Proceedings of the Gathering in Biosemiotics 6, Salzburg 2006. Helsinki: Umweb.
- Witzany, G. (ed.) (2014). Biocommunication of Animals. Dortrecht: Springer
- Rothschild, Friedrich S. (2000). Creation and Evolution: A Biosemiotic Approach. Edison, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.
- Hoffmeyer, Jesper (ed.)(2008). A Legacy for Living Systems: Gregory Bateson as a Precursor to Biosemiotics. Berlin: Springer.
- International Society for Biosemiotics Studies
- The Biosemiotics website by Alexei Sharov
- Biosemiotics, introduction (Archive.org archived version)
- Overview of Gatherings in Biosemiotics
- The S.E.E.D. Journal (Semiotics, Evolution, Energy, and Development)
- Jakob von Uexküll Centre
- Zoosemiotics Home Page
- TDE-R - A Subjective Biocomputer by Charles Dyer