Today Göran Sonesson and I finished and submitted the session proposal below to the organisers of NASS IX, which will be held in Tartu August 17-20th 2015.
Proposal for session at Tartu Summer School of Semiotics 2015 – SEMIOTIC (UN-)PREDICTABILITY/the IX Conference of Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies
Chairs: Göran Sonesson and Morten Tønnessen
Title: “Cognitive semiotics meets Biosemiotics/Biosemiotics meets Cognitive Semiotics”
We invite contributions that go beyond purely anthropocentric notions of meaning from the perspectives of either cognitive semiotics or biosemiotics. Both cognitive semiotics and biosemiotics acknowledge that some meanings occur in contexts that are not only human – i.e., in contexts involving non-humans, be they animals or other creatures. There is clearly an overlap between the two approaches, which may explain the fact that several prominent scholars conceive of themselves as being both cognitive semioticians and biosemioticians at the same time. For other scholars, however, several contentious issues oppose the two approaches.
Biosemiotics and cognitive semiotics have tended to disagree on core issues within semiotics. One of these is the conception of sign – what is a sign? What constitutes a sign? What is the simplest sign? Or are there perhaps meanings which are not signs? Is this more than a question of definitions, convenient for the kind of research developed in the two approaches? Relatedly, these two traditions have tended to disagree on the semiotic threshold(s): Where in the world of our experience (or nature, as biosemioticians would tend to say) do we encounter phenomena that we can rightly describe as sign exchange? Or, perhaps, in a more general sense, as exchange of meanings? What part of the world is of a semiotic nature, in what sense of semiotic, and what part is not? Despite affinity and overlap in theoretical outlook, such disagreements have led to radically different takes on e.g. what counts as human–animal communication, and to what extent reciprocal understanding between humans and animals is possible.
In addition to contributions that explore different meanings that are not exclusively human in their naturally occurring range, we welcome contributions that aim to bridge the gap between biosemiotics and cognitive semiotics. What common ground is there currently for these two highly profiled approaches within semiotics? And what further common ground is it possible to develop, to the benefit of both approaches, by way of adopting shared terminology etc.?
As indicated above, the current session welcomes both case studies with a link to either cognitive semiotics or biosemiotics, and papers of a more theoretical or methodological nature that aim to discuss the affinity between cognitive semiotics and biosemiotics.