Semiotics is the study of sign processes or semioses. Semiotics can also be characterized as the study of communication and meaning, or study of qualitative diversity. Since a prerequisite for a meaningful communication is interpretation, which assumes life, it occurs that the sphere of semiosis is coextensive to the sphere of life.
An important source for semiotic theory comes from general linguistics that has a task to describe, in addition to verbal languages, all forms of human nonverbal communication. However, there exist many 'sign systems' that do not belong to the class of 'languages' or human symbolic systems. Accordingly, semiotics can be divided into 'anthroposemiotics' that studies languages and 'biosemio-tics' that studies all other forms of sign systems.
According to the classical theory of C. S. Peirce, any 'sign' includes irreducibly three aspects. These are (1) 'representamen' (or sign vehicle), the one that is directly perceived or from what the sign is built; (2) 'object' (or reference), the one that sign is referring to, its meaning; and (3) 'interpretant', the one that is created in the sign processes as its consequence, the interpretive response. Sign, accordingly, is always a process, or 'semiosis'. This process is endless in the sense that sign always comes from another sign and is a condition for further signs, exactly in the same way as life always comes from earlier life and is a condition for the coming life.
The three fundamental types of signs are 'icons', 'indices', and 'symbols'. In case of icons, the relation between the representamen and object is based on resemblance, in case of indices on causality, and in case of symbols on convention. Symbols, in narrow sense, are specific for anthroposemiosis, that is, for languages, whereas indices are typical for animal semiosis and icons appear in all forms of semiosis. Icon and index are nonpropositional signs (their meaning conveys something without asserting it), whereas symbol is a propositional sign (its meaning makes an assertion about the world).
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