Principles of Biosemiotics

Concluding that semiosis and life are coextensive, biose-miotics starts from the development and application of models of semiosis for description of various biological phenomena.

This includes the organism's distinction between inside and outside, or biosemiotic self; semiotic concept of species; intra- and interspecies communication; developmental processes as processes of organic interpretation; etc.

There exist three main levels of semiotic processes -vegetative, animal, and rational. 'Vegetative' semiosis occurs in all organisms and is based on iconic relations.

Table 1 Relationships between the two types of sciences, physical and semiotic, as applied in ecology



Study fields

Objects (models) of study

Features of objects (models)

Methods of study

Truth, reality

Natural sciences Study of quantities Physical ecology Biophysics

Physical space Nontextual or detextualized Things and interactions Laws

Transformations Quantities 'Multiple' objects World as nonliving

Commensurability Context independence No errors in nature

Measurements Experimental From outside

By independent researcher Reductionism Statistical tests


Sciences of meaning Study of qualitative diversity Semiotic ecology Biosemiotics

Semiotic space, semiosphere Textual or textualized Signs and semioses Codes, habits

Translations, interpretations Qualitative diversity 'Unique' objects Living world

Incommensurability Context dependence Fallibilism

Qualitative methods


From inside





It is responsible for various forms of recognition and categorization (speciation; formation of tissues in multicellular organisms; perceptual categorization). 'Animal' semiosis is basically indexical; it is responsible for diverse forms of association, coexistence, and prediction. 'Rational' or human semiosis adds the ability for free combination; it is based on symbolic reference. Thus, the different levels of semiosis can be seen as the different types of arrangements of the matter as organized by the sign processes. Adult human organisms include all three levels of semiosis.

The main principles of biosemiotics have been formulated in the works of T. A. Sebeok, F. S. Rothschild, J. Hoffmeyer, and others.

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