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Sign Systems Studies

Volume 33, Issue 1, 2005

Peeter Torop
Pages 159-171

Semiosphere and/as the research object of semiotics of culture

Since 1984 when J. Lotman’s article “On semiosphere” was published, this concept has been moving from one terminological field to another. In the disciplinary terminological field of the Tartu–Moscow School semiotics of culture, ‘semiosphere’ is connected with terms ‘language — secondary modelling system — text — culture’. From interdisciplinary terminological fields, the associations either with biosphere and noosphere, or with logosphere, are more important. As a metadisciplinary concept, semiosphere belongs to the methodology of culture studies and is associated with the concepts of holism and the part and the whole. In this context, semiosphere marks the complementarity of disciplines studying culture, the movement towards the creation of general culture studies and “understanding methodology”. On the background of the contemporary trends of science it has to be remembered that semiosphere is simultaneously an object- and a metaconcept. The dynamism of culture as a research object forces science to search for new description languages but the new description languages in turn influence the cultural dynamics as they offer new possibilities for self-description. Often, however, from a historical perspective, a new description language is nothing but a methodological translation. Thus also the term semiosphere joins together several concepts that are related to semiotics of culture and that have gained new relevance on the background of the culture’s developmental dynamics. The concept of semiosphere brings semiotics of culture again into contact with its history, as it also brings applicational cultural analysis into contact with the history of culture and with the newest phenomena in culture. These contacts determine the place of the semiotics of culture among the sciences studying culture.

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