Centre for Cognitive Semiotics (CCS)

The Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology | Lund University



Next seminar

  • 9/5 Aaron Stutz (Emery University and Bohusläns museum) Embodied Niche Construction in Human Evolution: Biosemiotic and Life History Perspectives.


Spring Term Seminars 2019


January 2019

  • 24/1. Johan Blomberg and Jordan Zlatev (Cognitive semiotics, Lund): Metalinguistic relativity: Does one’s ontology determine one’s view on linguistic relativity?
    • Abstract: Linguistic relativity is a notion that has been met with both praise and scorn. We argue that there is correlation between theorists’ general conceptions of the nature of language, and their stance toward linguistic relativity. Starting with the proponents of the thesis, we distinguish between the relativists of the early days (Boas, Whorf) and modern neo-Whofians (Levinson, Slobin), showing that the first but not the latter are committed to a view of language as a monolithic semiotic system contrasting “arbitrarily” with other such systems. Critics of the thesis also come from two diametrically opposed views of language. While universalists (Pinker, Bloom & Kiel) see the most significant part of language as pan-human cognitive structure (insulated from thought in general), socio-cultural theorists (Berthele, Björk) emphasize the nature of language as contextually situated activity. In both cases the potential for locally sedimented linguistic structures to influence thought is excluded or at best marginalized. In response, we propose that a synthetic ontology of language as an experientially grounded semiotic system for meaning making in actual social contexts allows for the possibility for language to influence thought, though in different ways. These depend on whether we consider language as situated use, as sedimented conventions or as ultimately prelinguistic motivations for “universal” properties like predication. We argue that all three of these perspectives need to be considered. With the help of the Motivation and Sedimentation Model, which is based on such a linguistic ontology, and inspired by the integral linguistics of Eugenio Coseriu, we show how the deadlock in the debate over linguistic relativity can be resolved, and the possibility for discussion to proceed in less antagonistic manner.
  • 31/1. David Dunér (History of ideas, Lund): Semiotics of Biosignatures
    • Abstract: This article examines the interpretation of biosignatures, the signs of life that could be detected in outer space. In astrobiology biosignatures could be of various kinds, fossils, molecules, traces, artefacts, structures, electromagnetic waves, etc. The purpose of this article is to bring some semiotic order in this seemingly chaotic variation of signs. It turns out that the semiotic function of these signs varies a lot, and each has their own epistemological problems and semiotic peculiarities. The article put forward a semiotics of biosignatures, i.e., how we, as interpreters, establish connections between things, between the expression (the biosignature) and the content (the living organism) in various forms of semiosis, as icons, indices, and symbols of life. In all, it is about how we get access to the world, and how we interpret and understand it, for achieving a wellgrounded knowledge about the living Universe.

February 2019

  • 7/2.  Ilaria Hoppe (Catholic Private University Linz):  Do Images Act on the Streets? Street Art and the Image Act Theory.
    • In her lecture, Ilaria Hoppe will present aspects on her research on street art in combination with the image act theory summarized and proposed by the German art historian Horst Bredekamp. This highly discussed approach constitutes itself as an alternative to the speech act theory (Austin) pointing out that images have an own agency, an effect creating reaction and response. Thus, it tries to overcome the classical Cartesian subject-object-division and offers a way of thinking through and with the image constituting reality. The lecture challenges this holistic view with examples of street art, which appear anonymously in the public sphere and do not always have a distinct meaning. The question arises, if images always act.
  • 14/2. Mats Andrén (Linné University, Linköping) & Johan Blomberg (Cognitive semiotics, Lund): Children’s use of gesture and action with static and dynamic verbs
    •  Abstract: The present study investigates gestures and pratical actions that are produced in coordination with spoken verbs, in Swedish children at 18, 24 and 30 months. Previous research on connections between children’s verbs and gestures has mainly focused only on iconic gestures and action verbs. We expand the research foci in two ways: we look both at gestures and at practical actions, examining how the two are coordinated with static verbs (e.g. sleep) and dynamic verbs (e.g. fall). Thanks to these additional distinctions, we have found that iconic gestures and iconic actions (the latter in particular) most commonly occurred with dynamic verbs. Static verbs were most commonly accompanied by deictic actions and deictic gestures (the latter in particular). At 30 months, deictic gestures and actions increased, whereas iconic gestures and actions decreased. We suggest that this may reflect a transition to less redundant ways of using bodily expressions at 30 months, where bodily movement increasingly takes on the role of specifying verb arguments rather than expressing the semantics of the verb itself.

  • 21/2. No seminar
  • 28/2. No seminar

March 2019

  • 7/3. Lidia Federica Mazzitelli (University of Cologne) Landscape semantics in Nalik
    • Abstract: In this talk, I present and analyse the lexical and the grammatical elements used to encode the semantic domain of landscape (the geophysical environment) in Nalik, an Austronesian language spoken in the New Ireland province of Papua New Guinea. The Nalik landscape lexicon is mostly formed by monomorphemic nouns; partonomies are usually derived from the semantic domain of the human body, as in vaat a daanim ‘head of the river’, ie. ‘spring’. The conformation of the New Ireland landscape is reflected in the Nalik directional particles, which encode the position of the speaker and of the object with respect to the sea (‘north-west up the coast’, ‘south-east down the coast’, ‘inland/out on the sea’). In the Nalik territory, toponyms related to human settlements are particularly dense and are often semantically transparent; toponyms referring to landscape features as hills or rivers are less dense and less prominent as reference points. I show that the primary categorisation forces that drive the categorisation of landscape in Nalik are the affordances (i.e. the benefits) of the landscape features and the socio-cultural practices of the community.
  • 14/3. No seminar
  • 21/3  No seminar
  • 28/3 No seminar

April 2019

  • 4/4. Simon Devylder and George Stampoulidis (Division of Cognitive Semiotics) give a report from the conference "The Creative Power of Metaphor", held at Worcester College, Oxford, UK, on 29-30 March, 2019.
  • 11/4 No seminar
  • 18/4 Easter
  • 25/4 Juan Carlos Mendoza Collazos (Doctoral candidate at Division for cognitive semiotics): Semiotics + Context: An agentive explanation of the structure of contexts.
    • Abstract: This seminar is dedicated to my presentation at the "Thirteenth International Conference on Design Principles & Practices" in St. Petersburg 2019. I propose that a semiotic analysis of the context is useful to understand the circumstances in which agents use artefacts, whether it is an established context or a new context proposed by designers. For example, the context for telephone use was radically modified with the introduction of cell phones. A descriptive approach about the relationship between users, artefacts, and context will be presented, inspired by the perspective of agentive semiotics (Niño, 2015). The presentation will be linked with the discussion on the concept of "material agency".

May 2019

  • 2/5. No seminar
  • 3/5-5/5: 12th International Symposium on Iconicity in Language and Literature, hosted by the Division of Cognitive Semiotics at Lund University: see further

  • 9/5 Aaron Stutz (Emery University and Bohusläns museum) Embodied Niche Construction in Human Evolution: Biosemiotic and Life History Perspectives
    • Abstract: Human evolution unfolded through a rather distinctive, dynamically constructed ecological niche. The human niche is generally terrestrial in habitat, while being flexibly and extensively omnivorous in food-web connections. Our omnivorous food-web position is unusual enough. I emphasize that our niche is also conspicuously defined by semiotically structured and structuring embodied cognitive interfaces, connecting the individual organism with the wider environment. The embodied dimensions of niche-population co-evolution have long involved semiotic system construction. In particular, intentional communicative and technological behaviors--which we have inherited with modification from our common ancestor with the great apes--involve complex associative learning and higher-level socio-cognitive integration, on the one hand, and distributed indexical, iconic, and narrative patterns, on the other. The latter link our physiological states, postures, and movements to our social and material surroundings. An extended cognition framework supports the prediction that--in great apes and humans--private cognitive signs involve relatively simple iconic neural representations that indexically tag and evoke episodic shifts in somatic states, alongside ecologically salient features in our socially intensive environment. The evolutionary modification of animal associative learning--to support well-developed iconic narrative construction of episodic socio-material experience--is suggested to be adaptive in ecological niches constructed and occupied by long-lived, large-bodied ape species, facilitating memory formation and recall in highly varied foraging and social contexts, while sustaining selective attention during goal-directed behavioral sequences. The embodied niche construction (ENC) hypothesis of human evolution posits that in the early hominin lineage, between ca. 7 and 3 million years ago, natural selection further modified the ancestral ape semiotic adaptations, favoring the social and recursive structuration of concise iconic narratives of embodied interaction with the environment. This presentation focuses on how an embodied niche construction model can robustly support a gradualist evolutionary explanation of human sociality and language, pointing toward new paths to integrating a "neo-Chomskyan" focus on cognitive recursion with a biosemiotic and extended cognition framework.
    • Suggested reading: Stutz, AJ. 2014. Embodied niche construction in the hominin lineage: semiotic structure and sustained attention in human embodied cognition. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, article 834.
  • 16/5 Madeleine Kassab (Visiting fellow at Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University) The Media Coverage of the Syrian Crisis
    • Abstract: This research analyses the media coverage of the Syrian crisis from 2011 to 2013.   It is a comparison between Al-Jazeera and Al-Manar channels through quantitative and qualitative analysis. The Syrian crisis is characterized by the intertwining of factors and variables at the local, regional and global levels. This makes the media process more complex and makes the semiotic analysis of the media content important as it reveals the manifest and implicit meaning of the message; it allows the simultaneous analysis of verbal and nonverbal signs as well as the analysis of the pre and post-context of the message. The purpose of this research is to examine the media framing and the signs that create contrasting mental images of the Syrian crisis and reshape the facts in a way that suits the propagandist.
  • 23/5
  • 30/5 Ascension

Centre for Cognitive Semiotics Thursday seminar, 29 March 2012.

Seminars are held 13:15-15:00 every Thursday at SOL:H428b, unless otherwise indicated.

Please note that, after an experiment last term with moving the seminar to Fridays, we have now returned to having it on Thursdays.