Homo polyglottus: Semiosphere as a model of human cognition

Aleksei Semenenko


The semiosphere is arguably the most influential concept developed by Juri Lotman, which has been reinterpreted in a variety of ways. This paper returns to Lotman’s original “anthropocentric” understanding of semiosphere as a collective intellect/consciousness and revisits the main arguments of Lotman’s discussion of human vs. nonhuman semiosis in order to position it in the modern context of cognitive semiotics and the question of human uniqueness in particular. In contrast to the majority of works that focus on symbolic consciousness and multimodal communication as specifically human traits, Lotman accentuates polyglottism and dialogicity as the unique features of human culture. Formulated in this manner, the concept of semiosphere is used as a conceptual framework for the study of human cognition as well as human cognitive evolution.


semiosphere; cognition; polyglottism; dialogue; multimodality; Juri Lotman

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12697/SSS.2016.44.4.02

SIGN SYSTEMS STUDIES. ISSN 1406-4243 (print), 1736-7409 (online). E-mail: sss@ut.ee. Postal address: Sign Systems Studies, Dept. of Semiotics, University of Tartu, Jakobi St. 2, 51014 Tartu, Estonia