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"Ecosemiotics can be defined as the semiotics of relationships between nature and culture. This includes research on the semiotic aspects of the place and role of nature for humans, i.e. what is and what has been the meaning of nature for us, humans, how and in what extent we communicate with nature. Ecosemiotics deals with the semiosis going on between a human and its ecosystem, or a human in ones ecosystem. In this, it can be related to ethnology and sociology of man-nature relationships, to environmental psychology and the anthropology of environment, which, although quite close to ecosemiotics, deal more with the comparative than the semiotic aspects of the problem.

Ecosemiotics is thus quite different from biosemiotics. Ecosemiotics can be considered as a part of the semiotics of culture, which investigates human relationships to nature which have a semiosic (sign-mediated) basis, whereas biosemiotics can be seen as different from the cultural semiotic field. Both, nevertheless, are researching nature from the semiotic point of view.(...) 

Ecosemiotics describes the appearance of nature as dependent on the various contexts or situations. It includes nature’s structure as it appears, its classification (syntactics); it describes what it means for people, what there is in nature (semantics); and it finds out the personal or social relation to the components of nature, which can be one’s participation in nature (pragmatics). In all this, it includes the role of memory and the relationships between different types of (short-term, long-term, etc.) memory in culture. Due to considering the evolutionary aspect, ecosemiotics also extends to non-human systems.

The semiotic aspect of man-nature relationships may concern, for instance, the context-dependence of the valuation of nature, differences in seeing and understanding it. Also, it concerns the signal character of the behaviour of a person in nature — when living in a forest, or walking in woods, or seeing it on TV, reading or speaking or dreaming about it. And it certainly concerns the formation of nature, the designing and building of the environment using the human (linguistic, aesthetic, etc.) forms." (Kull 1998: 350-351)." (

More Information

Selected readings on ecosemiotics

Bateson, Gregory (1972). Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Ballantine.

Crowe, Norman (1997 [orig. 1995]). Nature and the Idea of a Man-Made World: An Investigation into the Evolutionary Roots of Form and Order in the Built Environment. Cambridge (Mass.): The MIT Press.

Hoffmeyer, Jesper (1996). Signs of Meaning in the Universe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Larsen, Svend Erik and Grgas, Stipe (eds.) (1994). The Construction of Nature: A Discursive Strategy in Modern European Thought. Odense: Odense University Press.

Nöth, Winfried (1998). Ecosemiotics. Sign Systems Studies 26: 332-343.

Simmons, I. G. (1993). Interpreting Nature: Cultural Constructions of the Environment. London: Routledge.