“The process of message exchanges, or semiosis, is an indispensable characteristic of all terrestrial life forms. It is this capacity for containing, replicating, and expressing messages, of extracting their signification, that, in fact, distinguishes them more from the nonliving – except for human agents, such as computers or robots, that can be programmed to simulate communication – than any other traits often cited. The study of the twin processes of communication and signification can be regarded as ultimately a branch of the life science, or as belonging in large part to nature, in some part to culture, which is, of course, also a part of nature” (Sebeok 1991: 22).

This meeting represents a step in our joint effort to understand living beings as sign systems. The Gathering in Tartu also means that the annual worldwide conferences on biosemiotics have turned into a reality. After a very successful first Gathering in Copenhagen — in May 24–27, 2001 — the current meeting is going to develop the ideas of semiotic biology.

In order to maintain the international network, the current abstracts volume includes both the abstracts of the papers presented at the meeting, and several contributions by the authors who attend it in an epistolary way.

The meeting has been organised by the Department of Semiotics of the University of Tartu, Jakob von Uexküll Centre, Tallinn Zoo, and the Biosemiotics Group of the University of Copenhagen.


Emmeche, Claus 2001. The emergence of signs of living feelings: Reverberations from the first Gatherings in Biosemiotics. Sign Systems Studies 29(1): 369–376.

Sebeok, T. A. 1991. A Sign is Just a Sign. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.