By Adolfo Martin Garcia

Neurosemiotics is a pluralistic framework aimed to describe and explain semiosis as an emergent socio-biological phenomenon (García & Ibáñez, 2022a). It has been described as a subfield of biosemiotics that encompasses most work conducted within cognitive neuroscience (Bouissac, 1998). Yet, non-trivial differentiations can be traced between neurosemiotics and biosemiotics at epistemological, theoretical, methodological, and translational levels (García & Ibáñez, 2022a; Kull & Favareau, 2022).

Precursors of the field can be found in early medical semiotics (Sprengel, 1815), Jakob von Uexküll’s (1909) Umwelt theory, and Kurt Goldstein’s (1878–1965) neuropsychiatric formulations (Andersch, 2016). Yet, the term ‘neurosemiotics’ did not emerge until the early 1970s (Bouissac, 1987), with its first appearance in print dating back to 1971 (Arthur, 1971). Since then, reflections on neurosemiotics have been advanced in a few papers (Bouissac, 1979), special issues (Sergent, 1985), handbooks (Cariani, 2015; Favareau, 2010; Müller & Wolff, 2003; Nöth, 2000), and encyclopedias (Bouissac, 1998; Brier, 2007; Jorna, 2009; Wallentin, 2007). Yet, these mentions have been mostly brief and generalistic,
with only a few volumes focusing centrally on the field (García & Ibáñez, 2022b; Grzybek, 1993; Tsvetkov & Pereguda, 2019).

Recent incarnations of neurosemiotics underscore a transdisciplinary ethos, aimed to track convergences across the neurocognitive, sensorimotor, visceral, hormonal, genetic, contextual, and cultural factors that jointly shape individual and social semiotic experiences (García & Ibáñez, 2022a). Inherent in this program is the goal of overcoming the “two cultures” divide demarcating the social and the natural sciences (Ibáñez et al., 2017; Snow, 2012). Neurosemiotics blurs epistemological and methodological distinctions between these traditions, highlighting their overlaps and continuities in search of theoretical, empirical, and translational innovations. This goal profits from tools hatched within neuropsychology (e.g., anatomo-clinical correlations), behavioral science (assessments of outward performance), neuroscience (e.g., brain imaging, brain stimulation), biology (e.g., animal communication), cognitive science (e.g., behavioral and kinetic measures), linguistics (e.g., text analysis), and social sciences (e.g., sociopolitical analysis) (García & Ibáñez, 2022b).

The latest effort to crystallize this vision can be found in the Routledge Handbook of Semiosis and the Brain (García & Ibáñez, 2022b), dealing with neurobiological aspects of semiotic phenomena as varied as lexico-semantic processing, syntax, discourse comprehension, bilingualism, sign languages, empathy, moral cognition, social interaction, friendship, ideology, religion, face recognition, music, tool use, interoception, and the construal of self. The eclectic nature of this list attests to the wide, ambitious scope of neurosemiotics as thriving intellectual arena.


Andersch, N. (2016). Kurt Goldstein – ein Pionier der Neurosemiotik? Schriftenreihe der DGGN, 22, 93 112.
Arthur, A. Z. (1971). Applied training programmes of psychology in Canada: A survey. Canadian Psychologist/Psychologie Canadienne, 12(1), 46–65. doi: 10.1037/h0082074
Bouissac, P. (1979). Semiotics and surrealism. Semiotica, 25(1/2), 45–58. doi: 10.1515/semi.1979.25.1 2.45
Bouissac, P. (1987). Semiotics in Canada I. In T. A. Sebeok, & J. Umiker-Sebeok (Eds.), The Semiotic Web 1986 (pp. 191–252). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Bouissac, P. (1998). Encyclopedia of Semiotics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Brier, S. (2007). Neurosemiotik II. In: T. Thellesen, & B. Sørensen (Eds.), Livstegn: Encyklopædi (pp. 219–223). Copenhagen: Haase Forlag.
Cariani, P. (2015). Sign functions in natural and artificial systems. In P. P. Trifonas (Ed.), International Handbook of Semiotics (pp. 917–949). New York: Springer.
Favareau, D. (2010). Neurosemiotics. In P. Cobley (Ed.), The Routledge Companion to Semiotics (pp. 275–276). London: Routledge.
García, A. M. & Ibáñez, A. (2022a). Semiosis, brain, and context: The unmet need for a transdisciplinary framework. In A. M. García & A. Ibáñez (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Semiosis and the Brain (pp. i-x). London: Routledge.
García, A. M. & Ibáñez, A. (2022b). The Routledge Handbook of Semiosis and the Brain. London: Routledge.
Grzybek, P. (1993). Psychosemiotik – Neurosemiotik: Psychosemiotics – neurosemiotics. Bochum: Universitätsverlag Brockmeyer.
Ibáñez, A., Sedeño, L., & García, A. M. (2017). Neuroscience and Social Science: The Missing Link. Heidelberg: Springer.
Jorna, R. J. (2009). Neurosemiotics. In M. D. Binder, N. Hirokawa, Nobutaka, & U.
Windhorst (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Neuroscience (pp. 2830–2833). New York: Springer.

Kull, K. & Favareau, D. (2022). Neurosemiotics: A brief history of its development and key concerns. In A. M. García & A. Ibáñez (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Semiosis and the Brain (pp. 1-15). London: Routledge.
Müller, A., & Wolff, J. R. (2003). Semiotische Aspekte der Neurophysiologie: Neurosemiotik. In R. Posner, K. Robering, & T.A. Sebeok (Eds.), Semiotics: A Handbook on the Sign-theoretic Foundations of Nature and Culture (pp. 2667–2698). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Nöth, W. (2000). Handbuch der Semiotik. Stuttgart: Metzler.
Sergent, J. (1985). Special issue on Neurosemiotics. Recherches Sémiotiques/Semiotic Inquiry, 5(3), 221–335.
Snow, C. P. (2012). The Two Cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sprengel, K. (1815). Handbuch der Semiotik. Runkel: Till Verlag.
Tsvetkov, A. V., & Pereguda, S. N. (2019). Nejrosemiotika: Mozg, simvol i kontekst. St Petersburg: Knig Kom.
Uexküll, J. von (1909). Umwelt und Innenwelt der Tiere (1st edn). Berlin: Verlag von Julius Springer.
Wallentin, M. (2007). Neurosemiotik II. In T. Torkild & B. Sørensen (Eds.), Livstegn: Encyklopædi (pp. 216–219). Copenhagen: Haase Forlag.

Author information

Adolfo García, Ph.D., specializes in the neuroscience of language and communication. He serves as Director of the Cognitive Neuroscience Center (Universidad de San Andrés, Argentina), Senior Atlantic Fellow at the Global Brain Health Institute (University of California, San Francisco), Associate Researcher at Universidad de Santiago de Chile, Director of Language Science at Redenlab, Adjunct Researcher at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (Argentina), Adjunct Professor of Neurolinguistics at the Faculty Education of the National University of Cuyo (Argentina), President of the “Translation, Research, Empiricism, Cognition” (TREC) Network, honorary member of the Center of Cognitive Neuroscience at La Laguna University (Spain), and High-Level Talent appointed by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China. He has received training in cognitive neuroscience, translation, and foreign-language teaching, alongside postdoctoral studies at the Institute of Cognitive Neurology (Argentina) and research stays at New York University and Rice University (United States). He now leads research projects in over ten countries across the globe. Moreover, he serves as Director of the Master’s in Language and Cognition, a postgraduate program he created at the National University of Cuyo. His
teaching career includes graduate and postgraduate courses in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and China. He has more than 200 publications, including books, chapters, and papers in leading journals, mainly focused on neurolinguistics and bilingualism. Of particular relevance to this entry, he has co-edited the Routledge Handbook of Semiosis and the Brain. He has offered more than 220 presentations and speeches at international academic meetings and science dissemination events. Moreover, he is the host of the TV show “Of brains and words” and of a radio column titled “Mind and communication.” His scientific contributions have been recognized by awards and distinctions from the Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States, the Argentine Association of Behavioral Science, the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires, and the Alzheimer’s Association.

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