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Research Center for SemioticsStudy specifications from 06.02.1997

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Study specifications from 06.02.1997

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The courses have been discontinued from winter semester 2004/05.
Thus registration is no more possible. For those already registered
teaching and exam offers will be maintained through  2010.

Study specifications for Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics (from 6.2.1997):

As a result of  § 71 paragraph 1 no.1 of the ruling for higher education institutions in the Land of Berlin (Berliner Hochschulgesetz - BerlHG) from October 12 1990, the board of Faculty 1: history and communication sciences issued the following study specifications on 6.2.1997 in accordance with § 25 BerlHG: (GVBl. p. 2165) *


The aim of Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics is to provide graduate students from sign-related disciplines and professionals in sign-related academic fields with the following:

  1. a comprehensive knowledge of objects, methods, results and representation methods of general semiotics and sign-related individual sciences
  2. the ability to carry out independent research work on sign processes, sign situations, sign systems and sign complexes
  3. the capacity to judge the relationship of sign-related disciplines and to assess possibilities and limits of the contribution which they can make to the development of a humane society, civilisation and culture
  4. the motivation, with the help of the student's own knowledge and faculty of judgement, to make a personal contribution to the development of a humane society, civilisation and culture

Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics is taught as a science of all kinds of sign processes (object science), a science of sign processes (methods, theories, representation methods) of all sciences (metascience) as well as an approach for the production of a common methodological, theoretical and terminological basis of arts and social sciences (interdisciplinary approach). The acquisition of the most important sign theories (theoretical semiotics) is allocated as much weighting as the practice of descriptive procedures of special sign processes, sign situations, sign systems and sign complexes (descriptive semiotics) and the use of this knowledge and this skill to develop a humane society, civilisation and culture (applied semiotics). The knowledge and reflexion of the history of semiotics play an important role for the realisation of all these aims.

Semiotics as an object science is especially productive in the description of sign processes which have been either disregarded by the traditional arts and social science disciplines (such as nonverbal communication, social rituals and political symbols) or require cooperation on a common  theoretical basis  (such as the multimedia sign processes of opera, circus, theater, film and television).

As a metascience, semiotics can analyse and compare sign processes in the discipline; in methods the measuring procedures of natural sciences, the observation and test procedures of social sciences and the interpretation essences of arts sciences; in the systematization of results the development of axiomatic theories, the production of reality models and the use of  argumentative and narrative discourses; in the representation of events the development of artificial languages, the drafting of maps, diagrams and graphs, the introduction of two and three dimensional formulas as well as the use of natural languages with different grades of reglementation.

As an interdisciplinary approach, semiotics promotes the cooperation of the sign-related disciplines in describing complex cultural reality, for example by setting the methods of interpretation used in  human and social sciences on a common theoretical basis, and by combining them in the description of multi-media sign processes.

As an applied science, semiotics can contribute theory-based procedures for solving everyday problems that cannot be solved within the framework of any single traditional discipline (e.g. problems with complex design, of human-machine-interaction, organisation of knowledge).

§ 1 Applicability

These study specifications establishes the basis for Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics at the Technical University Berlin. The course is concluded with a series of university exams in a cumulative form and confirmed with a certificate stating the attained level of achievements. In the event of discontinued study, achievements sofar are confirmed with a certificate. The successfully completed postgraduate course can be continued with the aim of a PhD in semiotics.

§ 2 Beginning of course and entry prerequisites

The course begins at the beginning of the summer or winter semester. Apart from the general prerequisites for entry onto the course at the Technical University Berlin according to the ruling of the Technical University Berlin on the rights and duties of students as well as the conditions according to § 10 of the Berlin law for institutions of higher education - Berliner Hochschulgesetzes (BerlHG), immatriculation for Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics requires the presentation of a degree, master's or state examination certificate of completed study in a sign-related subject in the arts or social sciences or a relevant subject of natural or semiotically relevant discipline of engineering.

§ 3 Entry regulations

The course coordinator, who is appointed by Faculty 1: history and and communication sciences, decides on the entry of applicants for Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics.

§ 4 Semiotic fields of activity

Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics facilitates professional activity in all the areas mentionned in the preamble. Together with arts or social science subjects, it particularly qualifies students for professional tasks which overlap disciplinary borders:

  • media careers in the press, raadio, television and publishing
  • cultural and scientific journalism
  • documentation as well as development and supervision of data bases
  • software technology in information technology
  • teaching in a sign-related discipline in an interdisciplinary context
  • academic organisation of science in schools, universities and in private and public insitutions of further education
  • cultural politics and administration

In addition, Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics directly serves the education of the up-and-coming academic generation in semiotic research and teaching, of  which there is a rapidly increasing need in view of the expected continuation of the current development.

§ 5 Educational functions

Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics serves:

  1. postgraduate students studying for the academic title of a PhD and are writing a thesis on a semiotic subject, as a research-oriented accompanying course
  2. students who have completed an academic degree in a sign-related subject as an interdisciplinary extension course which delivers an additional qualification for a desired career
  3. employees in an sign-related academic profession as a contact study which makes it possible to integrate special knowledge and new research results of of an interdisciplinary kind in professional practice.

These three educational functions can be fulfilled in one teaching syllabus at the same time and the three target groups can be taught together.

§ 6 Course structure, scope and achievement certificates

Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics embraces a core course and a supplementary course. The core course (20 semester week hours)  includes attendance at:

  • 1 introductory course (2 hours),
  • 1 reading course (2 hours),
  • 1 description course (2 hours),
  • 4 semiotic pro or main seminars (2 hours each),
  • 2 semiotic lectures (2 hours each),
  • 1 semiotic colloquium (2 hours).

A qualified achievement certificate can be attained in two study options which are awarded on the basis of a written paper completed at home.

The supplement course (4 semester week hours) consists of further study options in semiotics and in sign-related subject areas which the students choose freely according to their areas of research.

The whole syllabus for Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics consists of  24 semester week hours. They are normally distributed over 2, 3 or 4 semesters, which yields a course participation average of  12, 8 or 6 semester week hours.

§ 7 Types of study options

In accordance with the four didactic aims set out  in the preamble, the core part of the course offers three types of study components:

  1. the semiotic seminar is to provide an overview of the aims and methods of semiotics (introductory course), to increase knowledge of  semiotic classics through the critical reading of theoretical texts (reading course), or to improve the ability to analyze and solve everyday sign-related problems through the description of special sign processes (description course)
  2. the semiotic pro or main seminar are to deal with the basics of general semiotics and the sign-related sciences and provide the students with the capability for independent research of semiotic objects
  3. the semiotic lecture is to provide a systematic overview of the central aspects of semiotics and to apply semiotics to relevant problems of a humane society, culture and civilization
  4. the semiotic colloquium is to discuss current questions posed by semiotics and sign-related disciplines. Attendance should offer the students a comprehensive orientation in semiotics and a sound judgement of its possibilities and limits.

For the supplementary part of the course, further kinds of  study options are allowed: courses, study groups, project seminars, pratica and excursions.

§ 8 Course content

In the supplementary course the choice of teaching options and sign-related content is left open to the students. The core part of the course requires attendance at 1 semiotic colloquium, 2 semiotic lecture, 3 semiotic courses and 4 semiotic pro or main seminars. The content of the colloquia, courses and lectures are chosen freely from those on offer. Four types of course content are offered for pro or main seminars, with alternating subject matter. One of the following types of seminar is to be attended:  1.  Pro or main seminar in theoretical semiotics: 

  • General semiotics:

a) objects: sign processes, sign situations, sign systems, sign systems, sign complexes
b) dimensions: syntactics, semantics, pragmatics
c) methods: exploration of sign processes, hypotheses formulation, operationalisation, sign study, sign analysis, sign interpretation; model formation, production and reconstruction of sign systems
d) theories: structuralist, pragmatic, phenomenological, behavior- theoretical, among others
e) representation: conceptual-verbal, diagrammatic, algebraic, among others.

  • the relationship between general semiotics, regional semiotics and the individual disciplines (the semiotics of literature, music, art, theater, film, architecture, medicine, among others).
  • the relationship between semiotics and other interdisciplinary approaches (information theory, cybernetics and system theory, synergetics, Gestalt theory, cognition research, hermeneutics, among others).
  • the relationship between semiotics and the philosophical views (idealism, materialism, marxism, structuralism, poststructuralism, among others).

2. Pro or main seminar in descriptive semiotics: 

  • practice in the description of selected sign processes, sign situations, sign systems and sign complexes
  • isolation of a cultural sign system (e.g. mimic and gesture, clothing, eating habits, political rituals and symbols, sport, tourism, pictograms, traffic signs, writing, design objects in the present or the past, Europe or other parts of the world)
  • sign theoretical analysis of such a sign system with regard to redundance, economy, and efficiency
  • description of cultural work division of labor in selected sign systems  (e.g. word and picture, language and music, oral and written communication)
  • comparative analysis of sign complexes of different  kinds from literature, music  and art; analysis of aesthetic communication and interpretation in the study of literature, music or art (drawing on recitals, concerts, exhibitions, readings etc.)

3. Pro or main seminar in the history of semiotics: 

  • the historical development of sign concepions and sign-related disciplines in the West: in Greek and Roman antiquity, in the Latin, Greek and Jewish Middle Ages, from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, as well as in the 19th and 20th century
  • the sign conceptions of non-western semiotics: in the Ancient Oriet, the Islamic world, in India, Tibet, China, Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, Oceania, the Ancient Americas and non-Islamic Africa
  • modern semiotic movements: Peirce, Saussure, Frege and their followers, phenomenological semiotics, significs, onomasiology and semasiology, logical empirism, constructivism, praxeology, Wittgenstein and the  philosophy of normal language,  Jakob von Uexküll and ecology, Cassirer and his followers, Morris and behavioral semiotics, Russian formalism, Prague functionalism,  Jakobson and structuralism, Hjelmslev and dthe glossematics, the Moscow-Tartu school, Greimas and his school,  Umberto Eco, Nelson Goodman, poststructuralist semiotics.

4. Free pro or main seminar on a sign-related special subject:  a relevant class from the following faculties

1 history and communication sciences
2 educational sciences
3 mathematics
7 environmental and social sciences
8 architecture
9 construction engineering and applied geosciences
10 travel and transport studies
13 information technology
14 economy and management
15 nutrition and biotechnology

§ 9 Certificate

In accordance with  § 6, the necessary proof of 20 hours per semester week and two certificates of achievement, which in culmulative form take the place of a final examination, should be presented to the course coordinator upon the student's completion of studies.

Successful participation in Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics is confirmed by the issuing of a certificate. This certificate names the titles of classes attended and the subjects of the papers which form the basis of the two certificates of achievement. The certificate is signed by the university dean and the course cordinator, and carries the seal of the Technical University Berlin.

§ 10 Consultation service

The consulation service provides information on the respective requirements of each series of classes via consulation with the faculty members. The Research Center for Semiotics  (RCS) is in charge of the consultation, coordination and organization of Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics. For both students and applicants the consultation takes the form of individual consultation during which information is provided on entry requirements, course content, syllabus, study options and certificates etc.

General information can be obtained from the Research Center for Semiotics and the administration office of  Faculty 1: history and communication sciences as well as the relevant sections of the universtity's central administration.

§ 11 Coming into effect

The regulations for Postgraduate Studies in Semiotics came into effect after their publication in the official information broschure of the Technical University of Berlin, thus invalidiating  the regulations for the course in Semiotics from October 31 1991.

* amended by the ruling of February 8 1999 (GVBl. p. 74)


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