Semiosis and Catastrophes

René Thom’s Semiotic Heritage

by Wolfgang Wildgen (Volume editor) Per Aage Brandt (Volume editor)
©2010 Conference proceedings 190 Pages


The French mathematician René Thom (Fields medal 1958) died in 2002. In this volume his contributions to biology, semiotics and linguistics are discussed by a group of scholars who have continued his work and have shaped the new paradigm of dynamic semiotics and linguistics. Thom’s heritage is full of revolutionary ideas and deep insights which stem from a rich intuition and a sharp awareness of the current state of the sciences, including their potentials and risks. The contributions to this volume are elaborations of papers given at a colloquium at the International Center for Semiotics and Linguistics of the University of Urbino (Italy), in 2005.
The central concern of this volume is semiogenesis, i.e. the evolution and differentiation of meaningful («pregnant») forms in the field of symbolic systems – from bio-communication to language and cultural forms like music, art, architecture or urban forms. The basic questions are: How are meanings created and further differentiated? Where do they come from? What kind of forces drive their unfolding? How can complex cultural forms be understood based on simple morphodynamic principles?
Applications concern the perception of forms by animals and humans, the categorization of forms e.g. in a lexicon, and predication or other complex symbolic behaviors which show up in grammar or in cultural artifacts like the unfolding of urban centers.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2011 (March)
Semiotics Maths Theory of Language
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2010. 190 pp., num ill. and fig.

Biographical notes

Wolfgang Wildgen (Volume editor) Per Aage Brandt (Volume editor)

Wolfgang Wildgen (*1944) received his PhD in Linguistics 1977 and completed his Habilitation in General Linguistics 1981. In the same year, he was appointed Professor of General and German Linguistics at the University of Bremen (emeritus since 2009). Per Aage Brandt (*1944) holds a PhD in Linguistics (1971). In 1987 he was appointed Docteur d’Etat of the Université de Sorbonne, Paris, in Semio-linguistics. In 1975 he became Professor at the University of Aarhus; and since 2005, he has been Professor of Cognitive Science and Modern Languages at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland.


Title: Semiosis and Catastrophes