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Thomas Sebeok: Mister (Bio)semiotics An obituary for Thomas A. Sebeok

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Thomas A. Sebeok was born on November 9, 1920, in Budapest, Hungary, and died peacefully in his home in Bloomington, Indiana, on December 21, 2001. He was a pioneer in semiotics and the creator of the field of biosemiotics. He belongs to the most renowned exponents of semiotics in the second half of the 20th century. By means of his scientific, institutional, and editorial efforts he exerted steady influence on the development of semiotics as a transdisciplinary field of inquiry; the doctrine of semiotics he called it. He produced numerous books and even more essays and other writings on general semiotics, zoosemiotics and biosemiotics, as well as linguistics, psycholinguistics, mythology, folklore, ethology, stylistics, and theory of art. In 1991 he was awarded the title of distinguished professor emeritus of linguistics, semiotics, anthropology and Central Asian Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. When the International Association for Semiotic Studies (IASS-AIS) was founded in Paris on January 21, 1969, Sebeok was elected editor-in-chief of the newly created journal Semiotica, and he fulfilled this duty with unflagging devotion until the end of his life. In this function he was also a member and important promoter of the Board of the (IASS-AIS) since its foundation. For decades he was Series Editor, responsible for a number of leading book series Advances in Semiotics, Approaches to Semiotics, Approaches to Applied Semiotics, and Topics in Contemporary Semiotics, and he was the General Editor of the standard reference work Encyclopedic Dictionary of Semiotics (1986; recently published in a revised and enlarged version.) Sebeok also served as chairman of the Indiana University Research Center for Language and Semiotic Studies, was a professor of anthropology and of Uralic and Altaic Studies and a fellow of the Folklore Institute. In the semiotic study of human communication, for instance, he would examine not only spoken conversation but also nonverbal paralinguistic signs such as facial expressions and body movements which carry information along with the spoken words sometimes in a manner that contradictory the words.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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