M.A. Cognitive Semiotics

  • On Campus
  • 24 months
  • EUR8000 Year (Non-EEA)
  • English
Aarhus University | Aarhus, Denmark
Cognitive Semiotics is a multidisciplinary approach to the study of human meaning-making. The programme combines cognitive sciences – the science of how the brain works – with linguistics and aesthetics – a focus on language and art. Courses will attempt to answer a variety of theoretical as well as practical questions, such as, How do people process language? What cognitive abilities does a species need to have in order to develop a language? What draws people’s attention to different aspects of a piece of art?
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Description of Cognitive Semiotics

Courses include aspects of linguistics, neuroscience, psychology and aesthetics so as to give students a holistic understanding of the subject. The goal is to explore the interrelationship between language, thought and perception, and the relationship between the physical properties of the brain and human cognitive abilities.

Cross-sectional knowledge and approaches

The approach to the study of meaning-making at Aarhus University is unique. This combined method allows students to see commonalities between different areas of study and to gain an understanding of how particular cognitive faculties can be used in different ways – for instance, the role of perception when an individual looks at an artwork, reads words, or participates in social interactions. Combining shared perspectives within different disciplines allows students insight into different aspects of understanding communication.

As research in this field has only just begun, Aarhus University’s programme is mostly based on experiments rather than theory. Students are taught how to formulate and test good hypotheses and how to set up experiments using scientific methodology. The university provides facilities to do eye-tracking, EEG studies, interaction studies, etc.

Career Profile

Like all humanities degrees, Cognitive Semiotics gives students the opportunity of a wide variety of career prospects. Many students pursue communication-related or research-related jobs, and some go on to do PhDs abroad.

I really liked the study environment in Aarhus. The relationship between the student and the professor is fantastic, and sometimes the teachers even stay after class to talk about the topics we discussed in class, or just anything. Aarhus University also has really good PhD programmes. I don’t think you can find the same options anywhere else. Especially the 4+4 track where you start your PhD before you finish your Master’s degree is really amazing.

Mateusz Tokarski

MA in Cognitive Semiotics, PhD student at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, from Poland

Detailed Course Facts

Application deadline March
Tuition fee
  • EUR 8000 Year (Non-EEA)
  • Free (EEA)
Start date September  2016
Credits (ECTS) 120 ECTS
Duration full-time 24 months
  • English
Take an IELTS test
Delivery mode On Campus
Educational variant Full-time

Course Content

The programme consists of five main modules:

  • The Cognition and Semiotics module gives students an understanding of the general characteristics of human cognition and the production of meaning: what characterises the ways we structure our thoughts and perceptions? What mental or conceptual structures do we use? How are they linked to the world as it appears to us? How are they linked to our sensory-motor interaction with our immediate surroundings?
  • The Cognitive Linguistics module is composed of both theoretical and practical dimensions: the theoretical, where students learn about the structure of language and how language is related to other cognitive systems, such as perception, memory and the motor system; and the practical, where we study semantic meaning in order to understand the rhetorical aspects of language. In other words: how should one express oneself in order to activate a specific interpretation in the receiver?
  • The Mind and Cognition module treats, among other things, social cognition, where we learn the prerequisites for the creation of the social structures characteristic of the human race; these prerequisites include the ability to imitate, to read the intentions and the state of mind of other people, and similar skills. In addition, we learn to understand basic cognitive abilities, such as perception, memory, imagination, and creative thought, and we are taught how the brain makes these abilities possible.
  • The Cognitive Aesthetics module focuses on the activity linked to the production and experience of works of art, whether literary or the visual arts, new or old. The module does not aim to explain what art is as such, or to teach students what distinguishes one genre from another or one epoch from another. On the contrary, it aims to explain how, in virtue of what general structures and conditions artists construct meaning in their artworks.
  • Finally, in the Experimental Cognition module students acquire knowledge about quantitative methods for cognition- and neurosciences through practical exercises. Cognitive Semiotics is a questioning science. Naturally, it is based on a number of basic premises, and naturally it has its own tools of explanation and description. It is these premises and tools, we will impart to students. Its subject area – human meaning construction, the relationship between language-thought-perception, and the relationship between the physical properties of the brain and human cognitive abilities – is complex, and the mapping of these issues has barely begun. So we will not only teach facts and established truths, but also hypotheses, and the art of formulating good hypotheses, including an introduction to setting experiments up in order to verify or falsify a given hypothesis.

In addition to the above five modules, the programme offers several other courses and seminars. And the centre also has an open research seminar, where current questions regarding semiotics and its relationship to other areas, from mathematics to philosophy, from logic to anthropology and biology, are taken up, and various guest speakers are introduced and their presentations discussed.

Other courses treat specific subjects in depth, such as special areas of the history of semiotics, cognition research, the basis for semiotics, etc., and still others will be handled by PhD students, and will be based on their fields of research.

You will find the environment at Cognitive Semiotics very international. Since foreign students are also admitted, all instruction is offered in English (though of course Danish students may take their exams in Danish). And most importantly, our extensive network of international contacts means that we regularly have visits by foreign authorities who can impart expert knowledge in many areas: cognitive science, classic and modern semiotics, philosophy, cognitive psychology and linguistics, aesthetics, etc.

Our aim is not just to deliver research-based instruction, but to do “instruction-based research” – i.e. give competent students the opportunity to actively contribute to on-going research projects, and to participate in the organisation of and presentations at conferences.

Similarly, we expect that students be rationally questioning, constructively critical, active, eager for knowledge, and hardworking. We know that we have the framework for a highly qualified and insight-giving education in human meaning construction. But it is the students who make sense of the framework by filling it with commitment, enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity.

Anyone who fulfils these criteria is welcome at the Center for Semiotics. In return, we promise to take your education a very important step further.

Requirements for Cognitive Semiotics

The admissions requirement for the MA programme in cognitive semiotics is a completed Bachelor’s degree in psychology or a humanistic subject from a Danish or foreign university. Certain Bachelor’s degree programmes not belonging to these two categories may be granted an exemption from the admission requirements by the Board of Studies at the Scandinavian Department if the candidate for admission is able to argue convincingly for the relevance of the Bachelor’s degree.

The cognitive ssemiotics programme admits students on the basis of an overall assessment of their Bachelor’s degree, including marks and academic relevance, as well as an application stating reasons. You are therefore required to submit the following documents:

  • Your Bachelor’s degree diploma. If you have not yet completed your degree, you must to print and attach a transcript of the exams you have passed so far. Admission is granted on the condition that you complete your Bachelor’s degree during summer 2011 and inform the AU Studies Administration when you have completed your degree. If you are a student at Aarhus University, you can do this over the phone. If you are a student at another Danish university, you must submit a copy of your Bachelor’s degree diploma.
  • An application stating reasons. The application must be in English and 1–2 pages in length. In it, you should explain:
    - The relevance of your Bachelor’s degree for the Master’s degree programme in cognitive semiotics.
    - Which specific Bachelor’s degree courses you think you will be able to build on during the Master’s degree programme.
    - Your career plans
  • Proof of English at B level.

Work Experience for Cognitive Semiotics

No work experience is required.

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