M.A. Cognitive Semiotics

Aarhus University

Application deadline: 15 March
Tuition fee:
  • Free (EEA)
  • € 9,100 / Year (Non-EEA)
Start date: September  2015
Credits (ECTS): 120 ECTS
Duration full-time: 24 months
  • English
Delivery mode: On Campus
Educational variant: Full-time

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Semiotics is, in essence, the study of signs and meaning. At the Centre for Semiotics at Aarhus University, this study incorporates a broad range of disciplines, including aspects of linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, neuroscience, literature and the arts. The centre is an interdisciplinary melting-pot, receiving frequent visits from international and Danish scholars who meet to share and explore ideas and conduct research. The atmosphere is open, professional and international.

The main subject area of cognitive semiotics is human meaning-making. This encompasses the exploration of the interrelationship between language, thought and perception, in addition to the relationship between the physical properties of the brain and human cognitive abilities. This is a complex domain, and the exploration of these issues has barely begun. Students will therefore be taught not only facts and established truths, but also how to formulate and test good hypotheses. This includes an introduction to the methodology involved in setting up the different kinds of experiments necessary to test given hypotheses. Our aim is to give competent students the opportunity to actively contribute to ongoing research projects, and to encourage their contribution to conferences, both through organisation and presentation.

Similarly, we expect students to be rationally inquisitive, constructively critical, active, eager for knowledge and hardworking. This programme can provide the framework for a highly qualified and illuminating education in human meaning construction. However, in order to realise the potential this structure provides, it is necessary for the student to bring commitment, enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity.

Course profile

The MA in Cognitive Semiotics programme is comprised of a four-semester curriculum and offers an introduction to, and training in, contemporary methods and theories in the study of meaning, with a focus on the cognitive sciences. The programme includes five standard modules: Cognitive Semiotics, Cognitive Aesthetics, Cognitive Linguistics, Research Methods, and Mind and Cognition. In each module, focus is on the cognitive and neurocognitive theories that are relevant to the topic in question.

Research seminars and an extensive programme of international conferences and symposia throughout the year create a study environment where free discussion and inventiveness are encouraged.


Graduates from the MA in Cognitive Semiotics programme will be highly qualified consultants in all fields of communication and across all media. The MA in Cognitive Semiotics programme is furthermore appropriate for all students who intend to pursue their academic career within a PhD programme.


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.


The admissions requirement for the MA programme in cognitive semiotics is a completed Bachelors degree in psychology or a humanistic subject from a Danish or foreign university. Certain Bachelors 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 Bachelors degree.

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

* Your Bachelors 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 Bachelors 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 Bachelors degree diploma.
* An application stating reasons. The application must be in English and 12 pages in length. In it, you should explain:
- The relevance of your Bachelors degree for the Masters degree programme in cognitive semiotics.
- Which specific Bachelors degree courses you think you will be able to build on during the Masters degree programme.
- Your career plans
* Proof of English at B level.

English Language Requirements

IELTS band: 6.5
TOEFL paper-based test score : 560
TOEFL iBT® test: 83


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