Semiotics in Poland

In 2008 Polskie Towarzystwo Semiotyczne [Polish Semiotic Society  (PSS)]  begun its fifth decade of existence. Since the very beginning (1968), PSS has been acting  on many areas of theoretical and applied semiotics including linguistics, logic, methodology, philosophy of language, psycholinguistics, cognitive science, sociolinguistics, general theory of argumentation, cultural studies, computer science etc.  Among members of PSS are scholars representing all aforementioned  areas. In the style of thought, many of the scholars are continuing the tradition of  Polish Logic (Kazimierz Twardowski, Jan Łukasiewicz, Stanisław Leśniewski, Tadeusz Kotarbiński, Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, Alfred Tarski), and others of Roman Ingarden’s phenomenology.

Jerzy Pelc, 1974/75

In 1972 the Department of Logical Semiotics (DLS) University of Warsaw was set up by Jerzy Pelc (Head of the Department  1972 . 1994 and the co-founder and current President of the Society), and at that time the Department and the Society were co-operating in their research, educational and editorial activity. In 1978, an agreement  regarding long-term co-operation and  the exchange of scholars in semiotics was signed by   the Department and  the semiotic units of Brown University, Indiana University, and Yale University. Similar agreement has paved the way for co-operation between the Society and the semiotic unit of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In consequence, Polish semioticiants took part in several semiotic conferences in  USA and Europe, and contributed to the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Semiotics published by Mouton -deGruyter.

The Department and the Society together have been fulfilling the pilot program in  semiotics  .Znak-Język-Rzeczywistość. [Sign-Language-Reality] designed in the sixties and afterwards guided by Jerzy Pelc until the present time.

Publications was another sphere of common activity of DLS and PSS. At present, PSS publishes one journal (Studia Semiotyczne [Semiotic Studies]) and one book series (Biblioteka Myśli Semiotycznej [Library of Semiotic Thought]); Jerzy Pelc is the Editor of either. In the past PSS together with the Department initiated the other two, Studia z Historii Semiotyki [Studies in the History of Semiotics] published by the Polish Academy of Sciences  and Sygnały Semiotyczne [Semiotic Signals].  For some length of time, both institutions  were endorsing the two periodicals.

Studia Semiotyczne, founded in 1970 by Jerzy Pelc, contains currently 27 volumes (the recent one published in 2010). It publishes papers from all areas of semiotics, mainly in Polish but occasionally also in other languages. Biblioteka Myśli Semiotycznej (BMS), founded in 1990 by Jerzy Pelc, the Editor of the series,  at the present moment  contains 51 volumes (the recent, Deskrypcje i prawda [Descriptions and Truth] also being published in 2010). The books published in the series are monographs written by individual authors, sets of invited papers devoted to particular topics as well as translations of classical works in semiotics. One can mention in the last context Polish translations of Discours physique de la parole by Géraud de Cordemoy,  Arnauld’s and Nicole’s Port-Royal Grammar and the first publication of selected semiotic works by Charles Sanders Peirce. The books are published in Polish with one  exception being the volume 45 of the series: Logic and Metaphysics by Bogusław Wolniewicz (study in formal philosophy inspired by ideas of Wittgenstein). Next volumes of  Studia Semiotyczne and BMS series are currently under preparation. BMS series was preceded by several separate books published  by DLS and PSS within the program Sign-Language-Reality in the seventies and eighties of the 20th century.

The Department of Logical Semiotics together with Polish Semiotic Society  organizes also the oldest (started by Jerzy Pelc in 1961 and guided until the present) interdisciplinary semiotic seminar   which consists of a dozen or so invited lectures given every academic year at the University of Warsaw. During the last decade around 150 talks were given at the seminar by scholars from various academic institutions all over Poland and abroad. Edited series as well as semiotic seminar is regularly supported by grants from Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education given for the .Sign . Language . Reality. project.

In 1991-2, on Jerzy Pelc‘s motion, semiotics under the name of  “sciences of cognition and communication” has entered on the official list of academic subjects in which doctoral and professor’s degrees can be conferred in Poland.

In 2010 the Society announced the first competition for the Henryk and Danuta Hiż Award for the best essay devoted to the topic of relations between semiotics and cognitive science. The contest is currently open and its result are expected no later than in October 2011.

The semiotic activity of DLS and PSS, rooted in the philosophy of language traditions and achievements in Poland dating  from  the brake of 19th and 20th century,  is fructifying in different ways: semiotic departments or curricula, although not always under the name including the term “semiotics,” are founded in different academic centers all over the country,  as well as  branches of PSS or groups of its members who participate in semiotic meetings. In the last years the development of  interests in cognitive sciences at different Polish universities seems to be another  evidence of the influence of  semiotics as a field including cognitive problems in its pragmatic, and especially, psychosemiotic and psycholinguistic provinces.

At the present moment,  the board of PSS comprises: Andrzej Bogusławski (Department of Formal Linguistics, University of Warsaw), Tadeusz Ciecierski (Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw, Secretary General of PSS), Justyna Grudzińska (Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw), Joanna Jurewicz (Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Warsaw, Vice-President of PSS), Adam Nowaczyk (Institute of Philosophy, University of Lodz),  Joanna Odrowąż-Sypniewska (Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw), Mieczysław Omyła (Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw), Jerzy Pelc (Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw, President of PSS), Tomasz Puczyłowski (Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw, Treasurer of PSS). The website of the Society can be found at: http://www.pts.edu.pl/.

Jerzy Pelc

PSS is a member of the International Association for Semiotic Studies from the very beginning of IASS (founded in 1969, i.e. a year later than PSS). Jerzy Pelc was elected to the first group of IASS officers, became one of IASS Vicepresidents (1979 – 1984), IASS President (1984-1994), and at present –  IASS Honorary President. From the first volume of .Semiotica. (1969) on, Jerzy Pelc is a member of its editorial board, for some time also Henryk Hiż belonged to the board. At present, Andrzej Bogusławski and Jerzy Pelc are Polish representatives in IASS.

Scholars worldwide are invited to participate in investigations and projects conducted by Polish Semiotic Society. Everyone can contact PSS through the following e-mail address: pts@pts.edu.pl

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