Call for papers: Special Issue of Semiotica, “Semiotics of Bodily Movements in Sports, Games, and Physical Education”

Guest Editors:

Raúl Martínez-Santos (Faculty of Education and Sport, University of the Basque Country, Spain)
Pascal Bordes (Laboratory I3SP, Institute UFR-STAPS, EA 3625, University of Paris Descartes, France)
Jaime Nubiola (Department of Philosophy, University of Navarra, Spain)

Traditional games and sports constitute a remarkable semiotic field. Playing sports and games, such as tag, dodgeball, and basketball, generates bodily experiences whose motor interactions trigger many tactical and relational meanings that participants must interpret, here and now, through intense semiotic activity. This is also true as far as coaches or physical education teachers are concerned, when they consider bodily movements and behaviours as meaningful phenomena whose decoding is at the heart of their interventions. Moreover, games and sports like quatre-coins, british bulldogs, and baseball are cultural, historical phenomena too, no to forget their economic value, and their meanings and interpretation range from most local, in relation to the regions or terroirs they come from, to most global, as related to worldwide phenomena like the Olympic games.

The notions ethnomotricity and semiotricity refer to these two complementary poles of semiotic analysis and understanding of games and sports. “Ethnomotricity” is presented as a sort of external semiotic analysis: “Field and nature of motor situations considered from the angle of their relationship to the culture and the social environment in which they developed” (Parlebas, 1981, 64). It aims to examine the relationship between internal aspects of games and the values that individuals, institutions, and cultures associate with these games. Structurally speaking, that is from the point of view of the communication and interaction networks involved, sport appears to be a subset of all games that can be listed around the world (Parlebas, 2020), but all sporting games as a whole, traditional or hyper-institutionalized, can be considered true signs of their time. As original systems of rules, the relationships they impose on space, objects, time, and co-participants reflect and illustrate the anthropological and social values of the cultures to which they belong (Caillois, 1958; Guttmann, 1978; Allison & Lueschen, 1979; Elias & Dunning, 1984; Giulianotti & Robertson, 2004; Darbon, 2010).

This mode of analysis of physical practices can be completed by an internal semiotic analysis. It is then a matter of “semiotricity”: «Field and nature of the motor situations considered from the perspective of their bringing into play systems of signs directly associated with the motor conducts of the participants» (1981, p. 209). Motor communication is indeed built on codes of bodily signs that allow both understanding and deception, cooperation and opposition. These mechanisms refer both to the relations between players as signs of mediation and interpretation, but also to activities confronting the agents with the physical environment, requiring in any case a continuous semantic adjustment of their decisions to the characteristics of the milieu of action. This internal semiotic perspective, very rarely considered, gives rise in fact to numerous studies (Parlebas, 1981; Song, 2003; Richard and Dugas, 2014; Nefil and Boutalbi, 2020; Bordes, 2020).

In collaboration with the International Association of Motor Praxeology, we are pleased to invite you to contribute to this special issue of Semiotica, the Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l’Association Internationale de Sémiotique, aiming at studying the semiotic foundations of games and sport. Any contribution looking into the meaning production processes of game-playing are most welcome, as well as those trying to connect the internal and external logics of games and sports. The following list includes, without limiting, some of the possible topics:

• Semiotics of motor interaction in games and sports
• Signs and meaning of motor communication in games and sports
• Semiotics of deception in game-playing
• Signs and meaning in artistic sports
• The semiotics of outdoor pursuits
• Sports practices and the meaning of sport
• Rules, signs, and meaning in games and sports
• Semiotics and physical education
• Movement, bodies, and game-playing

This special issue is expected to be published in the year 2022. Please take note of the following deadlines:

31st March, 2021: Submission of abstracts
30th April, 2021: Acceptance of proposals
31th August, 2021: Submission of full papers
15th January, 2022: Final acceptance of papers
First semester, 2022: Production and publication

Abstracts —written in English or French— must be 300-500 words long and include a bibliography of about 5 to 10 references. Abstracts can be sent to Raúl Martínez-Santos ( or Pascal Bordes (, to whom any inquiry can also be addressed.

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