MA programme in Semiotics at the University of Tartu

Tartu University is home for a unique centre of semiotics, as the Department of Semiotics established by Juri Lotman is one of the oldest in the world. It has long-time traditions in research and teaching semiotics at BA, MA, and PhD levels.

In the 2009/2010 academic year, we launched an international English MA programme in Semiotics. Since then, we have had five successful application rounds to the programme. Several of the alumni continue their studies in PhD level in our department. Students from all over the world have participated in the programme (USA, Brazil, Mexico, Greece, Taiwan, Indonesia, Turkey, Italy, Latvia, Russia, to name a few), creating an interesting international setting for fruitful semiotic discussions. In addition the various specialists in semiotics in our own department, several lecturers regularly visit us from other semiotics centres.

The MA programme offers a series of courses that cover semiotic knowledge in historical, theoretical and applied aspects. The program includes three main fields of semiotics – cultural, social and biological semiotics, while also providing an insight into the methodology and contemporary applications of semiotic analysis. The various courses from the basic module give an overview of the historical and current theoretical problems, basic concepts and tendencies in semiotics. The module also focuses on the history and theoretical texts of the Tartu-Moscow School and works by J. Lotman and J. v. Uexküll in order to stress the traditions, importance and position of Estonia in the history of semiotic thought. Students will learn the main (qualitative) methods of semiotic analysis and their possibilities of application in the interpretation of modern cultural phenomena.

The culture module deepens the students’ knowledge of cooperation of cultural semiotics with other disciplines, and focuses on understanding the key concepts of cultural research. The other two courses in this module are more practical, discussing translation and transfer processes in culture, and teaching students to analyses various performative events with semiotic tools. The nature module is dedicated to a thorough understanding of relations between nature and culture, environmental studies, the works of several predecessors of biosemiotics and human-animal communication, and communication of various species. The society module adds another layer to the interdisciplinary education, focusing on various social processes, relations between society and culture, semiotic competence, development of subcultures, the influence of ideology in communication processes, and the central problems of political semiotics and discourse analysis.

The program does not require a previous BA in semiotics; students from different fields of study are welcome to apply. The online application form can be accessed at:

The application deadline is 16 April 2015, by which time all the required documents have to be sent to the University of Tartu.

More information and admission requirements can be found at:

Please share the information with all your students and colleagues who might be interested, and encourage them to visit our website and ask for further information.

Please feel free to contact us for questions, comments, inquiries, and applications:

Ms Tuuli Pern

Ms Elin Sütiste

Phone: +372 737 5933

Department of Semiotics

University of Tartu


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