[Welcome to the IASS’s short historical overview. For additional information, context, and detail, please consult the extended report (2004)  and/or the original report (1986)  published in The Semiotic Web.

The early 1960s saw an increase in awareness and interest in approaches to cultural phenomena.– Semiotics, the approach that privileges sign processes, became of particular interest as it seeks to provide scientific methodologies to cultural questioning. In 1962, two important conferences took place: the first in Bloomington, originally devoted to paralinguistics and kinesics; the other in Moscow, where the Symposium on the Structural Study of Sign Systems was held. These two international events united scholars from both Moscow and Tartu and established the groundwork for the emerging field.

In response to growing interest and demand, the IASS-AIS was founded by the end of the 1960s, after the very first international semiotic conference was organized in Poland in 1966 for which the proceedings plus contributions from an earlier conference in Warsaw were edited by Greimas et al. 1970. A Semiotic Association with Stefan Zolkiewski as president and Greimas as secretary general (cf. Deledalle’s “Presentation” in Balat & Deledalle-Rhodes 1992) was also founded in 1966 and allowed for the launch of a semiotic journal which first appeared as a section of Social Science Information (a selection of articles was later published in a book: Kristeva, Rey-Debove & Umiker 1971). One of the IASS’s goals was to formalize a foundational framework. Due to the political situation in Central Eastern Europe during the 1968 conference in Warsaw, this achievement was not immediately possible. However, and not long after this, on January 21-22, 1969, a meeting was convened in Paris and the IASS-AIS was officially established.

During the first 25 years of the Association, notable contributers devoted their time and intellectual endeavours for the advancement of the Association (a detailed list can be found in the IASS-AIS Bulletin 13(1-2)1993 & 14(1-2)1994: 5-7; the current Bureau is listed on another page). This list of scholars include: Emile Benveniste (as first president), and Cesare Segre and Jerzy Pelc as his respective successors. Scholars such as Julia Kristeva, Umberto Eco, Gianfranco Bettetini, Antonino Buttitta, and Gérard Deledalle acted as Secretary General. Among the former Vice-Presidents between 1969 and 1994 were: Haroldo de Campos, Vyacheslav Vs. Ivanov, Roman Jakobson, Jurij M. Lotman, Aleksandr Ljudskanov, Jean Petitot, Décio Pignatari, R.N. Srivastava, and Masao Yamaguchi. The Treasurers were Jacques Geninasca and Gloria Withalm. From the very beginning, the Editor-in-Chief of Semiotica was Thomas A. Sebeok, since succeeded by Marcel Danesi (2004), following the ‘caretaker’ editorship of Jean Umiker-Sebeok (2002-4).

For more details of the early period of the development of the IASS, see the extended report of the 2004 Lyon conference, written by former Secretary General Jeff Bernard.

[a1]Hyperlink here to report 2004

[a2]Hyperlink here to report 1986