Master's degree programme in Cognitive Semiotics
In Cognitive Semiotics we study how meaning is created in every sense of the word, whether in perception, thought, or language. Humans experience things as meaningful; we learn by experience, we think, reason, and find new insight. And we effortlessly communicate our experiences, thoughts and ideas. Humans are sophisticated animals who not only comprehend meaningful phenomena, but also constantly produce meaning through communication, and through science and art.
But what are the essential characteristics of meaning construction? How does it work in language, in perception, in our interaction with the natural world, in the social world?
The goal of the programme in Cognitive Semiotics is to enable our students to come up with well-substantiated answers to these questions. Students acquire a solid, operational knowledge of the most important aspects of meaning making, and since human meaning construction is found in all the areas of our daily lives and activities, the programme is necessarily trans-disciplinary.
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.
Find more information about the Centre for Semiotics here
Read, print and be inspired
Download and print a short presentation of the MA in Cognitive Semiotics programme 2014.
The admissions requirement for the MA programme in cognitive semiotics is a completed Bachelor’s degree in psychology or a humanistic subject from a Danish or foreign university. Certain Bachelor’s 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 Bachelor’s degree.
The cognitive ssemiotics programme admits students on the basis of an overall assessment of their Bachelor’s degree, including marks and academic relevance, as well as an application stating reasons. You are therefore required to submit the following documents:
- Your Bachelor’s 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 Bachelor’s 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 Bachelor’s degree diploma.
- An application stating reasons. The application must be in English and 1–2 pages in length. In it, you should explain:
- The relevance of your Bachelor’s degree for the Master’s degree programme in cognitive semiotics.
- Which specific Bachelor’s degree courses you think you will be able to build on during the Master’s degree programme.
- Your career plans
- Proof of English at B level.
Since English is the language of instruction in all subjects, all applicants are required to provide evidence of their English language proficiency. Please see the page on language requirements.
As the Master’s programme only admits a limited number of students each year, meeting the admission requirements does not in itself guarantee admission to the programme.
In evaluating qualified applicants, the admissions committee assesses each applicant on the basis of the average mark (i.e. GPA) of the Bachelor’s degree at the time of application. Marks/grades obtained after the application deadline will not be included in the GPA.
The admissions committee assesses each applicant’s marks on the basis of the information provided by diplomas and transcripts.
1) Required documentation of a relevant Bachelor’s degree:
All applicants must submit the following:
- Certified copies of diplomas with transcripts of examination subjects and results for each examination (a diploma without specific examination results is not sufficient).
- Explanation of the marking (grading) scale used to assess your Bachelor"s degree.
- Statement of relevance: a brief statement in English (1-2 pages) which explains:
- the relevance of your Bachelor’s degree in relation to the Master’s programme
- your career plans
- the courses in your Bachelor’s degree which have particular relevance to the Master’s programme
2) Required documentation of English proficiency
As English is the language of instruction in all subjects, non-native speakers of English are required to document their English language proficiency.
3) Required documentation of citizenship and residence permit
Non-Danish applicants must submit the following
- A certified copy of your passport
- A Danish permanent residence permit (if applicable)
You must submit the documents specified above along with your application. If the required documents are not included, the university will be unable to process your application. Original documents in English, Danish, Swedish or Norwegian will be accepted. Original documents composed in any other language must be accompanied by certified copies of official translations into English. Translations of the documents into English must always be performed by a certified translator.
Important! The diplomas and transcripts enclosed must be officially certified copies. Certified copies require original stamps and signatures as proof of their authenticity (e.g. certified by the applicant’s school or university, an embassy or consulate).
Non-Danish applicants must submit the following:
- A certified copy of your passport
- A Danish permanent residence permit (if applicable)
Changes from 2016
If there are more academically qualified applicants than places available, each applicant will be assessed according to the following criteria:
- Academic background (counts 75%)
Based on the amount and quality of BA exams that are relevant to the MA-program.
- Other relevant experience (counts 25%)
Based on Curriculum Vitae and relevance description. See below for more details.
In addition to the general documentation requirements, you must upload the following documentation to your application:
1) Relevance Description
Relevance description is a brief description (1-2 pages) explaining:
- The academic relevance of your Bachelor’s degree programme to the Master’s degree programme
- Which courses from your Bachelor’s degree programme meet the academic requirements for admission to the Master's degree programme
- Your career plans
2) Curriculum Vitae
Curriculum Vitae (CV) detailing relevant parts of your education as well as work-related and other experience in chronological order.
You may also attach detailed documentation connected to your resume, such as recommendations, assessments, etc. However, this is not a requirement.
3) If your Bachelor’s degree is not from Aarhus University, you must upload the academic regulations or contents of your study programme or a link pointing to them.
In the following graphical presentation of the subject you can see the different modules and courses that, in addition, link to the course catalogue where you can read the course descriptions.
As a student it is important to know the regulations for the chosen supplementary subject: what is the content, how is it structured and what does it require from you.
You can find this information in the academic regulations. There is a regulation for both bachelor’s supplementary subject and master’s supplementary subject:
As a student of the programme, you spend every day at Nobel Park, which is located just off the main Aarhus University Park campus.
The timetable changes every second week meaning the amount of classroom lessons change every second week from four to six lessons. In addition, the degree program includes Master classes and research seminars. You must also be prepared to do a lot of independent study.
All subjects are taught in English, but Danish students can choose to be examined in Danish.
Since we admit candidates with BA degrees from Denmark and abroad with different backgrounds within the humanistic, social science and science traditions, there is a basis for interesting interdisciplinary discussions and different approaches to the subject.
The Centre for Semiotics has an extensive international network, and foreign researchers therefore often visit and contribute expert knowledge in the fields of cognitive psychology, philosophy, linguistics, aesthetics and more.
As the elective at Bachelor’s degree level and the Master’s degree programme in Cognitive Semiotics are small degree programmes, the study environment is very informal. The teaching staff are are open to suggestions and ideas from students and have confidence in their abilities, curiosity and interest in the subject.
A joint Christmas lunch is held every year for teachers and students.
Student-to-student is your opportunity to ask about being a student at the Faculty of Arts and about Aarhus and Denmark in general to another international student who has already taken the leap and now lives in Denmark and studies for his/her Master's degree at the Faculty of Arts.
You can read more about the student-to-student service and find the list of AU international student ambassadors at Arts here.
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Job functions for grads
This data is derived from AU's 2013/2014 employment survey. This data should not be considered a completely accurate representation of the labour market and job functions for all graduates of the individual degree programmes. It exclusively represent the responses submitted to the survey in the years in question.
Job and competence profile
As a cognitive semiotics graduate, you typically become employed in one of the following areas:
The communication and advertising industry: With solid knowledge about the ways people relate to meaning-forming structures in the surrounding world, it is an obvious choice to work with communication consultancy and design or within advertising and marketing.
Communication comes in many forms, so there are also examples of cognitive semiotics graduates working with the communication difficulties of the mentally handicapped.
Teaching: Cognitive semiotics graduates have also found employment as teachers at folk high schools or within the cognitive area.
Research: One out of seven cognitive semiotics graduates is currently pursuing a career in academic contexts around the world as a PhD student, research assistant or the like.
Linguistic awareness: The Cognitive Linguistics module aims at giving the students a high degree of linguistic awareness and answers to the questions: How do people perceive meaning in sentences and entire texts? How do we create this meaning?
Analytical expertise: By examining how humans perceive and use language, art, socializing, memory and motor functions, you will, through the link between theory and diverse objects of analysis, improve your analytical skills and abilities.
Interdiciplinarity: The programme is, in and of itself, interdisciplinary and the students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, both Danish and international. Therefore you will be trained in relating to the traditions of different subjects approach to cognition and semiotics in the discussions, and the collaboration with students who come from a different academic background.