Semiotics (also called semiotic studies) is the systematic study of sign processes (semiosis) and meaning making. Semiosis is any activity, conduct, or process that involves signs, where a sign is defined as anything that communicates something, usually called a meaning, to the sign's interpreter. The meaning can be intentional such as a word uttered with a specific meaning, or unintentional, such as a symptom being a sign of a particular medical condition. Signs can also communicate feelings (which are usually not considered meanings) and may communicate internally (through thought itself) or through any of the senses: visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or gustatory (taste). Contemporary semiotics is a branch of science that studies meaning-making and various types of knowledge.
The semiotic tradition explores the study of signs and symbols as a significant part of communications. Unlike linguistics, semiotics also studies non-linguistic sign systems. Semiotics includes the study of signs and sign processes, indication, designation, likeness, analogy, allegory, metonymy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication.
Semiotics is frequently seen as having important anthropological and sociological dimensions; for example the Italian semiotician and novelist Umberto Eco proposed that every cultural phenomenon may be studied as communication. Some semioticians focus on the logical dimensions of the science, however. They examine areas also belonging to the life sciences—such as how organisms make predictions about, and adapt to, their semiotic niche in the world (see semiosis). Fundamental semiotic theories take signs or sign systems as their object of study; applied semiotics analyzes cultures and cultural artifacts according to the ways they construct meaning through their being signs. The communication of information in living organisms is covered in biosemiotics (including zoosemiotics and phytosemiotics).