Semiotics (also called semiotic studies) is the study of sign process (semiosis), which is any form of activity, conduct, or any process that involves signs, including the production of meaning. A sign is anything that communicates a meaning, that is not the sign itself, to the interpreter of the sign. 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 communicate through any of the senses, visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or gustatory.
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 belonging also to the life sciences—such as how organisms make predictions about, and adapt to, their semiotic niche in the world (see semiosis). In general, semiotic theories take signs or sign systems as their object of study: the communication of information in living organisms is covered in biosemiotics (including zoosemiotics and phytosemiotics).
Semiotics is not to be confused with the Saussurean tradition called semiology, which is a subset of semiotics.