Linguistics Lec 2 January 26 2012.rtf

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ANT100 Linguistics Lecture 2: January 26, 2012
Signify Reality: How Signs Construct the World
Language, Culture, Prejudice
Nature vs. Nurture?
The fact that human beings depend so much on nurture
makes us adapt better in an evolutionary
Human universals and divisions
Prejudice: racism, ethnocentrism
Anthropology and imperialism: history
(not done: anthropology and ethnocentrism, cultural
Signifying Reality: How Signs Construct the World
Signification: making sense, making signs
how we make sense of things- by signs
Linguistic and non-linguistic signs
The nature of signs
signifier (the sign) and signified (the command that you
should stop)
Ex: "Cat"- signifier: the idea of "cat-ness" signified: the
word "cat"
symbol, icon, index
denotation and connotation
How signs "construct" reality
How we construct ourself-
Homo sapiens- "human that knows"
Knowing: making sense (reflecting, representing)-
somehow we have to be able re present
To make sense = to signify (sign-ify)
To use signs
The study of signs (signifying): semiotics
Study of language: linguistics
Anthropological semiotics
Linguistics is part of semiotics
Words are also signs, language is a sign system
Semiotics is the study of:
language (linguistics)
other signs (semiotics proper)
A Classic "Saussurean" View of Signification
We have an argument which side is better
Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)
Swiss scholar
His students wrote down a book called "General Course in
"signifier" and "signified"
The yellow "winding road sign:
"signifier" (the physical object): yellow sign with arrow -
"signified" (the concept/idea):
winding road ahead
In ordinary language, the "signifier" is called a sign. But in
semiotics, the SIGN = SIGNIFIER +
Three kinds of signs (combinations of signifier and
Icons share some of their physical form (shape, sound,
etc.) with the referent
Ex: Moose sign- represents moose
Indexes do not share any of their form with the referent
Ex: Poison skull sign- there is no "skull", it indicates poison
Ex: "moose poo"- you know there is a moose!
… they don't sound/look "the same" as the referent
…yet they "indicate" what they refer to
Symbol: arbitrary
Suspicious of historical explanations of signs-
Symbols have arbitrary relation to signified ("referent")
Connected ONLY via the system of signification (ex:
Arbitrary is opposite of "motivated"
Motivated: icons and indexes
Most words are arbitrary (symbols)
Happy (why should this not mean sad? Why does it mean
But some words are not symbols: moo, oink, splash,
(onomatopoeia)- in their form have a meaning to what
they signify
Onomatopoeia are ICONS of the sound but INDEX of the
There's something in the word "splash" that signifies?
Ex: (from online book)
Telephone picture: icon- represents telephone by showing
you the form of the
An icon of the concept of telephone
Airplane picture: icon for "airplane" index for "airport"
(moon-star sign for Islam)- SYMBOL ("Islam")- in its form it
The yin-yang symbol for Taoism is an INDEX (because it
represents the dark and
light of Taoism)
windows computer icon, INDEXICAL "MS Windows"
We've learned how to use signs- signs can be words,
photographs, anything that signifies
is a sign