Anthropology January 27 , 2011.
Signifying Reality: Communication and Construction
*Memorize words in GREEN*
Signifying – making sense, making signs
Franz Boas 1858-1942
• With Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) family.
• Vancouver Island, 1894
• Each culture is a complex of language, culture, and physical type, and none is
inferior to any other
• A higher culture
• An extreme idea – each culture has its own values, which may be diff from other
culture and if you belong to one culture you should not judge another
• “There are no universal standards of progress (or of mortality)”
• “Universal is really Western” – e.g. democracy begun in Western nations
• Can this be used to deny what is taken as human rights in the West, to others?
Why linguistics and semiotics in anthropology?
• Anthropology – study of what it means to be human
• Why language?
• Why semiotics? (What is semiotics?)
Homo sapiens – “human that knows”
• Knowing – making sense (reflecting, representing)
• Language: a way to make sense
• Language means to make sense = to signify
• Study of language: linguistics
• Study of signs (signifying): semiotics
• Linguistics is part of semiotics
• Classic (“structuralist”) communication model:
• Speaker (sender), channel, hearer (receiver)
• Encoding and decoding
• Assumes that there is an uncoded message independent of language
• This is probably not true
A Classic (“Saussurean”) View of Signification
• Ferdinand de Saussure. 1857-1913
• “Signifier” and “signified”
www.notesolution.com Anthropology January 27 , 2011.
• Signifier + signified = sign
Symbol, Icon, Index
• Symbol: arbitrary relation to signified (“referent”)
- Connected only via the system of signification (e.g. language)
• Arbitrary is opposite of “motivated”
• Motivated: e.g. a picture
Icon and Index
• Icons share some of