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Signifying Reality - Communication and Construction

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University of Toronto St. George
Christopher Watts

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 Cultural Relativism • 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 Communication • 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” 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
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