276limits_of_linguistic_awareness

276limits_of_linguistic_awareness - THE SEMIOTICS OF...

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THE SEMIOTICS OF LINGUISTIC SIGNS AND THE LIMITS OF LINGUISTIC AWARENESS
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The semiotics of linguistic signs How can the "habitual ways of speaking" shape our understanding of the world? Recall that Boas thought that language was a very good site for the study of the “fundamental ethnic ideas” because the structures of language were insulated from consciousness and “secondary interpretation”. Whorf argued that such patterns, especially when ‘covert’ and operating below the level of consciousness, can shape ‘habitual thought and behavior.’
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The Semiotics of Linguistic Signs Whorf himself went beyond how individual words, or even sets of words (like kin terms or biological taxonomic labels), organize the world. In his famous discussion contrasting the time expressions of Standard Average European and Hopi, he looked at covert properties of words that could be recovered only by examining how they behaved syntactically. But scholars exploring Whorf’s ideas still tend to focus on the most obvious ways words organize the world, their function as ‘labels’. But the words of language do more than simply label. What other functions might they have? Michael Silverstein is probably the most important student of this problem in anthropology today; we are reading his essay “The limits of awareness.” He explores Whorf’s idea of “objectification” – how does this process take place? In “The limits of awareness” he is exploring Whorf’s ideas about ‘covertness’. He is also drawing on a very important influence, C.S. Peirce.
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Charles Sanders Peirce (pronounced “purse”) (1839-1914)
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Benjamin Whorf (1897-1941)
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Michael Silverstein
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The Semiotics of Linguistic Signs C. S. Peirce was most interested in the foundations of scientific knowledge, but his theory of semiotics has been very important for the study of language. “Semiotics”: The study of signs – things that stand for other things --, their nature and function. Peirce called the production of meaning “ semiosis ”: "action, or influence, which is, or involves, a cooperation of three subjects, such as a sign, its object, and its interpretant, this tri-relative influence not being in any way resolvable into actions between pairs". So for Peirce, a sign has three inseparable parts: 1) The sign itself 2) The object for which the sign stands 3) The interpretant, which takes the sign for a sign (this is not the person who understands – it is the person’s perception of the sign)
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The Semiotics of Linguistic Signs Peirce recognized three different ways that signs could stand for their objects. All signs can have all of these grounds, but in the examples one type of ground is more obvious or dominant. In such cases the sign is often called an ‘index,’ an ‘icon’, a ‘symbol’, but this is informal labelling only. 1) INDEXICALITY: signs are grounded in relation to their objects by
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276limits_of_linguistic_awareness - THE SEMIOTICS OF...

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