2-1-08 ANTH 002 Lecture Notes

2-1-08 ANTH 002 Lecture Notes - Mark Wayne ANTH 002 Lecture...

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Mark Wayne ANTH 002 Lecture Notes – 2/1/08 Sign Signifier + Signified De Saussure Jakobsen Levi-Strauss The signifier is the sound or image, and the signified is the thing that we think of when we see that image. Saussure said, “what is it in this sound, horse, that makes us think of a horse”? Is there anything that is natural? He said no, it is completely arbitrary, and we only know this because there is a community of speakers that say that the sound image is related to the sound concept. Obviously there are some words that we believe have some natural connection, such as onomatopoetic words. The relationship from a sound to anything in the world is arbitrary. How can you build a meaningful system of communication based on arbitrary sounds and images? He said that there are linguistic structures, rules, and grammar that organize signs into intelligible systems – coherent systems. The essential meaning of a language does not emerge from any necessary relationship between the signifier and the signified, but an arbitrary relationship between signs. We know one sound has a meaning because it is different from another sound that has a meaning. Language is a system of interrelated parts – a group. The word phoneme is important because it is the smallest meaningful unit of sound. “Th” is a phoneme because it is a meaningful unit of sound as [D@] as upposed to [T@]. In English we have the aspirated and unaspirated T, but they are not phonemic. Language functions because it has differences between families – it is the relationship between elements of language that become the subject of focus in linguistics. There is no intrinsic quality of the sound “horse” that leads us to think of this image. According to Saussure, language is a system of differences, and a later linguistic – Roman Jakobsen – expanded on this to say that language is not just a system of differences, but a system of pairs of opposites – that is, the differences are binary. A language consists of binary opposition. Levi-Strauss, however, says that culture is much like a language, in that it is a system of differences. It is not so much about the elements but the relationship between them. Strauss was looking at mental things, classifications. There was a distinction between “white food”, “black food”, how things were classified. It was all in terms of categories and classifications, according to Levi-Strauss. The color spectrum is a continuum.
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course ANTH 002 taught by Professor Grinker during the Spring '08 term at GWU.

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2-1-08 ANTH 002 Lecture Notes - Mark Wayne ANTH 002 Lecture...

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