The maritime foundations of Andean civilization by Michael Edward Moseley

By Michael Edward Moseley

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Buchli (1995:183) raised a series of questions – does it refer to a semiotic system (Saussure), a structuralist system (Lévi-Strauss), a hermeneutic system (Gadamer and Ricoeur), or something else? Is text best conceived as a metaphor or an analogy? Criado (1995) critiqued the text metaphor in favor of a visual one characterized by strategies to inhibit, hide, exhibit, and monumentalize. Parker Pearson (1995) discussed the durability of material culture compared to text and the risks in fetishizing material objects and inappropriately attributing meaning to them.

He gives an example contrasting the French and English words for sheep: Modern French mouton can have the same signification as English sheep but not the same value, and this is for several reasons, particularly because in speaking of a piece of meat ready to be served on the table, English uses mutton and not sheep. The difference in value between sheep and mouton is due to the fact that sheep has beside it a second term while the French word does not (Saussure 1966:115). The value of a word is determined not only by its meaning, but also by its contrast with other words as elements within a system.

Saussure decided to pursue the study of Indo-European languages and transferred to the University of Leipzig in 1876. 1 Ferdinand de Saussure, photograph by F. H. Jullien, 1909 (courtesy of akg-images). At this time, the Leipzig program, under the direction of Georg Curtius, was the leading program in comparative linguistics. Curtius and his students were known as the “neogrammarians” because of their vigorous commitment to a uniformitarian approach and their focus on understanding language change using modern data to explain the past.

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