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Theses on the semiotic study of cultures


PealkiriTheses on the semiotic study of cultures / University of Tartu, Department of Semiotics ; [translated by Silvi Salupere ; edited by Ülle Pärli] = Kultuurisemiootika teesid / Tartu Ülikool, semiootika osakond = Тезисы к семиотическому изучению культур
IlmunudTartu : University of Tartu, 1998 [2.tr]
Linkhttp://tartu.ester.ee/record=b1048143~S1*est
ViideUspenskij, B. A., V. V. Ivanov, V. N. Toporov, A. M. Pjatigorskij, Ju. M. Lotman 1998 [1973]. Theses on the Semiotic Study of Cultures (As Applied to Slavic Texts). In: Ülle Pärli (Ed.) Theses on the semiotic study of cultures. Translated by Silvi Salupere. Tartu: University of Tartu, 33-60.

[1.0.0.] In the study of culture the initial premise is that all human activity concerned with the processing, exchange, and storage of information possesses a certain unity. Individual sign systems, though they presuppose immanently organized structures, function only in unity, supported by one another. None of the sign systems possesses a mechanism which would enable it to function culturally in isolation. (Uspenskij et al. 1998: 33)
This is essentially the premise of the semiospheric model. At the moment it brings to mind Benveniste's contention that we cannot "go back and see" a man without language. In a similar manner we cannot constue whatever type of sign system without all the others.
[1.1.1] From this [inclusion-exlusion] point of view the definition of culture as the sphere of organization (information) in human society and the opposition to it of disorganization (entropy) is one of the many definitions given "from within" the object being described, which is further evidence of the fact that science (in this case, information theory) in the twentieth century is not only a metasystem but is also part of the object describe, "modern culture". (Uspenskij et al. 1998: 34)
The translator has done a poor job in transforming the russian syntax into a comprehendible english one. As I understand it, there is opposition between organization (we) and disorganization (they), but this is a slanted view, as we are seeing this from "the inside" of culture.
[3.1.0.] The concept "text" is used in a specifically semiotic sense and, on the one hand, is applied bot only to messages in a natural language but also to any carrier of integral ("textual") meaning - to a ceremony, a work of the fine arts, or a piece of music. On the other hand, not every message in a natural language is a text from the point of view of culture. Out of the entire totality of messages in a natural language, culture distinguishes and takes into account only those which may be defined as a certain speech genre, for example, "prayer", "law", "novel", and others, that is to say, those which possess a certain integral meaning and fulfill a common function. (Uspenskij et al. 1998: 38)
This question has puzzled me for a long time. If any semiotic phenomena which is integral (whole - complete - entire - total - full) and functional (having a special activity, purpose, or task) then it almost seems that everyday behaviour can be viewed as text as long as it can be properly segmented and it's function clearly derived. E.g. situations with paradigmatic rules (such as rituals, ceremonies, regular occurrences, etc.).

[See the 2013 re-issue of the "Theses"]

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