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DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


A method of inquiry which proceeds from the premise that cultural activity can be approached and analyzed objectively as a science. Structuralists attempt to discern the elements in their area of specialization which correspond to a unitary organization. Once these elements are found, they are located in a web-like relationship to one another. The relationships constitute the overall structure which is assumed to be ultimately at the root of the cultural phenomenon under discussion. Once this structure is discovered in the rigor of its composition, all activity in the field can be explained in its terms. Structuralism is usually considered to have begun with the linguistics of Ferdinand de S aussure , although it was the Russian structural linguist Roman J akobson who gave the movement its name. Saussure called for a science of signification, S emiotics , of which linguistics was to be the privileged example. For Saussure, all linguistic practice (including nonverbal) could theoretically be analyzed in terms of a deeper structure rooted ultimately in the biology of the human mind. He found that meaning is structured as a relation of difference between elements, that a word has its meaning not because of what it refers to, but because it does not mean the same as other words. The linguistic S ign is structured as a relation between the signified (the referent) and the signifier ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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