The Origins Of Structural Anthropology

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Ari Lotter
Ms. Kasurak
26 September 2015
Claude Levi Strauss

Structural analysis, at its core, is an attempt to comprehend things beyond the system of human understanding. It’s meant to be an objective, purely scientific approach untarnished by human cultural and social systems. Claude Lévi-Strauss saw this pure science being applied in linguistics, among the social sciences, and applied its objective principles and methods to anthropology. Structural linguistics is a method of analyzing languages, broken down into signs, both syntactically and lexically. Signs, in a structural context, are associations between concepts and means of expressing those concepts. Comparing opposed syntagma and signs in this exploded arrangement permits understanding of linguistic associations (syntax, etc.). By examining the paradigmatic relations between signs, and diachronic syntagmatic configurations (something Lévi-Strauss applied heavily in his theories about structural mythology), a basic objective understanding of the langue in question can be gleaned from examples of its verbiage.
Ferdinand de Saussure, the linguist who explained language as a structure of signs, developed his ideal method of a purely analytical science of linguistics in part because he was aware of the impossibility of understanding exactly how the human mind creates and understands language. By approaching language from a structuralist point of view, he was attempting to

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