Ethnosemiotics: Approach to Tradition and Culture
Vilmos Voigt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The term „Ethnosemiotics” was coined independently by four scholars as early/late as 1971: A. J. Greimas, Y. S. Stepanov, M. Hoppál and V. Voigt. For Greimas it was directed to traditional culture, contrasted with „socio-semiotics” (focusing on modern signs). For Stepanov it was similar with the „ethnolinguistics”. Hoppál’s starting point was anthropology, communication models, and semiotics of culture. Voigt used for interpreting the “ethno”-sign systems the well known Peirce—Morris terminology.
In general he speaks of two kinds of approach: all kinds of semiotics used for describing folk culture – and all kinds of ethnological study which is focused on the use of signs and sign systems. Ethnosemiotics can follow various methodical paradigms and it is close to „social semiotics” or „semiotics of culture”.
For the 12th IASS Congress it is obvious that traditional culture of the Balkan peoples should deserve priority attention, stressing the correspondences between tradition and innovation. For practical purpose we might draw a difference between „internal” and „external” analysis of the signs: how people on the Balkan understands one’s own signs – or how „visitors” or „foreigners” just are frapped by the „signs of the Balkan”.
See: Imre Gráfik: Signs in Culture and Tradition (1998) -- Vilmos Voigt and Mihály Hoppál: Ethnosemiotics © Hungary (2003) – Vilmos Voigt: Etnoszemiotika (2013).
The results of ethnosemiotics speak for themselves. But one may ask: do we need today a “new” ethnosemiotics?
1. Mihály Hoppál (email@example.com)
Perspectives of Ethnosemiotics
According to the European perspective of ethnosemiotics, scholars have agreed that any cultural phenomena can be described in terms of codes and/or “languages” as sign systems, in the semiotic sense of the word. The main point is to see that culture is always a plurality and simultaneity of sign systems or of codes which contain information. Multicodality, i.e. the simultaneous use of more than one code, serves to transfer cultural messages. For instance, a folk song uses language and musical tone and may even be accompanied by gesture. This multicodality, one of the basic achievements of ethnosemiotics, ensures the reliability of the message-transfer but concurrently makes it far more difficult to analyse complex cultural phenomena. This means that when cultural phenomena use more than two codes simultaneously, multicodality can be observed and the codes should be separated from one another. Viewing cultural events as a “multichannel interaction” originated from the use of linguistic metaphors in the theory of semiotics. For instance, different-cultural texts, as complex socio-cultural phenomena, can be understood as products of different codes of culture, and ethnosemiotics has to deal with the mechanism which creates these texts. The unlimited processes of social reproduction of texts and their codes lead to the theoretical conclusion among European (ethno)semioticians that it might be said that the concept of code and coding is more important than the sign itself. Coding is synonymous to production in everyday life, and moreover to reproduction of social and cultural reality. The understanding of production/reproduction of signs as a peculiar social activity has a special attraction for students of culture; which means, according to the division of labour within humanities in East Europe, that the study of semiotic mechanisms of culture belong to the domain of ethnography and folklore. This is understandable since the “community’s signs” used by local peasant groups, for example, build up organic and well-structured systems of symbols.
Among Hungarian semioticians there is a group of people with anthropological backgrounds, which is due to the fact that, beginning with the 1968/1969 academic year, specialized lectures in semiotics have been organized by Vilmos Voigt at the Faculty of Philology at the Loránd Eötvös University and these, of course, included ethnographic issues. Students included linguists, students of literature and people from other faculties, but since the class was organised within the framework of the Institute of Folklore it was, of course, predominantly ethnographic in orientation. Through a joint work of studies for the most part ethnosemiotical and cultural semiotical research was prepared, and others, containing prominent studies were translated into Hungarian. This work is, at present, still under way. It should be pointed out that the LorándEötvösUniversity was the first in Europe to present regular lectures in ethnosemiotics. Today there are courses in semiotics in dozens of European universities, but only a few of these can be considered as ethnosemiotic.
2) HUBBES LÁSZLÓ ATTILA
Applied Social Sciences Department
Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania - Cluj
Faculty of Technical and Social Sciences, Miercurea Ciuc, Romania
„Semeistos” Research Group for Web-Semiotics and Online Communication
MTA-SZTE Research Group for the Study of Religious Culture, Szeged, Hungary firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW NATIONAL MYTHOLOGIES – A NETHNOGRAPHIC APPROACH
Ethno-Semiotic Considerations on the Re-paganization of Christian Symbolism
in Hungarian and Romanian Ethno-Pagan Social Media
Several contemporary Hungarian and Romanian new (quasi-)religious movements, while turning against the (various denominations of the) Christian Church, are actually using and reinterpreting many elements of Christian symbolism and iconography. They do so by rediscovering or inventing ancient, original or universal meanings; or by widening, restraining, distorting the connotations of given signs, words, images or figures of Christian tradition, and make them into Pagan symbols. While Christian symbols originate indeed in ancient Pagan mythical sign systems, in contemporary Central-Eastern/South-Eastern European Ethno-Pagan context, the process of re- paganization is inseparably linked with the ethnic aspect. Both the Hungarian and the Romanian Ethno-Pagans – and also a significant number of syncretistic Christian believers – turn to their own old ethnic folklore traditions and ancient national myths and legends in reinterpreting the Christian signs. Looking at various traditional Christian symbolic elements reused by the investigated Neopagan spiritualities, with their new national mythology backgrounds – this paper will analyse how those symbolic elements regain their forgotten original meanings or gain new connotations in comparative aspect.
Keywords: Hungarian/Romanian Ethno-Paganism, Christian/Neopagan symbols, semantic changes, re-paganization
3) Dzheni Madzharov, Department of Ethnology, Sofia University (email@example.com)
Semiotic Approach in Determining the Function and the Semantics of Ritual Gesture
Keywords: ritualized gesture, method, a system of dimensions of ritual gesture, physical form, environment, relationship between addresser and addressee, function, semantics (meaning), mechanism of tradition, ethnic character of culture
For decades, the research of gestures is mostly limited to documenting and studying their form and content. In each particular gesture the science is looking what logical or conditional relationship exists between the two. The gesture is seen only as the sum of form and meaning and is thought of as unchanging phenomenon in the body of every culture, not as a dynamic system of changing elements. The application of similar principles in the research doesn’t lead to successful results, because it is difficult and inaccurate to determine the role and the importance of a ritualized gesture, which is involved in any ritual, custom or celebration. The reason for this is that this type of research doesn’t take into account important factors, which in every particular use, impact on creating purpose (function) and meaning (semantics) of the studied gesture (movement). Currently the science doesn’t apply the appropriate means by which to allow comparison of function and semantics of two or more identical in shape gestures.
This report proposes a new approach to solving some of these problems. As the basis is used the principle that each human movement, laden with meaning, is a sign in semiotic sense of this name. The same holds key features that distinguish it from other similar gesture-sign. The establishment of these features and their analysis allows, at any particular use of a gesture, precise to determine its actual role and importance in the text of the relevant ritual, custom, holiday, culture. These basic characteristics, that are inherent to any ritualized gesture, form the so-called "system of dimensions of ritual gesture." The system includes the following five dimensions: physical form of gesture, environment, relationship between addresser and addressee, function and semantics. The paper examines the content and the scope of each of these dimensions. The provided scientific method allows after specifying the first three dimensions of the studied gesture to establish its current function and semantics for each particular use. The results make it possible to determine the exact purpose and importance of each researched ritualized action, which involves the studied gesture. The method allows the identification of already missing functions and semantics that this gesture has manifested in various historical stages of its existence. Through this approach the ethnology science may reveal the mechanism of transmission of tradition and the creation of ethnic character of each culture.
4) Charitomenie Svalingou,Maitre de conférence, Département du Journalisme et des Médias, Ecole des Sciences Economiques et Politiques, Université Aristote, Thessalonique, Grèce, (firstname.lastname@example.org , tel.: +30,2310,268785)
Nouvelle sémiotique, nouvelle mythologie du monde et du sujet: Tueur sans gages de Ionesco
On aborde ici le problème que pose la sémiotique actuelle à propos de l’ image du monde – et de l’ individu envers l’ image qu’il reçoit du monde – au sein d’ une dialectique entre le passé et le présent. Une nouvelle optique du monde sera étudiée ainsi, concernant le mythe de l’ homme en général, un mythe qui, loin d’ appartenir à un univers collectif (au sens où l’ entend Lévi-Strauss) devient, en même temps, individuel et social.
En d’ autres termes, le mythe personnel (moi) s’ articule dorénavant, suivant les réseaux interpersonnels (moi-toi) et sociaux (nous), touchant l’ effet de réflexivité au commerce des indentifications, le thème de l’ aliénation du sujet et aussi le thème du Miroir et de l’ irréférence à soi (J. Derrida). Du coup, on débouche sur le nouvel élément de l’ institution de l’ image (P. Legendre), en cherchant la source ou l’ origine dans le je comme une présence au monde, l’ image de soi ou du monde sous forme d’ un objet et, simultanément, d’un voyant de cet objet.
Les détails dans la description des lieux-réels ou psychiques que Bérenger parcourt dès le lever du rideau jusqu’ à la fin de la pièce (Tueur sans gages) – y compris le fait du mirage – donnent une image nette, tant de la prise de la conscience de l’ existence, que du climat métaphysique de la pièce.
Au fur et à mesure que Bérenger part de l’ étonnement dans la lumière de la “cité radieuse” pour pénétrer entièrement au cœur de cette cité où règne le mal, nous nous mettons en doute en ce qui concerne la réalité de cette “cité”. Alors le statut sémiologique du sujet Bérenger se fonde sur ce mouvement – parcours de cette cité (départ et arrivée), qui n’ est qu’ un refléchissement de sa propre vision du monde. La non-réalité de la cité radieuse nous renvoie, au bout de l’ acte, à l’ image fanée de cette cité et, en général, du monde entier.
On constate alors que cette image extérieure appartient à la sphère ontologique (sujet) qui transende le moi (ego), se dirigeant vers le surmoi (superego, société) et vice- versa, sans aboutir à une action claire, soulignant tout de même la transformation intérieure du sujet.
5) Anna Maria Bólya, University of Debrecen, PhD student in the program ethnography and anthropology; Hungarian Dance Academy, Assistant professor
Meanings of a Song in the Macedonian Tradition and Culture
The planned paper starts up from the topic of a paper given on the conference ”Water in Slavonic Phraseology and Paremiology” (ВОДА в славянской фразеологии и паремиологии) in Macedonian language.
The song “Лудо младо бразда прави” connected to the feast Epiphany-St John the baptist in Ketenovo village (region of Kratovo), but in Dlabochica (region of Kumanovo) connected to the feast of St Lazar’s day and in a third village: Gostirazhi (region of Prilep) it is connected to the feast of St George day.
This song belongs to a characteristic song-group of Macedonian heritage, which is sung for the different members of the family. This kind of songs, how this exemple shows us, can “migrate” between regions and feasts. Our song – which is sung to the young man, standing before marriage – tells a story about a boy, who makes a furrow, from what he gets water, and from the water he founds a girl. It is seen, that the text has old roots, as a good example of the Macedonian old style ritual singing. The three variations of the song are in different dialects, with specific frazemes.
The three variations of the song connected to the well-beeing of family but different ways. The first song is sung on the feast of St John the baptist (20th January). This feast is connected to the custom “brother-in laws of Saint John”. In western Macedonia all inhabitants of the villages comes home to celebrate. So this feast is consecrated to the keeping the relative-system of the families.
The second song is sung by lazarkas (lazar-girls) whose songs and movements or dances (oro) aims the well-being of the family. Here the song has leading role in reaching the magical aim. The St Lazar’s day (the Saturday before Palm-Sunday), with its all customs, is consecrated to the family.
The third song is sung on St George day (6 May), when the young man is on the ritual swing. The ritual swinging of this day aims the fertility.
The three songs, “migrating between regions and feasts” keeping the magic content, and the close connection with the well-being of the family.
How this magic meaning can connect to the well-beeing of the family, and how can it be connected to the today’s feast of St John’s day, St Lazar’s day and St George’s day? What does mean the ritual movements of lazarkas and the ritual swinging for the customs of today?
Connected to this congress, the traditional culture of the Balkan people deserves priority attention, and it’s available to the Macedonian heritage. With this, the last question is: what does the Macedonian heritage mean for a Hungarian researcher, researching oro-heritage and ritual-singing heritage. How can interpret different roots, signs with thinking of the Carpathian basin? How a Hungarian eye can see the innovations in the tradition, on the Macedonian folk-territory?
6) Éva Deák Ph.D., research fellow at the Institute of Ethnology, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest
Semiotics of dress in early modern Transylvanian costume books
Clothing discloses information about its wearer at a glance. Clothing systems embody an entire series of status signals. The quality of the textiles and other materials, colors, the richness of ornamentation and jewelry, the diversity of accessories provide information on the wearer.
Costume books became popular in Europe during the early modern period. They depicted attires from all over the known world or focused on a particular region. The pictures were accompanied by shorter or longer commentaries. The paper examines hand painted costume books from the seventeenth and eighteenth century Transylvania. These codices give a pictorial overview of early modern Transylvanian society while depicting a series of full size standing figures. Short captions are written below the figures. The captions give information relating to gender, social status or occupation, regional identity, religion, age, occasion of the wearing of the attire or weather.
The appearance of the figures is supposed to express the above characteristics. Attributes help to emphasize certain aspects of the figures, mainly occupation or rank. Artisans carry a tool representative of their profession; peasant women or servant girls carry a hand basket, vegetables, earthenware, distaff and spindle. Young burghers, lords and ladies often hold a flower, fan or staff in their hands. Rulers were depicted with their insignia. The figure’s posture or gesture contributed to the same purpose. The most important distinctive feature, however, is always the clothing in which the figures are attired.
Using the methodology of Roland Barthes' The Fashion System as a starting point, the paper studies the connection between the depicted clothes and the written text. When it is possible remaining articles of clothing are also taken into account.