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Return to Book Page. Ronald Schleifer Introduction. Daniele McDowell Translation. Alan Velie Translation. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions 6. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Structural Semantics , please sign up.
See 1 question about Structural Semantics…. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Feb 11, Robert Beveridge rated it liked it Shelves: finished , owned-and-still-own.
Think about the idea known to us as object-oriented programming; instead of rewriting everything from scratch over and over again, as we used to do, instead you have small blocks of code that can be used for many different procedures, thus decreasing the amount of work for the programmer and the amount of hard-drive space that the user needs.
Simple and elegant. Makes sense, huh? It's actually an idea as old as language. While Oriental wri Think about the idea known to us as object-oriented programming; instead of rewriting everything from scratch over and over again, as we used to do, instead you have small blocks of code that can be used for many different procedures, thus decreasing the amount of work for the programmer and the amount of hard-drive space that the user needs.
While Oriental writing shows this most clearly, in that a relatively small number of syllabic characters are written in various ways to make larger words, it's easily understood in any language when looked at the right way.
This is the basis behind A. However, he extends the argument not only to language, but to thought as well, and gives the reader a new way to think about the critical analysis of what he reads. Greimas' theory is that humans have a specific and limited number of possible ideas that can be used in various, still limited but much closer to infinite, ways to create sentences, and from there to create stories.
Much of the book is spent developing and defending this theory, and only the last two chapters devoted, respectively, to analysis of the body of Russian folktales and the body of work by French author Bernanos show how to put the theory into practice.
Given this, it should be evident to the reader that this is going to be a tough book to tackle even for experienced literary critics. It doesn't help that Greimas spends much of his time in the stratosphere, and assumes we're spending all that time with him; he drops references without backing them up constantly the translators of the University of Nebraska Press edition identified and tracked down well over a hundred of these, and endnotes are included , and his language is so far into the abstract that if you attempt to take up this book without a pad and pen, you'll be lost early on.
This all changes, thankfully, as practical application makes itself known. Once we get down to actually applying everything from the book to the symbolism in a given author, it all starts to make sense. One wonders why the beginning part couldn't have been explained in an easier, more concise manner; perhaps Greimas, so involved in the world of literary theory, didn't know how any more.
A fascinating read, albeit a long one; while I found it tremendously enlightening, I have to penalize it heavily for being so obtuse most of the time. View 2 comments. Mar 11, Tiwigt rated it it was amazing Shelves: literary-theory , personal-landmark. This book establishes the basis of a theory of linguistic semantics. The author is very clear with the scope of such a theory: analyzing some aspects of meaning at the level of language as a socio-cultural phenomenon, and not as psychological phenomenon like in cognitive semantics nor as a metaphysical relationship between the constituents of signs like in Pierce's theory.
In fact, his focus is on classemes , that is, units of meaning that relate other semantic units together into hierarchies This book establishes the basis of a theory of linguistic semantics. In fact, his focus is on classemes , that is, units of meaning that relate other semantic units together into hierarchies of categories.
This allows his method of analyzing meaning to proceed partly from intuition, by relying on the analyst's knowledge of a language and its cultural background. From that, a structural analysis of a sentence or a text will be the creation of a meta-linguistic model; said model is what is called a structure.
This definition of structure is very interesting, as it is a pain point in structuralism to know just what structures are and where they are. Greimas is also very concerned with adding a dynamic aspect to structures, and since they're merely models, it feels almost completely natural to do so. He starts by extracting a very general model of how stories work, called the actantial model , and uses it, in combination with his method, to re-read Propp's theory of folktales and simplify it down to the expression of a broken contract between the hero and other actors, that is repaired or remade anew by the actions of the hero to summarize very roughly.
To mend together the level of structures and the level of actual words in a sentence, he defines a concept with lasting influence, that of isotopy , that is, the repetition of classemes throughout a text. This is an incredibly powerful concept that gives consistency to and allows precise analysis of how we feel a text is about something and has one or more themes. With this tool, even obscure symbolism can become crystal clear.
Most of the book, if written in a highly abstract and concise style, is actually very didactic and careful. There's a jump in difficulty at that point, and it would have been great if the author had made a much more pedestrian chapter analyzing very closely a short story so that the reader could see how to use the introduced concepts for a full analysis, or even give exercises to the reader like in math textbooks. Overall, this book is incredible: the tools it gives to its reader are absurdly powerful, especially the analysis of words as classemes organized around a semiotic kernel, the concept of isotopy, the actantial model, and the transformational model extracted from folktales.
I've been using them successfully and without too much effort or rather, I didn't notice those efforts due to the curiosity and excitement to try them out in the other books I have been reading, and it's made me a much better reader — some texts I appreciate far less due to how ridiculously predictable they become if you apply even basic structural analysis I've been able to predict almost all of the content of several books only one fourth in , others far more despite their flaws due to how well built their semantic universes are, which I used not to notice this easily.
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Greimas, Algirdas Julien
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Structural semantics : an attempt at a method
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