Re: Levi-Strauss and Chomsky

ray scupin (scupin@LINDENWOOD.EDU)
Wed, 13 Dec 1995 11:44:42 -0600

via _The Savage Mind_ and _Structural Anthropology_ and suggests that the
French master is going in the right direction. However, Chomsky
criticizes Levi-Strauss in his reliance on structural linguistics as a
model for understanding kinship systems, political ideology, mythology,
ritual, art, etc. Chomsky says the structure of the phonological system
is very little interest as a formal object.....and that the significance
of the structuralist phonology, as developed by Jakobson, and others,
lies not in the formal properties of phonemic systems but in the fact
that a fairly small number of features that can be specified in
'absolute', language-independent terms appear to provide the basis for
the organization of all phonological systems. [In other words, in
Chomsky's terms the "deep structure.] He goes on to say that structural
patterns that arise in at various stages of derivation are a kind of
epiphenomenon. (I read Levi-Strauss as agreeing with this notion).
Chomsky goes on to say that the mathematical investigations of
Levi Strauss of language structure can only become meaningful when one
considers systems of rules with infinite generative capacity. Thus, one
cannot expect structuralist phonology, in itself, to provide a useful
model for investigation of other cultural and social systems.

In my reading of this, Chomsky (as of 1968) believes that Levi
Strauss is heading in the right direction, but that concentrating on
phonology does not go 'deep' enough to understand 'universal grammar.'


Ray Scupin

Raymond Scupin
Sociology/Anthropology Dept.
Lindenwood College
209 S. Kingshighway
St. Charles, MO 63301
314-949-4730 (Office)
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Not chaos-like, together crushed and bruised,
But, as the world harmoniously confused:
Where order in variety we see,
And where, though all things differ, all agree

Alexander Pope

On Wed, 13 Dec 1995, David M. Smith wrote:

> I think your correct. I also recall reading somewhere that Chomsky did
> not find the work of L-S relevant to his own. In fact, if I recall
> correctly, he didn't find L-S very relevant to anything.
> On Sat, 9 Dec 1995, Matthew S. Tomaso wrote:
> > If I'm not wildly incorrect, Levi-Strauss may have been expounding Chomskian
> > ideas about what L-S calls deep structure before Chomsky entered high
> > school. Asdiwhal anyone? Maybe _The Savage Mind_?
> > Saussure is the clearest derivation of L-S' version of structuralism I can
> > find. And in _Structural Anthropology_ if I remember correctly, L-S says
> > quite plainly that hisversion of anthropology IS structural linguistics
> > applied to teh analysis of meaning. Any reason to distrust him?
> > peace
> > Matt
> >
> > Matt Tomaso.
> > Anthropology. University of Texas at Austin.
> > Phone/Fax 512-453-6256
> >