es0.htmlTEXTMSWD!tLtEPrinciples of Ethnosemantics -- Preface

Principles of Ethnosemantics (ES)

Leon James Department of Psychology University of Hawaii 1975


The notion of Culture encompasses the notions of Social Reality and Individual Actuality. In turn, "social reality" implies Group Membership, Enculturation, Social Consensue, Standard Reality. Similarly, "individual actuality" implies Standardized Imaginings, Reifications, Biographical Record, Person.

Each of these notions, themselves implicate a whole series of further Topic notions, which in turn lead one to still others. An Ethnosemantic Topic Glossary is a specification of these interrelationships. Therefore, ethnosemantic glossaries characterize a cultural group by cataloguing the standardized practices (dealings) of its members. I use the term register to refer to the ambiant social system that explicates the dealings of members of an ethnic group.

Sanctioned cataloguing practices in the contemporary North American Register include a variety of activities of which the most commonly known are the following:

dictionaries: lists the words in a language exhaustively; alphabetical organization of entries; annotated by definitions and other information (historical, morphological, syntactic, contextual).

encyclopaedias: arranges the sum total of "knowledge" in a group into fragmentary topic domains that overlap and interlock; lists selectively the historically accumulated disciplinary curricula, themes, expressions, interpretations and accounts; alphabetical arrangement of selected topic domains.

indices: specifies a coding system for the systematic ryctrieval of entries in a set; the coding system is keyed to a specified algorithmic operation (e.g. alphabetization, pagination, numbering sections, etc.); since the coding system is a continuous one-to-one-transformation, no increase in organizational structure is achieved, though retrieval of information is facilitated.

almanacs: list factual documentation on a standard set of topics.

bibliographies: the cataloguing of published works; arrangements vary and include alphabetical listings by author, title of work, and standardized topic domains.

thesaurus: a classification of dictionary entries of a language using some rational scheme; Roget's "Thesaurus" is a classification system of 1,000 topic domains; the listings overlap and the categories are open rather than exhaustive.

registers: itemize exhaustively the relevant topic labels within an institutional cluster (e.g. telephone books (White and Yellow Pages), Menus, Address Files, Table of Contents, Lists, Maps, Directories, Schedules, Forms, Tables, Figures, Charts, Signals, Codes, Want Ads, Programs, Time Tables, Inventories, Identity Series and Progessions

ethnosemantic topic glossaries: the compilation of cultural taxonomies that exhaustively catalogue the dealings of members in a particular ethnic configuration.

This First Edition of the Ethnosemantic Topic Glossary of the North American Register presents my solutions to the problems engendered by the attempt to catalogue cultural behavior. I hope that these solutions will be found useful by others who find analytic explorations coterminous with understanding and adequacy. The clarifying function of ethnosemantic topic glossariesries justify their principal motivation, value, and use.

General and spcciaglized applications of the Glossary are illustrated. These include:

Ethnosemantic Probes: the intensive analysis of a topic domain and a description of its structural parameters;

Relationship Probes: the investigative exploration of on-going interpersonal relationships,

The Geometry of Understanding: the explication of the mathematical correspondences between ethnosemantic and geometric systems.

The Game of Raising Awareness: a practical manual for acquiring the Radicalist Register--- the register of understanding and adequacy. (Ethnosemantic Glossaries are written in the Radicalist Register.)

The Scientific Bible: a practical eschatological foundation for assimilating organized knowledge; an interdisciplinary unification of Cultural Knowledge, hence the organizaing rationale for Ethnosemantic Encyclopaedias.

In the years of intensive effort that preceded the presentation of this work, I have evolved a perspective on the self's participatory involvement in the cultural enviroment that has proven to be radically liberating. This experience, more than anything else, motivates me to this effort in presentation. My work has led me to the formulation of an understanding of cultural behavior that recognizes the modulations of individual seeking and suffering as actualized reifications of culturally standardized ritual possibilities. Thus, individual enlightment, adequacy, liberation, sophistication, are contingent possibilities that are cultural invariants. In other words) I recognize as inauthentic, exploitative, and victimizing to the individual those progressivist political ideologies that preach inherent limitations upon individuals with particular cultural histories.

Contents of Series

(Summer 1977)


SERIES 1. Personal Variation

Volume One: Cumulative Record of the Daily Schedule

Volume Two: The Categories of Autob io graphy

SERIES 2. Community Character

Volume One: The Cross-cultural Study of Community Information

SERIES 3. Standardization Patterns

Volume . One: The Functional Analysis of the Verbal Community

SERIES 4. Methodology

Volume One: Principles of Ethnosemantics

SERIES 5. Interpretation

Volume One: Philosophical Foundations of Radicalism

SERIES 6. Teaching

Volume One: Principles of Performative Teaching

Available Chapters:

Volume 1.

Ch. 1: Ethnopractice: Microdescriptions of the Daily Round as Laboratory

Ch. 2: Textbook Social Psychology: Objectifying the Experimental Literature on Subjects

Ch. 3: Radicalist Social Psychology: The Secret Code

Volume 2.

Ch. 1: Objective Autobiography: Sudden Memory as the Integrating Mechanism on the Daily Round

Ch. 2: Historical Autobiography: On the reconstruction of Biographical Record

Volume 3.

Ch. 1: The Social Psychology of Language Teaching

Ch. 2: Language Teaching vs. Teaching Talk

Ch. 3: Transactional Engineering for the Language Teacher

Ch. 4: The Third Force in Language Teaching

Volume 4.

Ch. 1: Notes on Community Psycholinguistics

Ch. 2: The Structure and Function of Transactional Idioms

Ch. 3: The Empirical Investigation of Conversation

Ch.4: The Act of Composition: Preliminaries to the Study of Style

Ch. 5: Discourse Thinking

Volume 5.

Ch. 1: Intorductory Notes on Ethnosemantics

Ch. 2: Notes on ESNOSYS: Ethnosemantic Notation System

Ch. 3: Notes on Display Repertoire

Ch. 4 : Notes on ES-PROBE Technique

Ch. 5: Notes on Topic Focus

Ch. 6: The Color Coding System for the Investigation of Hexagrammatic Morphology

Volume 6.

Ch. 1: Notes on the Psychology of Knowledge

Ch. 2: Empirical Metaphysics

Ch. 3: Radicalism in.Psychology

Ch. 4: Notes on the Language and Register of Psychotherapy

Ch. 5: The Ritual Frame of Hypnosis

To Chapter 1: ESNOSYS: Ethnosemantic Notations System

To Table of Contents: Volume One

See two related works for more background:

Psycholinguistics and Ethnomethodology || Ethnomethodology and Information Behavior

Leon James Home Page