February 11th, 2007
An illustration from Alfred Gell’s “The Language of the Forest,” reprinted in The Art of Anthropology.
“One can indeed imagine the Umeda world/landscape as a series of articulatory gestures, syllabic shapes moulded within the oral tract (microcosm) and the macrocosm consisting of the body, social relationships mediated through the body, and other natural forms, particularly trees, and the encompassing physical ambiance” (p242).
Click image to view larger, legible version.
“In the New Guinea forest habitat [dense, unbroken jungle]… hearing is relatively dominant (over vision) as the sensory modality for coding the environment as a whole… Umeda, and languages like Umeda, are phonologically iconic, because they evoke a reality which is itself ‘heard’ and imagined in the auditory code, whereas languages like English are non-iconic because they evoke a reality which is ‘seen’ and imagined in the visual code” (p247/8).
“Even vicarious participation in alterity is subversive of the conceptual restrictions which motivate our own sense of the real, and, by derivation, our conceptions of the poetic” (p257).