We create and extract meaning from the world around us by engaging with it in our day-to-day lives. But ultimately, to articulate what something means to us we need language. Language isn’t just essential to our ability to articulate ideas and interpretations of the world to others, it is also a necessity for us to be able to articulate these ideas to ourselves (in our minds). Which is why structural anthropology is so powerful. It says –

To understand the structure of the human mind in a context, one must understand the natural structure of language in that very context.

I find structuralism fascinating because it truly transforms our ability to decode the meanings behind ideas and trends in culture. I also find it intriguing from a philosophical standpoint. Because the philosophy of structural anthropology argues that because language is so essential in our ability to understand ourselves, if we cannot use language to describe something (even if indirectly) then that thing doesn’t really exist. 

Of course, this does have practical application in insight. If the language around a trend or issue is really “all over the place” (it’s a technical term) or is a hodgepodge of topics that don’t make any collective sense, then that trend doesn’t truly exist – at least not as a trend!

Now there’s something to chew on.

By the way, if you enjoy this sort of thing, I’d urge you to listen to our podcast, Why Meaning Matters. It’s a podcast on anthropology and its application in the study of trends and issues that matter to corporate innovation and marketing.


What do you want to research today?