Nr. 18 Juni 2011 TRANS: Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften
Section | Sektion: Signs and the City. In honor of Jeff Bernard
The Semiotics of Paths, Roads and Streets(1)
Daina Teters (Latvian Academy of Culture, Latvia) [BIO]
Although most of one’s time is spent in the streets or in other seemingly empty spaces, one rarely reflects on what they mean or how they are experienced. However, it is not the verbal description of ways that is first to constitute meaning. Verbal descriptions of artifacts, like paths, roads, and streets, may be considered as a translation of some pre-existing meaning. In all these spaces meaning is present in material bearers, forming signs and modes of human understanding. Nevertheless, it is important to distinguish paths, roads, and streets, as organized empty spaces, and buildings and houses, as organized closed spaces, in the inhabited zones of human environments.
Although the house and the street are two different forms of culture, both have the same definition line and both are defined in the same way: a street is a public road usually lined by buildings. Thus, the demarcation line is the outline of two objects, the buildings and the street, and both – the street and the building, are structurally interchangeable. Both the house and the street combine the two models mentioned above: the house can be considered not only as a closed space, like our body, but as a way into the city, giving the impression of functioning as a place for conducting one’s life. Our encounters with a house or a street are first and foremost bodily acts; to be more precise, both the house and the street were built as reinterpretations of our body. Should we reflect on oriented spaces, like streets, paths or roads, the human body can be viewed as a point of departure, some geometrically constructed zero point, which is moving in space and is experienced, yet at the same time is constructing an abstraction labeled “space”.
The purpose of this presentation is to draw attention to the forms of constructed emptiness, like paths, roads, and streets and describe their semiotic peculiarities.
To explain my position, having been elaborated at one of the subsequent international congresses of semiotics(2) as well as in my earlier studies on the verbalization of center and periphery concepts (cf. Teters 2009 and 2010), I would like to depart here from the statement that, in the beginning, human beings were not conscious of the nonexistence of emptiness: the World seemed to be full, loud and chaotic. The presence of human beings on earth was described fairly simply: as a kind of similarity between the human being and the Earth. Starting with Xenophanes (a Greek philosopher, ca 570–ca 480 B.C.), however, it gained a new meaning, referring to the inhabited world, as well as a new sound (oikouménē) or Ekumene (also spelled œcumene or oikoumene).(3) With ekumene a new illusion was born, which saw the Earth’s surface as an inhabited whole reaching as far as the Ocean: now the World seemed to be inhabited and full. The question is: How is this fullness made possible? How is it accomplished?
According to simple logic, any togetherness or co-existence(4) is made possible by some form of separation that is gained through liberating or emptying.(5) When we speak about the types of living next to each other and co-existence, there should be more of these forms of separation.
The Greeks, although they rarely used the concepts of emptiness and nothingness and did not always get involved in conceptual arguments about their possibility or impossibility, used the verbs (cf. Weisman 1991 : 699) χευεμβατεω – to enter an empty space, later – to stumble and (Weisman 1991 : 700) χευóω – to empty, turn into nothing, destroy, forming new concepts, which obviously were vital for them, first of all about an empty space (Weisman 1991 /1899/: 700) (or rather – emptied) –χευεωυ and other ready-made forms, which can be made void.
Here it is important to say a few words about the notion φορμóς – form (cf. Weisman 1991 : 1323) used by the ancient Greeks: actually it meant “a basket”, no matter whether it is empty or full. The Greeks saw the form as a pre-condition for content. In such a context it is not difficult to build a chain of empty forms or to empty them of any content. The above thought process is familiar to us as it is rather common in modern metaphors: an empty word, an empty look, a life empty of happiness (a life devoid of…), to empty oneself of emotions, etc.
Although I am aware that the notion of emptiness has not yet been exhausted, its numerous meanings may even serve as a provocation, or more precisely the state of being accustomed to extension and emptiness, even fuga vacui,(6) has been demonstrated not only in Ancient Greece or in medieval Europe, but also today. When one might feel afraid to decline in status or importance and fall so low as to be obliged to live on the street one day and not in the street (note that falling is possible in an empty space that does not show any material resistance!) or one might feel so empty – not important or worthy anymore, or when we read lists of vacancies (read: empty spaces!) in hope for a better life…
Emptiness has many faces today. Perhaps that is the reason why we do not yet understand empty forms, such as streets, roads or ways, as non nihil forms. Leaving aside emptiness-related metaphors, I would like to ask together with Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966),(7) a Swiss sculptor, Surrealist painter, draughtsman and printmaker who, with his sculpture L’objet invisible (Mains tenant le vide) of 1934/1935, demonstrated that emptiness depends on the way it is defined, and the peculiarities of this definition are manifest (seen) verbally: How to understand emptiness?
Pic. 1: Alberto Giacometti 1934/1935: L’objet invisible (Mains tenant le vide)
Unfortunately, we are not able to understand emptiness by itself, we understand it only if it is located (note: it is) somewhere. But where is that somewhere?
We would understand emptiness if we were able to draw any borders, thus gaining a place called “somewhere”.
Later, it will be described and called emptiness. Thus, in my studies, the concept of emptiness will be used in a sense similar to the one mentioned above and turn to extended and purposeful forms of emptiness, such as streets, roads, and paths.
Although most of one’s time is spent in the streets, on roads, or in other seemingly empty spaces, one rarely reflects on what they mean or how they are experienced, or whether one needs them at all. We should not forget that it is possible to live without this form of emptiness, in other words, the streets are not a practical necessity, as the case of Catal Hüyïk demonstrated.(8) Or that it is possible to live with streets but not call them by name, as we have learned from the Japanese.(9)
Up to now the lack of reflection about streets or ways has rather been caused by the fact that we tend to take the foundations of culture for granted, yet every foundation has had its builders and an origin – which means that it was a creative construction, not something biologically predetermined. It is said, there is a sense in which this has to do with biology, i.e. with the human body, whose symmetrical and asymmetrical arrangement has been an inspiration for the construction of closed spatial forms like houses or cities. Likewise, it has inspired empty forms as well. Moreover, all human strategies, including the strategies for creating spatial forms are matched by their imitation in language.(10)
However, it is not the verbal description of ways, roads, and streets that is first to constitute meaning. Verbal descriptions of artifacts, like paths, roads, and streets, may be considered as a translation of some pre-existing meaning. In all these spaces meaning is present in material bearers, forming the signs and modes of human understanding.
Moreover, it is important to distinguish between ways, roads, and streets as different organized spaces and as different cognitive experiences. For instance, a path can be singular; it can be located in an open space or lead through a field as those we know it from fairy tales. After winding through a forest, the road/path leads to a grand finale, in the shape of – if not Rome (cf. Radke 1971),(11) then at least a dragon. In the old days, that of course meant reaching the outer limits of the known world (cf. the opus magnum of Sebastian Muenster (1488–1552) from the year 1578).
The road can have an uncertain destination. In this case, what counts is the departure itself or the fact of departure, e.g., iziet pie vīra (Latvian) or выходить замуж (Russian) – to get married or, literally – “to go to husband” (or: “to depart for husband”), iet plašajā pasaulē laimi meklēt (Latvian) – to go out into the wide world to seek happiness, meaning – to leave.
With streets that are arranged in a network, the situation is a bit more complicated; they are quite unlike a single street or a road. They do not know singularity; they can be understood only as a particular instance of a road or street network, because they are defined by the limited space of a town or defined as an inner space: that gives them a special interior feeling. This finds its reflection in the description of streets or roads.
I would like to return to the established way of representing streets a bit later, for it is impossible to analyze a street without first exploring a house. Later it seems to become a little complicated. But let us go step by step.
At first sight it all seems to be simple and unequivocal: the house and the street are two different forms of culture. One is built to resemble the skin of a human being, the other, with a human spatial orientation system in mind. Both have the same definition line and both are defined in the same way: a street is a public road usually lined by buildings. Thus, the demarcation line is the outline of two objects, the buildings and the street, and both – the street and the building, are structurally interchangeable.
At the same time, however, both the house and the street combine the two models mentioned above: the house can be considered not only as a closed space, like our body, but as a way into the city (one can be homo viator in his/her own home(12) and get to know the street or obstacle in the corner), giving the impression of functioning as a place for conducting one’s life. I will mention some examples to explain what I mean:
A house(13) is built at a certain locus(14); this proceeds from the definition of its foundation, where it can be placed,(15) for what the owner has to pay, which belongs to him, gives him security etc. In the case of Riga, it was locus Rigae, where the place for mayestede (read: the place where the house is standing) was found. The name of this activity has preserved its meaning. After having been spatially defined and in accordance with this definition, the bottom area of the house can be multiplied by acquiring a second, a third floor etc.(16) The floors are connected by inner passageways – personal ¨streets¨ or, more conventionally, stairs. Thus, a house is a combination of options for staying as much as for going.
Pic. 2: Inner passageways or stairs.
In accordance with the strategy outlined above, the same can be said about the street(17) that can be considered as a closed space, which has borders and imaginably closed endpoints. Paradoxically, it is the case when we go out into the space – when “we are outdoors”). A street (not a road or a path) – an ambivalent exterior – becomes an interior by inversion as obvious from expressions, like the following: Latin, in vīcõ angusto habitāre (Latin) “to live in a small street”, Wo bist Du, wo steckst Du? (German) “Where are you?”; compare also, how one can say: He lives in the street (British English), or: on the street (American English). Similarly, in Russian, Где Ты живёшь? Где Ты находишься? “Where do you live?”, i.e. “Where are you at the moment?”
In this way, we see that one may have two places for living: home and, if we take it more existentially, the wide world, for instance, a street (e.g. “Where do you live?” On vius? (Catalan) Donde vives?(Spanish) “Where are you (now)?” On ets (estas)? D’on ets? (Catalan) Где ты живëшь? Где ты находишься? (Russian).
A city (a town) that has been established as a locus turns into a local arrangement of diverse entities: one can always say that one is somewhere, or that one is moving (going) from one place to another. That is reflected in language, e.g. “Where are you?” (i.e. “In which place are you?” or “Where do you live?”)or another question “Where are you going?” The strategies of posing questions may vary and the answer depends on at least two strategies:
The first strategy, “I am here at/by …”For instance, one can be standing in differently structured places, e.g., “I am at the corner of …” (i.e., in a closed space) or “I am in the street” (i.e., in an open space). If one is in an open space, one starts constructing and developing its own proximities – the human body gives us a possibility to fill in the empty space, e.g. by the spontaneous appearance of other people who create a new topological structure – a circle – as in the case of e.g. street musicians.
The second strategy, “I am going to…” (i.e. an imaginary destination is implied) (“I am going or moving at a given moment”). One can also be going into differently structured spaces, e.g. (in a closed space): “I am going up or down”, or in an open space: “I am going to or towards…”
Our encounters with a house or a street are first and foremost bodily acts; to be more precise, both the house and the street were built as reinterpretations of our body. However, it is not that simple, because it is not directly our body that constitutes the meaning – I am using a metaphorical simplification, implying a prototypical body (some-body).
For instance, it is possible to see the human being as a complex of oppositions (with an interior and an exterior), each environment being distinguishable from its surroundings by means of a specific interface like the skin, clothes, walls etc. On the one hand, it almost suffices in order to understand such spatial entities as houses or cities. Should we reflect on oriented spaces, like streets, paths or roads, the human body can be viewed differently: as a point of departure, some geometrically constructed zero point, which is moving in space and experienced, yet at the same time constructing an abstraction labeled “space”.
The verbal description of the architecturally built emptiness will always preserve elements of both: the complex of opposition and the prototypical movement. The streets, as well as roads and paths can be considered a kind of constructed emptiness that does not know its owner or belongs to everyone. However, their establishment, geometrical definition, cognitive perception and verbal description have different properties. In order to define an empty space, some conditions have to be complied with: a road or a street provides a translation of a three-dimensional space into a two-dimensional space, which means that it has been made linear; the road is usually denoted by two imaginary points, a point of departure and a point of destination. Both of them are imaginary – a conditional starting point, which always changes, and a conditional finishing line that very often becomes an opening to a new story line (as, for example, 12).
Let us consider the fictional character of the starting and final lines or points. These points are passable with ease, as they are only available to our imagination.(18) We always say metaphorically as follows: “We have arrived”, “We are here”, “I am on my way”, “I am going (from an imaginary starting point)”. There are dozens of possibilities: “Have we arrived yet? No, we haven’t”.
However, in a topographical sense, each town has at least one particular point that is seen as its beginning (or: a particular point that serves as the beginning for a walk). This depends on the system of values of the people who live in the town. It is especially important at crossroads, and one has to be able to distinguish between right and left.
The first and the most significant step along this way is the Strategy of Linearization. The outline of a street (a way or a road), as we know it, is what allows them to be something in the real world. Something becomes substance and a non-transparency (or: a non-void); pathways and streets seem to be filled, or to have some texture that is available to one’s eyes.
It is characteristic of streets that they are the result of a combination of various viewpoints, which in turn depend on their construction system: they(19) can be viewed from different vantage points. As far as streets and roads are empty spaces, they form an illusion of space where we capture the visible or the invisible in semiotic terms.
The spaces mentioned above have been presented from the viewpoint of one person. The street is perceived by the person as a composition of things that are at first sight insignificant: with a kind of topological gesture one captures who or what is approaching him/her or, with his/her eyes “cuts them out” from the background as if they were significant and describes it as significant.
It is obvious, for instance, that from the names of some streets, one can see blacksmiths in the street; and the street acquires the name of “Blacksmith’s Street”, one can see…, and the street acquires the name… etc. Or it is apparent from descriptions, when one is asked where he or she is at the moment. The answers are formulas of the following kind: “I am at (in front of) the shop” (read: I am located by or at something).
The interior of the street (however, one needs to know where the interior is) affords some possibilities for moving or standing. In case one is standing in the street, the human being captures something, but not the street itself as a phenomenon. When one is walking there are two possibilities, either one imagines one’s destination or the movement is carried out (enacted, materialized) towards a certain shape. These two things are important in regard to a cognitive decision about what one sees and what one feels with one’s feet.
There is a surface structure that is dominant in the way, road and street, which could be called its phenotype. This structure helps it to gain the materiality and the real surface which can be captured. Seen geometrically, all directions in the world have uniform physical properties; there are no predetermined axes. This means that they are isotropic.
Seen semiotically, space is not isotropic but rather egocentric, determined by two general cognitive dominants – horizontal and vertical, with the perceived asymmetry of space. Another way of saying it is that an empty space is viewed by the human being who decides what is located before, behind etc. I would like to quote after Dieter Suisky (2008: 41) Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716), who said: “Spatium es ordo coexistendi”, which means: we have to experience the sensation of the order of the world step by step, e.g., we have to learn it by walking.
When walking, in the sense noticed by Rebecca Solnit (2002), we notice(20) toads or frogs on our road or what we find or see from the perspective of our position. It means that we capture the road as a system of coordinates,(21) where personal deixis, temporal deixis, and local deixis are dominant, and from the imaginary architecture of this emptiness: we read our way step by step in order to cover a certain distance and capture the “invisible street”, thereby becoming co-creators of a certain kind of space, i.e., streets. The points on the road – signs – are connected to build a kind of text. This suggests an “imaginary walking space” (or, in ancient rhetoric, the sequential order of actions – ordo naturalis).
We can imagine what will happen if we lose this structure or viewpoint. What can be considered to be in front of or behind whatever? We find ourselves simply lost in emptiness.
As a matter of fact, roads contain a record of those who went before, and to follow them is to follow people who are no longer there. We have to think in terms of a tandem. Then, the path, road, or street becomes communal property. This approach helps in the general understanding of the cultural mentality of people who come from the same country, city, or town in respect of their process of structuring and fixation purposes.
In the second model, we have to take into account first and foremost the system of roads or streets(22) (pl.), which are impossible to understand if we do not follow in the footsteps of our predecessors. In case we are able to follow the text metaphorically and call it “a network of streets” we have to think in tandem. We coexist mentally with a “network of streets”. It is possible to borrow something from a plane, but we will always feel the coexistence of the planes, which though they may have disappeared, are expressed by the sensation “There was something”.
The whole resolution could be perceived only from a bird’s-eye perspective. For the earth, roads, trails, or paths as built structures cannot be perceived as a whole all at once. In view of that, we have to follow a specific strategy.
Firstly, we have to take into account the system of prototypical movements of our predecessor and mentally become one with him to understand where in the town the point is that there is considered to be the “zero” point. The final destination, especially if the town has walls, is a bit simpler: we follow the walls to the final point.
Barcelona (cf., e.g., Vallescá 1945 or Espinàs 1961) can serve as a curious example of verticality. In case the network of streets is visualized vertically, like a house, it is possible to go up or down in an open space too, e.g. in Barcelona where the city is imagined (seen) as built or growing up in the direction from the sea to the mountains, the streets have been planned in parallel to the sea shore and laid hierarchically – in layers – one on top of another – one higher than another: el carrer Gran Vía és a sota de Aragó.
Actually, we need to distinguish the Old Town from the New Town. Interestingly, the arrangement and functions in the layout of the Old Town and the New Town differ in most cities and towns. The Old Town and the New Town are different cases and are construed in temporal opposition to one another. It is an unwritten rule that the Old Town and the New Town are separated by a street, called New Street, which serves as a demarcation line.
In the Old Town, as in the case of Barcelona, we can discern a direct comparison of the street with the human body: as the streets used to be one-way streets, they still bear two types of names:
An up-street: pujada (puja amunt)
A down-street: baixada de Llibreteria (baixa avall)
The end of the street is called the “above-head” of the street: al capdamunt del carrer, etc., and the other end of the street is called the “below-head”: al capdavall del carrer, etc.
The beginning of the street is seen as its birth: the Catalans say “the street is born at…” (el carrer va néixer…) and the end of the street is seen as its death, and the Catalans say: “the street dies at…” (el carrer X…); cf. also further examples: “El carrer Ample que va néixer al carrer de la Fusteria, abans d’anar morir a la plaça de Medinaceli es para a descansar” (Espinàs 1961: 16) or “Carrer d’Avinyó neix a les quatre cantonades del Call”(Espinàs 1961: 79)
In the New Town, the description is more formal. The comparison with the human body is applied only to distinguish “the right side” and “the left side” in relation to “the middle axis”: a mà dreta / a mà esquerra.
By way of conclusion, I would only like to say that I’m aware that the variety of streets, roads, and paths, and their labeling, is much richer than what I have mentioned before. Thus, while preparing this loose collection of statements for the sake of postulating investigative tasks and source domains, I will look forward to any cooperation proposal the readers of this research communiqué may have, which could help towards covering the empty spaces in our perception of these phenomena.
Works cited and consulted:
- Aspley, Keith, Elizabeth Cowling, Peter Sharratt (eds.) (2000). From Rodin to Giacometti: Sculpture and Literature in France, 1880–1950. Amsterdam, New York: Rodopi.
- Collins = Collins English Dictionary (2006). Eighth Edition. Glasgow: HarperCollins Publishers.
- Espinàs, Josep M. (1961). Carrers de Barcelona. Barcelona: Editorial Selecta.
- Genet, Jean (1979 /1957/). L’Atelier d’Alberto Giacometti. In:JeanGenet 1979). Œuvres complètes (de en 6 tomes). Vol. 5, 39–74. Paris: Gallimard [Les Lettres nouvelles V (52), septembre 1957, 199–218].
- Giacometti, Alberto (1934/1935). Mains tenant le vide (L’objet invisible). Available at: http://pantheatre.free.fr/pages/perform_carla_ortensia.pdf
- Hall, Edward Twitchell (1966). The Hidden Dimension. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
- Hall, Edward Twitchell (1974). Handbook for Proxemic Research. Washington: Society for the Anthropology of Visual Communication.
- Hall, Edward Twitchell (1976). Beyond Culture. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press,
- Lanigan, Richard Leo, Roland Posner, Daina Teters, Zdzisław Wąsik 2009). “Unfolding the semiotic web in urban discourse”. In: Zdzisław Wąsik (ed.) 2009, 7–8.
- Marcel, Gabriel-Honoré (1962 /1951/ ). Homo Viator: Introduction to a Metaphysic of Hope. Trans. Emma Crawford. Reprinted New York: Harper and Row /London: V. Gollancz/ [Homo viator: Prolégomènes a une métaphysique de l’espérance. Paris: Aubier Éditions Montaigne]
- Muenster, Sebastian (1488–1552) 1578). Cosmographey. Oder beschreibung Aller Länder herrschaften vnd fürnemesten Stetten des gantzen Erdbodens… biß in das M.D.LXXXVIII. gemehret… Bäsel: Sebastian Henricpetri (1546–1627).(23)
- Neumann, Wilh (ed.) (1892). Das mittelalterliche Riga. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der norddeutschen Baukunst. Berlin: Verlag von Julius Springer.
- OALDCE = Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English 1989 /1948/). Fourth Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Michel, Paul (1992). Symbolik von Weg und Reise. Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Paris, Wien: Peter Lang (Schriften zur Symbolforschung 8).
- Radke, Gerhard (1971). Viae Publicae Romanae. Stuttgart: Alfred Druckenmuller.
- Solnit, Rebecca (2002). Wanderlust: A History of Walking. London, New York: Verso.
- Suisky, Dieter (2008). Euler as Physicist. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.
- Teters, Daina (2009). “Semiotic aspects of the City as a Space and the Space in the City (with Special Reference to Riga)”. In: Zdzisław Wąsik (ed.) 2009, 69–86.
- Teters, Daina (2010). “Imaginary Architecture and Verbal Description of Emptiness: Paths, Roads, and Streets”. In: Wąsik (ed.) Consultant Assembly III: In Search of Innovatory Subjects for Language and Culture Courses. Organized in Jelenia Góra between May 15 and 18, 2010 by the Philological School of Higher Education in Wrocław, Karkonosze College in Jelenia Góra and State Museum “Gerhart Hauptmann House” in Jelenia Góra in Co-operation with the Research Center for Semiotics of Berlin University of Technology and the Metamind-Project of the Latvian Academy of Culture in Riga. A Book of Papers and Communiqués for Discussion. Wrocław: Philological School of Higher Education in Wrocław Publishing, 99–111.
- Teters, Daina (2010 in press). “Some Peculiarities of Verbalising the Concepts Centre and Periphery in the Strategies of the Avant-Garde”. In: Per Bäckström (ed.) Decentring the Avant-Garde: Towards a New Topography of the International Avant-Garde. Amsterdam, New York: Rodopi.
- Teters, Daina (2011). “Imaginary Architecture and the Verbal Description of Emptiness: Paths, Roads, and Streets – a Research Communiqué”. Wąsik, Zdzisław (ed.). Unfolding the Semiotic Web in Urban Discourse. In Scientific Cooperation with Daina Teters. Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien: Peter Lang. Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften (Philologica Wratislaviensia: From Grammar to Discourse 3), 181–194.
- Vallescá, Antonio (1945). Les calles de Barcelona desaparecidas. Barcelona: Librería Millá.
- Wąsik, Zdzisław (ed.) (2009). Consultant Assembly for Discussing the Idea of Urban Discourse in Semiotic Terms. Organized in Wroclaw between Feb. 27 and March 01, 2009 by the Committee of Philological Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Wroclaw Branch, and Philological School of Higher Education in Wrocław in Co-operation with the Research Center for Semiotics of Berlin University of Technology and the Metamind-Project of the Latvian Academy of Culture in Riga. A Book of Abstracts, Papers and Contributions for Discussion. Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Wyższej Szkoły Filologicznej we Wrocławiu.
- Weisman, Alexander D. (1991 ). Greek-Russian Dictionary. 5th edition. St. Petersburg, published by the author, 1899. Reprinted Moscow, Graeco-Latin Department of Y. A. Shichalin [Veisman, A. D. 1991: Grečesko-russkij slovar’. Peterburg: Izdaniye avtora].(24)
1 The research results summarized here have been firstly published by the author in an article (Teters 2010) and subsequently presented in a German paper: Daina Teters: “Imaginative Architektur und Verbale Beschreibung der Leere: Wege und Strassen” [Imaginative Architecture and the Verbal Description of Emptiness: Ways and Roads]. The International Colloquium: In Search of Innovatory Subjects for Language and Culture Courses, The Karkonosze College in Jelenia Góra, on May 17, 2010. What is more, this paper popularizes an extended version of the author’s chapter which has been published recently, (Teters 2011). 2 Round Table: “Unfolding the Semiotic Web in Urban Discourse” organized by Daina Teters, Zdzisław Wąsik, Roland Posner, and Richard L. Lanigan. 10th World Congress of Semiotics. La Coruña, Spain, September 22–26, 2009: Culture of Communication, Communication of Culture. The abstract of this workshop has been published earlier; see: Wąsik (ed.) 2009. 3 The term οίκουμένη is the feminine present middle participle of the verb οίκέω /oikéō/ – ‘to inhabit’. 4 Compare, especially, together, beside, and side by side. Together – more generally ‘towards each other’ (Collins, 1393). Beside (Collins, 155) – more generally ‘next to’, ‘along the side of something or someone’; from the Old English be sīdan. By shows direction ‘to, towards’, from Old English bī, related to Gothic bi, Old High German bī, Sanskrit abhi (Collins, 233); Side – Old English sīde; related to sīd – ‘wide’ Collins, 1497). 5 It is remarkable how often the ancient spatial descriptions use words that are related to the meaning ‘make void’ or ‘broadly emptied’, and how later they influenced one another: πλαδγω (platos or platus) – ‘to make broad’, ‘broaden’, ‘broad-cast’, ημλατεια(οδοζ) – ‘a way’, ‘a street’ (from C14 ‘flat’, ‘field’; Old English, Old Saxon, Old High German – ‘feld’) 1007 ‘place’ (from C17 via Old French, from Latin platèa) (Collins, 1240), or Spanish plaza (from C17 plat – ‘to extend’) (Collins, 1246). 6 Latin: ‘fear of emptiness’. 7 For details see: Aspley et al 2000 and Genet 1979 /1957/. 8 Catal Hüyïk – a 12,000 year old town in Anatolia – was discovered at the end of the 1950s. Since 1993 a research group from Cambridge and Stanford universities has been working there. Catal Hüyïk is famous for the non-existence of streets: the houses were so close to one another that there is only one possibility to move in the town – across roofs. There upstairs is in fact downstairs. 9 This topic is discussed in Edward T. Hall’s famous book of 1966, The Hidden Dimension. Cf. also two other representative books of the same author: Handbook for Proxemic Research (Hall 1974) and Beyond Culture (Hall 1976). 10 Similar to the case above, we reason in terms of the opposition of interior vs. exterior space and movements, and thinking is expressed in the same verbal fashion, e.g., the way of thinking, ways of resolution, a way of argumentation, curriculum vitae, a way of life, go out of one’s way, lead the way, make one’s way etc. 11 Cf. Viae Romanae. Available at: http://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/viaeromanae.html 12 An allusion to the title and the content of the book by Gabriel Marcel (1962 /1951/ ) Homo Viator. 13 A house – Old English hūs; related to Old High German hūs, Gothic gudhūs – temple, Old Norsk hūs (Collins, 790). 14 Locus – a place at…, (pl.) loca or loci. 15 It is interesting to note that in the Middle Ages, when a householder decided to move from one place to another in the city, the house could be placed in a new locus. Thus it was movable property in the full sense of the term. 16 The ground floor, level, storey – Old English flõr; related to Old Norse flõrr, Middle Low German vlõr, Lattina-plānus – level; Greek planan – ‘to cause to wander’ (Collins, 625). In German it is Stockwerk (from the Verb stecken, stehen), Erdgeschoss. 17 The street – the old English strœt from the Latin via strāta, from strātus, the past participle of sternere, to strech out, Old High German – strāza. 18 There are some exceptions from the general rule: blind alley, cul-de-sac, impasse (Sackgasse), that do not lead anywhere. The passages that halt the game in this way have to be signed.In the Middle Ages this was very rare. 19 A road – Old English rād related to rīdan ‘to ride’, and to Old Saxon rēda, Old Norse reith (Germ. reiten?) (Collins, 1395); Way – Old English weg; related to Old Frisian wei, Old Norse – vegr, Gothic wigs (Collins, 1815). 20 In Russian: встретить means ‘to meet’; встречa – ‘meeting’; пространство – ‘space’ (comes from strenare); посторонний – ‘a stranger’, ‘from another side’; странный – ‘strange’, ‘unusual’; тот, кто странствует – ‘somebody who is wandering’. The same root is also in сторона (side) and иностранец (foreigner). Note the shift in the root сторон>стран); Cf. encontrar, estranjero in Spainish: and estranger, estrany in Catalan. 21 A system of coordinates was proposed by Cartesius (René Descartes, 1596–1650, French philosopher and mathematician) who attempted to demonstrate his famous proposition: “Cogito ergo sum”. 22 Actually, a street does not in fact exist at all, because its end is defined by the departure of another street. 23 Information available at: http://cgi.ebay.nl/MUNSTER-KOSMOGRAPHIE-1300-HOLZSCHNITT-BASEL-1588-C367S-/290290867994 24 See at: http://en.mgl.ru/5295
For quotation purposes:
Daina Teters: The Semiotics of Paths, Roads, and Streets –
In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 18/2011.
Webmeister: Gerald Mach last change: 2011-06-17