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Philosophy before the GreeksThe Pursuit of Truth in Ancient Babylonia$
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Marc Van De Mieroop

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691157184

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691157184.001.0001

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Constructing Reality

Constructing Reality

(p.59) Chapter 3 Constructing Reality
Philosophy before the Greeks

Marc Van De Mieroop

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the principles of the Babylonian word lists, how lexicography was formulated, and how it interacted with other writings. It argues that Babylonian lexicography was a scientific activity intended to foster understanding of the world. The chapter proposes a straightforward semiotic analysis of the Babylonian lexical lists, based on Ferdinand de Saussure’s linguistic model. Since the lists are two-dimensional—structured on two axes, the horizontal entry and the vertical succession of entries—they are highly suitable for a structuralist reading, syntagmatic and paradigmatic. The chapter considers the syntagm and paradigm of the lexical lists. It also explains the building blocks, and especially how words entered a lexical list, the parallelism between poetry and lexical lists, and how the lists were applied in real life. Finally, it provides an overview of Babylonian grammatology and the significance of the lexical lists to epistemology.

Keywords:   word lists, lexicography, semiotic analysis, syntagm, paradigm, poetry, Babylonian grammatology, epistemology

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