displacement(derivation): art, archaeology and the question of language

Todays entanglement is a coincidental reading of Cochrane and Russell’s manifesto for a visual archaeology (on my Art and Archaeology module reading list) and George Yule’s ‘the study of language’ (an impulse purchase).

What makes language a uniquely human trait is our ability to refer to past and future time and other locations and to “communicate things and places whose existence we cannot even be sure of”, a trait known as displacement.  With this potential for the imaginary, why is it that theoretical concepts in archaeology are seen as being constrained by their linguistic context?  How has language become so problematic?
Cochrane and Russell describe the difference between archaeology as a natural science (a logical, process-driven, linear, temporal and evolutionary understanding of the world) and as a humanity (a poetic expression of humans grappling with modern philosophies, paradigms and epistemologies in a world which is rapidly changing but simultaneously constant).
Cochrane and Russell’s poetic archaeology is pitched towards accessible interpretation in an increasingly visual society yet their “archaeological expressionism” includes a whole range of language-rich contexts: imageries, societies, objects, events, articulations and fictions. It is not in an absence of language then but in an opening up of language, at its interface with image, that “accessible expressions of understandings of being in the world” are to be found.
Returning to George Yule, I am reminded of the possibilities afforded by word formations to an artistic enquiry intersecting with archaeology – an enquiry into the human impulse to constantly come to terms (to re-place ourselves) with(in) a forever changing world.
COINAGE the invention of totally new terms
BORROWING taking over words from other languages
COMPOUNDING a joining of two separate words
BLENDING taking the beginning of one word and joining it to the end of another
CLIPPING a word of more than one syllable reduced to a shorter form
BACKFORMATION reduction of a noun to form a verb
CONVERSION the movement from noun to verb without reduction
ACRONYM formed from the initial letters of a set of other words
DERIVATION (AFFIX) prefix (before), suffix (after), infix (in)
(Yule, George (1996) 2nd edn. The Study of Language Cambridge University Press
Cochrane A. & Russell, I. (2007) Visualizing Archaeologies: a manifesto Cambridge Archaeological Journal 17(1), 3-19)

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