Toward a Grammar of the Inka Khipu: Investigating the Production of Non-numerical Signs
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CitationClindaniel, Jon. 2019. Toward a Grammar of the Inka Khipu: Investigating the Production of Non-numerical Signs. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractInka khipus were a unique pre-Columbian semiotic technology that used three-dimensional signs—primarily knots, cords, and colors—as symbols functionally akin to those of writing systems in other cultures. Spanish chroniclers reported that khipus recorded everything from census records, to histories, and songs. Numerical Inka khipu signs were deciphered in the 1920s. However, scholars still have not deciphered any non-numerical Inka khipu signs, nor have they empirically demonstrated how such signs would have worked—whether as phonetic signs, individualized mnemonic devices, or types of semasiographic signs. I demonstrate that non-numerical khipu signs worked as Peircean dicent symbolic legisigns (dicent symbols, or predicates) in binary, hierarchical pairs. Furthermore, I argue that these paired legisigns were conventionalized across the Inka Empire, but circumscribed by genre and political geography. Over the course of my analysis, I decipher several non-numerical signs and demonstrate their use in Inka khipus. Finally, building on my findings from individual signs, I outline a preliminary grammar of the Inka khipu.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029631
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