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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 21 | volume IV | June-July, 2001



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 21June-July, 2001
Theatre Theory

Theater аs а Cultural System

(From the book "The Semiotics of Theater" by Erika Fischer-Lichte)

p. 1
Erika Fischer-Lichte

    The internal code of a cultural system regulates: (a) which material products are to be valid in the system as units of meanings, i.e., signs; (b) which of the units thus identified can be combined in what manner and under what conditions with each other, i.e., it governs a syntactic code; and (c) to what these units can be related and under what conditions (i) in connection with different possible syntagmas or (ii) in isolation, i.e., it regulates a semantic code.
    Thus, the code of every language, English, German, or Chinese, regulates (a) which sounds are to be identified as the smallest units of meaning, i.e., as words of this language; (b) the possible combinations of this words in order to form syntagmas; and (c) the allocation of significations to these sound signs both as a lexical and as a contextual meaning. In other words, both the production and the understanding of utterances within a language function on the basis of a code that we shall term the internal code of the language. The same is true of all cultural systems: these regulate the process whereby meaning is produced on the basis of a respectively specific internal code on which the production or interpretation of all meanings is then based.
    An external code is involved if, first, several of these codes are subordinated to another code as their hypercode in the sense that the generation and interpretation of their systems of rules are based on it, and second, the meanings produced by the individual cultural systems can now be understood in their function and meaning for the overall culture at a second level, as it were, namely, on the basis of a hypercode. Lévi-Strauss has shown that a commonly shared code is at the root of the structure of codes of such different cultural systems as, for example, language, family relations and marriage practices, eating habits, and the myths of various tribes indigenous to Latin America.
    The meaning of the signs and/or sign complexes generated by a cultural system can thus only be constituted comprehensively, given the application of both the system's internal code and the external code shared by it and other systems.
    The codes on which cultural systems are based differ in terms of stability from one culture to the next. Thus, the syntactic code of language is quite stable in Western culture – it has only undergone minor modifications over the

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