The term “structuralism” comes from the Latin word “structura,” which means “a fitting together” or “arrangement.” The suffix “-ism” denotes a theory or system. Structuralism is a theoretical framework in various fields, including anthropology, linguistics, psychology, and literary criticism, that emphasizes understanding the underlying structures that shape and organize human culture, language, and thought.

1. Proto-Indo-European (PIE)

The PIE root “*stere-” means “to spread” or “to stretch out,” which evolved into terms related to building and arranging.

2. Latin

From the PIE root, the Latin word “struere” developed, meaning “to build” or “to arrange.” The noun “structura” is derived from “struere,” meaning “a fitting together” or “an arrangement.”

3. Modern English (from 15th century CE to present)

The term “structuralism” combines “structure” (from the Latin “structura”) with the suffix “-ism,” indicating a theory or system. It emerged as a distinct intellectual movement in the early 20th century.

Usage Examples

  • “Structuralism in linguistics analyzes the underlying structures of language.”
  • “Another example of ‘structuralism’ in a sentence is ‘Claude Lévi-Strauss is a key figure in anthropological structuralism.'”

Cultural or Historical Notes

Structuralism emerged as a significant intellectual movement in the early 20th century, particularly through the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. It focuses on uncovering the structures that underlie all human activities and cultural phenomena, proposing that these structures shape our perceptions, behaviors, and experiences.

In linguistics, structuralism is concerned with the underlying rules and systems that govern language use and structure. In anthropology, it examines the deep structures of cultural practices and social norms. In psychology, it explores the structures of the mind and cognitive processes. In literary criticism, it analyzes the underlying structures of narratives and texts.

The word “structuralism” reflects the importance of understanding the deep, often hidden, structures that shape various aspects of human life, emphasizing the role of these structures in shaping our understanding of the world.