Abstracts for Akadeemia 10/2012

19 October 2012
Only in en

Roman Jakobson
Linguistics and poetics

Poetics deals with the problems of linguistic structure. As linguistics is the general science of language structure, poetics can be considered an inseparable part of linguistics.
In the case of any speech event, any act of verbal communication, six constructive factors can be distinguished, each of which determines a different function of language. The referential, “cognitive” function that describes a situation, an object or a mental state is in correspondence with the context. The emotive or “expressive” function, focussed on the addresser, aims a direct expression of the speaker’s attitude toward what he is speaking about. Orientation toward the addressee, the cognitive function, finds its purest grammatical expression in the vocative and imperative. The set (Einstellung) for contact or the phatic function is displayed by, e.g., profuse exchange of ritualized formulas, by entire dialogues with the mere purport of prolonging communication. Whenever the addresser and/or the addressee need to check up whether they use the same code, speech is focused on the code: it performs a metalingual (i.e glossing) function. The set toward the message as such, focus on the message for its own sake, is the poetic function of language.

Jakobson emphasizes that the linguistic study of the poetic function must overstep the limits of poetry, and, on the other hand, the linguistic scrutiny of poetry cannot limit itself to the poetic function. To highlight the empirical linguistic criterion of the poetic function, the indispensable feature inherent in any piece of poetry, the author draws attention to the two basic modes of arrangement used in verbal behaviour, selection and combination. Selection is produced on the base of equivalence, similarity and dissimilarity, synonymity and antonymity, while combination, the build-up of the sequence, is based on contiguity. The poetic function projects the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection into the axis of combination. Equivalence is promoted to the constitutive device of the sequence.

Thereafter, Jakobson analyses, using numerous examples, the poetic resources hidden in the morphological and syntactic structure of language. Finally he emphasizes that in poetry each linguistic element is changed into a figure of poetic speech.

Jan Assmann
Collective memory and cultural identity

Relying on Maurice Halbwachs’ and Aby Warburg’s works, Jan Assmann distinguishes the concept of cultural memory from what he calls communicative or everyday memory. While everyday memory is based on immediate or orally mediated experience, the duration of which is seldom longer than three generations, then cultural memory has certain fixed points, fateful events of the past whose memory is maintained through cultural formation (texts, rites, monuments) and institutional communication (recitation, practice, observance).

By cultivation of such memory images, the society stabilizes and conveys its self-image. Upon such collective knowledge, each group bases its awareness of unity and particularity. The content of such knowledge varies from culture to culture as well as from epoch to epoch. The basic attitude toward history, the past, and thus the function of remembering itself are also variable. Which past becomes evident in the heritage of a society and which values emerge in its identificatory appropriation tell us much about the constitution and tendencies of a society.

Ain Raal
Punsel Oil

Punsel Oil has become widely known from the novel Summer by the popular Estonian writer Oskar Luts; a screen version of the novel has also been made. A colourful personality in the book is an old male apothecary. When one of the main characters, Toots, does not feel well, the apothecary offers him a medicine called Bals. vulnerar. Kunz. Toots wonders if this is Punsel Oil (Est. Punsli oli), but the apothecary answers evasively.

The article attempts to answer several questions: whether Punsel Oil is the same as Bals. vulnerar. Kunz., what it consists of and how it functions, what is the history of the product and whether any Punsel Oil and with what composition is available nowadays.

Several apothecaries’ manuals and other sources reveal that Punsel Oil is actually Kunzen Wound Balsam, and, in the Estonian oral tradition, Kunzen has become distorted into Punsel (genitive Punsli). It is one of the Riga balsams. The first balsam bearing this name was concocted by the Riga pharmacist Abraham Kunze (not Kunzen), based on 16th-17th century Riga apothecaries’ recipes. After his own name, he called it Kunze’s Riga Balsam. Initially, it was meant to be used externally for treatment of wounds. The name of the medicine became famous and, to get greater sales revenue, the appearance and taste of the balsam were improved, and it became to be used internally to cure a variety of health disorders. After Kunze’s death, the product was also made in St Petersburg in Russia and in several pharmacies in Riga.

In the course of time, the name of Kunze disappeared completely, and the common names for the product were White, Yellow or Black Riga Balsam. Their composition changed repeatedly, but the well-selling name remained. Alcoholic drinks similar to Riga balsams are known in Estonia (Punsel Oil), Lithuania (27), Ukraine (Prikarpatii Balsam), but they have also been made in the pharmacies of Norway, Denmark, and elsewhere. They are the predecessors of such well-known liqueurs as Jägermeister (Germany) and Gammeldansk (Denmark). Nowadays the best-known brand of Riga balsams is Riga Black Balsam, produced in the Latvian capital, and the recently launched Riga Black Balsam Currant. All of them are dark brown strong herbal liqueurs which increase appetite and stimulate digestion. Thus, Punsel Oil as one of the Riga balsams was originally made in pharmacies, but like other Riga balsams, it has not received the status of an official medicine, remaining primarily a digestive alcoholic drink.

Gustav Lauringson
Malthus and Darwin: struggle and progress

Thomas Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population occupies an important place in the few past centuries’ history of thought. Although written primarily as a socio-economic treatise, it paradoxically has an essential link with biology. Charles Darwin got inspiration from the essay for his theory of transmutation (evolution).

The essay originates from the old dispute known in the history of science as Darwin’s debt to Malthus. The central problem is the concept and meaning of the struggle for existence formulated by Malthus. Malthus used the thesis of the struggle for existence to refute Enlightenment utopians’ arguments about the infinite perfectibility and progress of humankind. Darwin borrowed from Malthus the struggle for existence to explain natural selection, which was the central component of his transmutation theory. Contrary to Malthus, however, the Darwinist struggle for existence became a cornerstone for substantiating the idea of progress. Struggle for existence was used by several trends of thought in the 19th century; the evolution theory was ideologized by both Social Darwinists and Marxists. The author observes Spencer’s and Marx’s approaches to the idea of struggle and progress, and the controversial connections between Malthus’s and Darwin’s ways of thought.

Robert Kitt
Fifty years of capitalism and freedom

Recently, fifty years passed from the publication of Milton Friedman’s book Capitalism and Freedom. Nearly half of his ideas, which sounded utopian for many, have remained utopian; some, however, have materialised and keep on living, with their advantages and disadvantages, in the Republic of Estonia too. In his overview, the author first presents the main truths postulated by Friedman and, then observes their application to different key issues of society.

When we look back at economic development in the last fifty years, we can see that problems have appeared just there where Friedman and Hayek warned against concentration of power. Nonetheless, we cannot imagine the functioning of global economy without central banks’ sovereign power to influence economic cycles by shaping monetary policy. The WTO regulations, opposite to Friedman’s general ideology, have also been of great help.

In nearly all Western countries, educational and social issues are in ferment. Political choices are complicated and the results become visible after a long time. Pure liberalism and free market economy are probably insufficient for finding successful solutions; therefore, one can only rely on constructive discussion in our own society.

As for Estonia, it has been Friedman’s model student in tax problems. Here both personal income tax (with a tax-free minimum) and corporate income tax are proportional. Likewise, there are very few exceptions in deductions, or, in conclusion, taxing in Estonia is simple.

Rupert Read
Wittgensteins’ Philosophical Investigations as a war book

Seldom conclusions have been drawn from the circumstance that Wittgenstein begun writing his Philosophical Investigations about 1936 and completed it (in particular the preface) in January 1945.

The author admits that it cannot be proven as a historical/biographical fact whether Wittgenstein’s later philosophy was actually constituted by a concern with Nazism, anti-Semitism or the roots of the world war. But he shows that the Philosophical Investigations contain a powerful philosophy concerning the pain of others, an ethic of acknowledgement that can found a strong antiracist stance, a determination to truly see the other.

Read focuses on Wittgenstein’s certain anti-private-language considerations. These remarks attempt to persuade the reader that the desires in question – for certainty, etc. – are otiose and self-defeating, and that our language and life can proceed perfectly well without them. Read formulates his central thought as follows: seeing a living human being as worthy of being treated as nothing more than an automaton – a cyborg in the mind’s eye – is analogous to the habits of thought most centrally subject to critique in the anti-private-language considerations. Whereas seeing in a swastika the cross-piece of a rifle-sight is analogous to seeing the Philosophical Investigations as a meditation on Nazism and the like, on our attractions to it, and on how to expose them relentlessly to view so that they dissolve away.

“All kinds of rumours are going around…”: Reports about the situation in Estonia in 1943-1945. Part XVII
We publish information summaries about the situation in Estonia in the last years of the German occupation, the beginning of the second Soviet occupation, and about the fate of Estonian refugees. The reports meant for Estonian diplomatic representatives in Finland and Sweden (in 1943-1944 also for the Finnish General Staff) were mainly compiled by journalist Voldemar Kures (1893-1987). He interviewed refugees, monitored letters from Estonia, newspapers, radio programmes, etc.

Published 19 October 2012

Original in Estonian
First published in

Contributed by Akadeemia
© Akadeemia Eurozine

PDF / PRINT

recommended articles