Yaminahua, Metaphor, Ontology, Animism, Totemism, Analogism


My purpose in this paper is, first, to explore metaphorical recursiveness in Yaminahua, i.e. the latter’s folding of the common binary structure: {(x) things + (y) words} into the threefold scheme: (A) things + (B) external analogies + (C) internal metaphors, as displaying a multi-iconic semiotic system of the type: A ≈ [B] ≈ C, which is finally reduced to a twofold indexical system: A ← [B], contra Graham Townsley’s dismissal of semiotic theory as being of no relevance in contrast to cognitive construction. And, secondly, to show that within the traditional Yaminahua worldview "animism," "totemism," and "analogism," which Philippe Descola has famously described as alternative ontologies, not only coexist but also structurally intertwined in a complex ternary system supportive, on the one hand, of the basal binary logic characteristic of most Amazonian ontologies, and correlative, on the other hand, to the fourfold intersecting structure that has traditionally made possible the integration of all the Yaminahua people into the four dimensions of space, time, society, and the cosmos.