FORUM FOR ANTHROPOLOGY AND CULTURE

ANTROPOLOGICHESKIJ FORUM
RUS | ENG

Forum for Anthropology and Culture, 2016, no. 12

 

Yuri Berezkin. THE SPREAD OF FOLKLORIC MOTIFS AS INFORMATION EXCHANGE, OR, WHERE EAST MEETS WEST

Yuri Berezkin

European University at St Petersburg
3 Gagarinskaya Str., St Petersburg, Russia
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Sciences
3 Universitetskaya Emb., St Petersburg, Russia
berezkin1()gmail.com

Summary: The author describes the results of statistical processing of data on the distribution of 548 motifs corresponding to episodes of adventure and tricks according to 309 traditions of the Old World. Factor analysis has been applied. The totality of traditions can be understood as a cloud of dots with uneven density. Traditions which contain similar sets of motifs are located close to each other and those that share a minimum number of common motifs are the most distant from each other. The program finds such assemblies of dots in pairs and confers every dot a conditional number which is positive for one group and negative for the opposite one. Every pair of assemblies of dots corresponds to a principal component of which the first two provide information on the most important tendencies. The intensity of the exchange of the motifs between traditions can be taken as a proxy for exchange of information between people in the pre-industrial epoch. The results of the analysis demonstrate that besides the Americas, Australia and Oceania, the islands of South-East Asia and Northern and Northeast Siberia were the most isolated regions from nuclear Eurasia (the latter encompasses the Mediterraneum, Europe, Southwest, Central, South and East Asia). The nuclear Eurasian contacts of Sub-Saharan Africa were significantly more intensive. The Chinese tradition contains much less typically Nuclear Eurasian motifs than the Korean and the Japanese ones. Inside nuclear Eurasia itself, the Eastern and the Western interaction spheres can be selected, the borderline between them going across Eastern Europe and then separating the Turkic and Iranian traditions from the Arabian ones. Traditions of the Baltic peoples, Belarusians and Ukrainians are in the western cluster, those of the peoples of the Caucasus, the Bashkir and the Volga Tatars in the eastern one. The Russians, the Setu (south-east Estonians) and the Mordvinians have a slight preponderance of the western motifs while the Gagauz and the Crimea Tatars have a slight preponderance of the eastern motifs. An increase of the share of the eastern motifs in the southern Balkans and Central Mediterraneum can be a consequence of the Osman onslaught. Though the described tendencies accumulate only 18% of all the information that the factor analysis is able to extract from the data, just this information reflects the most significant regularities in the areal distribution of the motifs in continental scale.

Keywords: folklore databases, folklore indexes, folktales, cultural borders, Nuclear Eurasia, Eastern Europe.

To cite: Berezkin Yu., 'The Spread of Folkloric Motifs as Information Exchange, or, Where East Meets West', Forum for Anthropology and Culture, 2016, no. 12, pp. 139–154.

URL: http://anthropologie.kunstkamera.ru/files/pdf/eng012/berezkin.pdf