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Fluvial geomorphology and semiotics: a Wittgensteinian perspective of the ‘divide’ between human and physical geography

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Abstract

This paper presents a broadly realist, pragmatist view of geography, drawing on the work of Wittgenstein to consider the role of language in the divide between human and physical geography. The possibility that we may have ideas that are structured similarly but expressed differently is illustrated through the application of Peircean semiotics to a hierarchy of geomorphological processes in a river system. The resulting ‘scalar semiotic fluvial hierarchy’ allows some of the criticisms of hierarchy to be addressed, and offers geomorphologists a framework for understanding multiple cross-scale process interactions. Finally, the implications of a Wittgensteinian perspective for geography are considered.

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