In early indigenous cultures, nature was the source of material and of technique, and culture was the work of forming something from them. Even at that beginning point, a cultural work had a linguistic dimension, a referential dimension, that is, a self-referential dimension. The manner of its construction was also a speech act, speaking the instructions for its replication by the next generations, and more importantly, speaking its myth, the reasons and motivations for its replication.
This can be briefly illustrated with the case of animal ‘constructions’. A bird or beast may weave a nest, or build a bower. They will use materials and techniques from nature, and perhaps they even build instructions into the work for future generations to repeat. But they do so in their own language, and if there is a mythic dimension, surely we cannot read it. Humans may even reuse a bird’s nest or a lion’s bower, but we don’t share a language with them. When we make something for ourselves, it participates, deeply, in the distinctive forms of our shared self-awareness, and that awareness is linguistic.
Such cultural production forms a “second nature”, a complete world of things made by the hand of man.