Subjective experience is transformed into objective reality for societal members through cultural idea systems that can be represented with theory and data models. A theory model shows relationships and their logical implications that structure a cultural idea system. A data model expresses patterning found in ethnographic observations regarding the behavioral implementation of cultural idea systems. An example of this duality for modeling cultural idea systems is illustrated with Arabic proverbs that structurally link friend and enemy as concepts through a culturally defined computational system. Computational systems also generate new concepts, as will be illustrated through a theory model for the structure of a kinship terminology system. This examples accounts for what otherwise appears to be an anomaly in the terminology thereby illustrating the constructive role that modeling of cultural constructs can play in ethnographic research.

Language is … a symbolic, intersubjective, self-referential system of signs we use to structure a meaningful existence among ourselves. (Hustvedt 2009, p. 23)

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