No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

In SciAm

There's some thought provoking language about how language provokes thought (alas only two paragraphs for free). A couple details...

In the Kuuk Thaayorre language, all directions are given with reference to the cardinal diretions. There is no 'left' and 'right', only north and south. When asked to put a series of pictures in time-order (e.g. pictures of banana being eaten), English speakers tend to put them left to right, Hebrew speakers tend to put them right to left, and Kuuk Thaayorre-speakers tend to put them east to west, regardless of the direction they're facing. That is, when facing south, they put them left to right, when facing north, they put them right to left, when facing east, they arrange them toward their body. [I hypothesize their time direction is 'following' the sun.]

In English, the agent is usually explicit, even if the action is accidental. John broke the vase. According to the article, in Spanish and Japanese, reports of accidental actions are less likely to mention the agent. 'The vase broke [itself].' After watching videos of people breaking objects intentionally and unintentionally, Spanish and Japanese speakers performed similarly to English speakers when describing and remembering intentional acts, but "were less likely to describe the accidents agentively than were English speakers, and they correspondingly remembered who did it less well than English speakers did."
Tags: science, wordplay

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