The Amondawa tribe in Amazon discovered in 1986 have no concept of abstract time according to a study from the University of Portsmouth and the Federal University of Rondonia in Brazil.
We’re really not saying these are a ‘people without time’ or ‘outside time…Amondawa people, like any other people, can talk about events and sequences of event,….What we don’t find is a notion of time as being independent of the events which are occurring; they don’t have a notion of time which is something the events occur in.
Evidence for this includes that the people do not refer to their ages, but that they take different names at different stages of their lives or as they achieve different status within the community.
Other theorists are not so sure however. When a tribe with a limited vocabulary refers to things in the external world time might not be mapped onto it. In other words the Amondawa might well experience and understand time as we do, its just that it isn’t or can’t be articulated within the language…..(via)
Bivio a small town in Switzerland has just over two hundred inhabitants but the town speaks three languages, each in several different dialects. Because it is an isolated town most linguists believe it to be a relic of the multilinguistic norm in history. As today is world language day its a wonderful highlight of how different languages can and do live together in harmony.
At the kindergarten, they speak Italian on Tuesday and Surmiran, a Romansch dialect, on Thursday. The rest of the week, the kids alternate between the two, but in the playground, the German dialect Bündnerdeutsch rules. On Sundays, they may attend the Catholic church, where the priest preaches in Schwyzerdütsch, or the Protestant one, where High German is the order of the day.
As a father bringing up bilingual kids I wish the English world woulde more open or porous to world different languages. (via)
In Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, a Quechua Indian told me that everything one does in life involves looking forward while going backward simultaneously. This I didn’t understand. I said, ‘What do you mean, going backward?’And he said,’Well, it’s very simple. For us, for the Quechua, the past is in front of us. It’s in front of us because we know the past and we can look at it. And the future is behind because we don’t know what it brings so we move into the future, but we move backwards.’ The expression is ñawpaman puni. -David Tuchsneider 1992:63-64
A beautiful concept that we are facing backward while moving forward that seems enshrined as it is in the Quechua language a quite deep insight. But I note now while I’m studying Finnish in my spare time that languages have many and subtle differences in their attitude to space and time and grammatical systems are by nature going to constrain your thinking about space if you rely on them.
click on image for slideshow
The Rosetta disk is an archive of 1,500 languages that can comfortably be held in the hand. The underside of the disk has,
.. over 13,000 microetched pages of language documentation. Since each page is a physical rather than digital image, there is no platform or format dependency. Reading the Disk requires only optical magnification. Each page is .019 inches, or half a millimeter, across. This is about equal in width to 5 human hairs, and can be read with a 650X microscope (individual pages are clearly visible with 100X magnification).
The disk is contained in a sphere the bottom piece of which is made of stainless steel and meant to be etched with information unique to that disk the top half of the sphere is a glass lens that magnifies the top of the disk. Through this magnifying glass you can read the text of the major languages spiral down and reduce in size smaller and smaller.
The text begins at eye-readable scale and spirals down to nano-scale. This tapered ring of languages is intended to maximize the number of people that will be able to read something immediately upon picking up the Disk, as well as implying the directions for using it
The casing is beautiful with the words spiralling down into the orb, the underside of the disk presents an equally dazzling grid of multicoloured pixels. But what I really love about it is the spiral of words that pulls you in deeper into the sea of languages a kind of parallel with Pieter Brueghals the Tower of Babel, which pulls you up a spiral all the time while God splits the languages of those who ascend over and over again. The process of the real life preservation and the mythical creation of languages is almost exactly the same. Both reach a point in the spiral where understanding fails….
The dream is to preserve and keep these languages and be able to rediscover them over the Milenea as many will have died out already before we reach the end of this century. A micro fossilisation of knowledge frozen in time.
Babies see colour differently than adults researchers have found, babies brains process colour information in pre-linguistic parts of the brain, but adults process colour in linguiostic parts of the brain, which means adults see colour filtered through language. It also means at some point there is a change over in our perceptions of colour. (via)
“As an adult, color categorization is influenced by linguistic categories. It differs as the language differs,” said Kay, who is renowned for his studies on the ways that different cultures classify colors. He cited recent research on the ability of Russian speakers to detect shades of blue [pdf] that English speakers classify as a single color.
I’ve started my new course at the university again learning Finnish, trying to do some basic following of the Finnish Media so below is a kind of part Linkdump part commentary on whats out there.
A couple of daily free papers you get on your commute are uutislehti100 and metro (which you can download in pdf format the latest edition). The big paper in Helsinki is Helsingin Sanomat but maybe thats too advanced for me yet. There is a weekly printed newspaper printed in easy Finnish called selkouutiset or clearness news, you can get from the academic bookshop can’t find a web link at the moment.
There is a simplifed news podcast released every day by TLE which I’m finding really useful.
A great links page at the university site.
Also see my first post about Learning Finnish.
I have just started on another Finnish course this time at Helsinki University. Finnish is a very interesting language older than other European languages and only really related to Estonian closely and Hungarian distantly, and the local myth is that its the second most difficult language to learn for an English speaker like me (the first being Chinese). That’s the impression I got before I came here however some people think differently me included as the more I’ve been learning the more I appreciate that its just a bit more foreign than other foreign languages. However I’m not about to contradict anyone as after two years here because I am a little ashamed of the progress I’ve made…..must learn some more words…….See some further links Map of Uralic Languages. Origins of Finnish and Related Languages. Check this online course or go to Finnish school or want to study Finnish in Helsinki there are a couple of other places Helsingin kesÃ¤yliopisto, Helsingin aikuisopisto.