germaphobian

Well-known member
To what extent does language determine reality?

I can speak Latvian (native), Deutsch (although getting rusty) and English. Russian I can understand for most of the time, but cannot really speak very well.
So one thing I noticed on empirical level is that I always think of nouns in terms of gender even in if I'm using English which, of course, is a genderless language (with few unimportant exceptions). That's because in Latvian noun gender is very strict and very important.
Following that, reality gets wrapped in this gendered aspect - "spoon" is femininie, "knife" is masculine, "tree" is masculine, "door" is feminine, "fate" is masculine", "faith" is feminine and so on and so forth.
Where gender does sometimes appear - like "she ship" - that sound off to me, because in my mind, based on Latvian, ship has to be masculine. Extra layer of confusion gets added when speaking German, which has genders - including 'neuter' which dosen't exist in Latvian - and they, obviously, differ from those in my native tongue so you end up in state of confusion and cognitive dissonance, because what used to be one gender in many cases becomes a different one.
Only thing that somewhat saves the situation is that in German the gender is attached to article (die, der, das) which is separated from the word itself while in Latvian the gender is determined by word ending since there are no articles; in that sense the gender seems to much deeper integrated in the DNA of the word itself while in German there's already a step towards abstraction so you can just accept the rules and rota memorize the articles without blowing the fuse.
Question, of course, is - how much it actally determins reality if all the 'its' become 'he' and 'she'. I suppose it gives more of an animistic view on life. But all in all I cannot see it being TOO improtant. Also it could be interesting to know from perspective of English language speakers who have learned a language where gender is central - when using that language do you actually start to indulge in anthropomorphism or are those just little annoying rules you have stick to so you can make grammatically correct sentences?

What I do believe though is that use of non-native language determins thought in a sense that it creates an emotional detachment and makes the reasoning process more dispassionate, as if your taking a step back from the workings of your own mind. If you think about writers who wrote in a non-native languages, like Beckett, Conrad, Cioran, you cannot deny that there's something cold and surgical about their efforts. But I don't think it matters one bit which non-native you know and are able to switch to, it's more the fact itself.
 

Mr. Tea

Let's Talk About Ceps
I teach a lot of this stuff - this article is pretty good on the limits of Sapir Whorf https://linguistmag.com/problem-sapir-whorf-hypothesis/

Psycholinguist John Lucy compared two strikingly similar countries with different languages—Sweden and Finland. For example, he looked at a metric in which the two countries differed, despite similar legislation and governance. Finnish industry workers have a 31% higher accident rate than their Swedish counterparts. In analyzing the two languages, Lucy found that Swedish uses prepositions while Finnish relies on case endings.

In other words, those with Swedish as a native language may be more inclined to focus on the temporal organization of a process, as prepositions are clearer markers. Case endings, meanwhile, suggest the process components’ relationship to the worker.

Of course, even this remains an unproven hypothesis. Grammar is bound so tightly to thought and culture, that it’s nearly impossible to completely disentangle them. But in all likelihood, the influence that linguistic structures have on our behavior is minimal.

You could test this idea much more thoroughly by exploiting the fact that about 5% of Finland's population speaks Swedish as its first language, couldn't you? Since Swedophones aren't scattered evenly across Finland but are concentrated in a couple of small areas on the coast where most people speak Swedish, you could look at industrial accident rates there and see whether they were more similar to rates in the rest of Finland or in Sweden itself, which would either rule out or support the differences being due to their 'similar' (but presumably not identical) legislation, or other non-linguistic differences between the two countries. I wonder if anyone's done that?
 

mixed_biscuits

_________________________
Hungarian has no 'he'/'she' pronoun distinction and look how enlightened the Magyars are on gender matters as a result!
 

jenks

thread death
What do you teach?
I'm an English teacher - I teach a linguistics based A level as well as all the usual Literature stuff as well.

From a language point of view the word gender really only means type - words which fit this or that pattern, there is nothing inherently masculine/feminine about these words and there are plenty of languages that have no gender but where syntax is more significant than word endings/inflections based upon gender or function. This is especially true in English which has all but abandoned the case system it had before the Normans arrived. We can see its remnant in the apostrophe for possession where the vestigial genitive is indicated Johnes book becoming John's books.

This wikipedia page probably asks more questions than it answers https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_type_of_grammatical_genders
 

Mr. Tea

Let's Talk About Ceps
I'm an English teacher - I teach a linguistics based A level as well as all the usual Literature stuff as well.

From a language point of view the word gender really only means type - words which fit this or that pattern, there is nothing inherently masculine/feminine about these words and there are plenty of languages that have no gender but where syntax is more significant than word endings/inflections based upon gender or function. This is especially true in English which has all but abandoned the case system it had before the Normans arrived. We can see its remnant in the apostrophe for possession where the vestigial genitive is indicated Johnes book becoming John's books.

This wikipedia page probably asks more questions than it answers https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_type_of_grammatical_genders
Yeah, it's really interesting that there are languages with grammatical gender that has nothing to do with sex but is based instead on whether something is a living creature or an inanimate object, or something you can pick up and carry around versus something that's fixed in place, or whatever.

Which, when you think about it, makes far more sense than assigning everything a 'gender' based on it being assumed to be masculine or feminine (or neuter). This works for some words like man/woman, bull/cow, etc., but is obviously completely arbitrary for most things, and in some cases can be counterintuitive, such as the French word for 'vagina' being masculine.
 
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Benny B

Well-known member
Kenner himself could not help but pick up on these precedents to his modernists, language as "petrified poem," quoting the transcendentalist Emerson, and making "fossil poetry" a "thing" (a process akin to magic, the word made real, as Hubert Dreyfus tells us of the Californian ethos of "laid back"):

> The etymologist finds the deadest word to have been once a brilliant picture. Language is fossil poetry. As the limestone of the continent consists of infinite masses of the shells of animalcules, so language is made up of images, or tropes, which now, in their secondary use, have long ceased to remind us of their poetic origin.

I've just ordered a book that's supposed to be really good on this sort of thing, as recommended by Harold Bloom - Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning by Owen Barfield.

"Using poetic examples, he sets out to demonstrate how the imagination works with words and metaphors to create meaning. He shows how the imagination of the poet creates new meaning, and how this same process has been active, throughout human experience, to create and continuously expand language. For Barfield this is not just literary criticism: it is evidence bearing on the evolution of human consciousness. This, for many readers, is his real accomplishment: his unique presentation of "not merely a theory of poetic diction, but a theory of poetry, and not merely a theory of poetry, but a theory of knowledge". This theory was developed directly from a close study of the evolution of words and meaning, starting with the relation between the primitive mind's myth making capacity, and the formation of words. Barfield uses numerous examples to demonstrate that words originally had a unified "concrete and undivided" meaning, which we now distinguish as several distinct concepts. For example, he points out that the single Greek word pneuma (which can be variously translated as "breath", "spirit", or "wind") reflects the original unity of these concepts of air, spirit, wind, and breath, all included in one "holophrase". This Barfield considers to be not the application of a poetic analogy to natural phenomena, but the discernment of an actual phenomenal unity. Not only concepts, but the phenomena themselves, form a unity, the perception of which was possible to primitive consciousness and therefore reflected in language. This is the perspective Barfield believes to have been primordial in the evolution of consciousness, the perspective which was "fighting for its life", as he phrases it, in the philosophy of Plato, and which, in a regenerate and more sophisticated form, benefiting from the development of rational thought, needs to be recovered if consciousness is to continue to evolve."
 

mixed_biscuits

_________________________
Every report of discarnate communication mentions telepathy not language, thought without language. Mediums say they never hear words just impressions/symbolism/images...

Just had to bring some empiricism to bear.
 

shakahislop

Well-known member
been noticing various - i don't know what the word would be - neo-cadences, verbal tics, that kind of thing, that spread from one person to another. this stuff is hard to keep a record of but i'm interested and have started to talk about them a bit. the first one i noticed is this thing of doing funny derogatory voices as a way of making fun of.....well something....., that i've heard from podcasters a lot. one of the novara lads does it here at about 1 minute, and then again at about 1 minute 10. i've heard people do this in real life over the last couple of years, probably because they're copying podcasters.

 

shakahislop

Well-known member
another one is the way american girls have started to say 'yeeeeees' with a funny emphasis and somehow turning it into two syllables. absolutely every american girl i meet is doing this at the moment. does anyone know what i mean?

another american girl one is a kind of squeal of pleasure that i hear loads of girls here do. it kind of goes 'oooooooooohoohoohooooooooooooooooooo' in three syllables.
 

WashYourHands

Cat Malogen
another one is the way american girls have started to say 'yeeeeees' with a funny emphasis and somehow turning it into two syllables. absolutely every american girl i meet is doing this at the moment. does anyone know what i mean?

another american girl one is a kind of squeal of pleasure that i hear loads of girls here do. it kind of goes 'oooooooooohoohoohooooooooooooooooooo' in three syllables.

tap that ass
 

version

Well-known member
Let’s begin with the language issue, or, the ‘language barrier’, if you like. I believe that, no matter how good you get at comprehending a foreign language, its words are never going to resonate as strongly with you as does the corresponding words in your mother tongue. Thus, ‘love’ merely is an abstraction to me, even though I’m perfectly aware of all its nuances, while the Swedish equivalent, ‘kärlek’, evokes a very visceral sensation. You can think of it as a fine-meshed filter, which transmits the meaning of the words, but shields you from feeling them—not entirely, but very palpably. My filter has an additional mode, only available in English, which shuts out even the meaning of the words, leaving only the sound of them for my ear-buds to digest. I believe almost every non-native English speaker has a similar filter,

Any of our European posters have an opinion on this?
 
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mixed_biscuits

_________________________
Any of our European posters have an opinion on this?
My mother tongue is not English despite my native tongue being English (does that make sense?!! lol) and I 72% agree with Guybrush. I also think my brain is fractionally quicker at understanding overheard strangers' comments in the mother tongue than in English. It's simple imprinting.
 

germaphobian

Well-known member
Any of our European posters have an opinion on this?
Yeah, there's deffo less emotional involment when using non-native language. Related:

 
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