languages that change the way their speakers view the world

languages that change the way their speakers view the world

The way languages transmit information in various ways has fascinated linguists, anthropologists, and psychologists for decades. During the 1940s, a chemical engineer named Benjamin Lee Whorf published a research paper in the MIT Technology Review. In his research paper, which quickly became popular at the time, he claimed that the way languages express different concepts - such as gender, time and place - affects the way their speakers interact with the world. For example, if a language lacks conventions to describe specific times, its speakers will not understand the meaning of time flowing.

While researchers today find that this finding exaggerates the influence of language on our minds, this does not negate that speaking habits (a reflection of language) can affect our thinking in other ways.

The following four languages reveal how information can be expressed in very different ways, and how this difference can affect the worldview of their speakers.

The language in which you are not the center of the universe
English speakers (and most other languages: even Arabic!) are very selfish when it comes to directions. Imagine that you would like someone to stand by you, what would you say? “Can you stand on my left/right?”, right?

The same applies to directing someone to a place: “Go in a straight line, then turn right..etc.” And the word “right” often means your right! For an Aboriginal tribe in North Queensland, Australia, called the Guugu Ymithirr , there are no words like “left/right/forward” in terms of directions. Instead, they use the names of the primary directions to express spatial information. Instead of "Can you move to my left?" They'll say "Can you move west?"

Linguist Guy Deustcher explains their behavior as having a kind of "inner compass" that developed within them at a very young age. In the same way that English-speaking children learn to use different tenses when they speak, children of that tribe learn to orient themselves with compass directions. Studies have shown that speakers of languages that use cardinal directions to express locations have excellent spatial memory and orientation skills.

A language in which time flows from east to west
He studied linguistics scholar Lyra Boroditsky from Stanford University and Alice Gaby "Alice Gaby" from the University of Berkeley (Kuuk Thaayorre: the language spoken by the people of the region Pormpuraaw ). Similar to the aforementioned Guugu Ymithirr, the Pormpuraaw people use cardinal directions to express locations. But what really sets their language apart is the effect this has on the speaker's translation of time.

In a series of experiments, the researchers asked people in the area to arrange cards showing pictures of their age (one of an old man, one of a baby crocodile, and one of an adult eating a banana). And that was after they sat them at different tables: one facing south, the other facing north. Regardless of which direction they were facing, all the speakers arranged the cards from east to west—the same direction as the path of the sun passes through the sky as the day goes on.

The English speakers, who were given the same experiment, always arranged the cards from left to right (which is the direction in which they read). For the Kuuk Thaayorre speakers, the passage of time was closely linked to the underlying trends. “We never told anyone which direction he was facing,” Boroditsky says. “He recognized it spontaneously and used it, spontaneously, to construct his representations of time.”

A language where colors are just similes
Humans see the world through a specific spectrum of light, and according to some linguistics experts, all languages contain a set of specific color terms that divide the visible color spectrum. Either to (specific colors such as “black-white-red” or to warm and cool colors) according to the theory of “basic color terms” devised by anthropologist Brent Berlin and linguist Paul Kay in 1969. But This does not apply to the language of Rossel Island off the eastern tip of Pablo New Guinea: Yélî Dnye!

In 2001, Steven Levinson, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Linguistics, published a paper in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology refuting the Berlin and Kaye theory based on the Yélî Dnye language. He stated that the latter is quite different from the rest of the languages in neighboring countries, being limited to specific terms for colours, to be more precise: there is no synonym for the word “color” in Yélî Dnye. Instead, islanders use color terms derived from the names of organisms in the island's environment.

For example, to describe something as red, islanders say it is “mtyemtye,” a term derived from the word “mtye” or (red parrot). Another example is the word mgîdîmgîdî - which is used to describe (blackness) - derived from the word “mgîdî” which means (night). Not only that, but the island’s grammar reinforces this metaphorical tendency. If an islander wanted to describe a man of European descent, he would say, “The complexion of a man is the color of a white parrot.”

Language that forces you to provide evidence for your words
In Nuevo San Juan (a city in the Republic of Peru), the indigenous people speak the Matsés language, which in its rules ensures that every piece of information is verified at the time of speaking. Each spoken sentence follows a different verb form depending on how you know the information you are conveying, and when you last knew it was true.

For example, if you ask someone: “How many apples do you have?” He will answer you, "I had four apples the last time I checked the fruit basket." No matter how sure the speaker is that he still has those four apples, if he can't see them, he won't have proof (what if a thief stole 3 apples? Then his answer would be incorrect!).

Language contains a large set of terms specific to information such as: facts inferred in the recent/distant past, guesses about different times in the past, and information retold from memory.

Linguist David Fleck from Rice University in the United States wrote his doctoral thesis on the grammar of Matsés, in which he says, “What distinguishes Matsés from other languages that require speakers to provide evidence for what they say is that it includes a group Actions of the source of the information and another group to convey whether it is true or not, in addition to the extent to which the person himself is certain of the information.

Interestingly, there is no way to indicate what the information is (is it a rumor? Myth or history). Instead, speakers convey this type of information as a quote or inferred in the recent past.