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Thread: What does English sound like?

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    herenorthere's Avatar
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    Deep thinking in all fields is best done in the presence of beer.

    I agreed with Sapir-Whorf when I first learned about that kind of thing and probably agree even more strongly now. Even though that's the opposite of my usual opinion of deterministic things.

    As for how a language sounds to those unfamiliar with it, would a non-Anglophone necessarily realize somebody from Nigeria and another from North Dakota are speaking the same language?
    Bruce in CT

    Madness is something rare in individuals but in groups, parties, peoples, ages it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Stay chooned in for more! Clint's Avatar
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    If we learn to think without language, do we free ourselves from some mental constraint? How do you "think without language" or is it impossible? Unless you think in numbers, but can you think without any symbols or words at all? "Pure though" I guess. If there was saw a feral human with NO language, what would he think in? Would his thought be full of grunts or would his head be empty?

    You're an anthropologist, do you think the actual language a person uses influences their thought? If so, do you have any examples?

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    Doing it wrong until I do it right. xvart's Avatar
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    Good questions, Clint. It all comes down to one of the basic philosophical questions about thinking and perception: if you had no senses would you know you existed? If you have no method of describing anything or have no senses to react to you would have no method of expressing the image of yourself. Thinking without words I imagine would be just like pictures. I know when I think I am basically just talking to myself in my head.

    xvart.
    "The tragedy of life is not that every man loses; but that he almost wins."

    "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by JustLikeAPill View Post
    If we learn to think without language, do we free ourselves from some mental constraint? How do you "think without language" or is it impossible? Unless you think in numbers, but can you think without any symbols or words at all? "Pure though" I guess. If there was saw a feral human with NO language, what would he think in? Would his thought be full of grunts or would his head be empty?

    You're an anthropologist, do you think the actual language a person uses influences their thought? If so, do you have any examples?
    In order to think with out culture you would have to nullify all culture as even culture is just a system of arbitrary symbols and actions you are taught to interpret a certain way. Thinking without language would be some kind of tranidental state much like a state of nirvana as in thought on a differnt plane than normal human thought, though completely differnt. (This is a very bad analogy but its the best I can come up with.) Or this person would be so lost they would act on instinct alone and probably not survive very long as people need culture.

    I do believe language does control how you think. Think about when you think you do it in your own language or languages you speak. Even when you work with numbers you think three plus four equals seven in your head you dont just magically add the numbers with out thinking about them. As an example of how someones world is shaped by their language take the Inuit. Inuktitut has several words that describe the different forms of what we call snow as this is an integral part of their world. English speakers can never gain a view of the world similar to the Inuit unless we learn Inuktitut as English will never suffice to descirbe the world as the Inuit see it. Another example I can give you from my own experinces is using the Arabic word Jihad. I know we all think it means "holy war" but that is not correct. There are many different translation all of them wrong because they are translations. I met a man while I was in Jordan who was a native speaker of both Arabic and English as his father was English and his mother was Jordainian. He grew up with both languages spoken in the home and did not realize for quite some time that everyone didnt speak both. We some how got on the misunderstandings between the West and the Arabic world and the word Jihad came up. When I asked for an explaination of the word he told me that there was nothing in English that would suffice to translate the word and that he would have to teach me Arabic to get me to understand the true meaning. I know this is only a single word but it serves as an example of how language can shape your world. Without understanding the word you can not understand the thought pattern behind it. If you cant understand the thought pattern behind it unless you speak the language then your thoughts are structured by the language.

    Does this all make sense? Did I articulate myself clearly. I am by no means a linguist I am sure a linguist could give you a better explaination and much better examples. If you want me to explain anything I said further I can give it a shot if you want.

    Now I think in good anthropological tradition its time for a beer. LOL
    "We're terrible animals. I think that the Earth's immune system is trying to get rid of us, as well it should." - Kurt Vonnegut

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    Stay chooned in for more! Clint's Avatar
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    That was a good explanation! Your explanation of thinking without language reminds me of a dissociative state, actually. I always thought Jihad meant struggle, guess it's more complicated.

    I do have a hard time comprehending how a language can have a word without a translation. Look at the word schadenfreude; it supposedly has no direct English translation but doesn't it just mean pleasure in someone else's pain?

    It's nice to have intelligent conversation. I get tired of people asking if their VFT traps will grow back.

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    I am not familar with schadenfreude well other than I just looked it up on the web. It is slightly differnt than Jihad though since there is no way to adequetly express its true meaning in english where as schadenfreude just takes a small sentance to explain. I would guess it would be related to the fact that German and English are in the same language family, Germanic, and are likely to have a closer aproximation of each others words. Where as if you are going from English to Arabic you are moving from the Germanic to Semetic family and therefore are less likely to have direct or close correlations of words.

    And I agree an intellectual conversation is nice.

    Though I have been meaning to ask I have a venus fly trap that I have been watering with tap water and fertalizing once a week and now it doesnt have any traps does it need more fertalizer or maybe more tap water to get the traps to grow back? LOL
    "We're terrible animals. I think that the Earth's immune system is trying to get rid of us, as well it should." - Kurt Vonnegut

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    Stay chooned in for more! Clint's Avatar
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    I think all it needs it some bacon bits and maybe even a little meat loaf once every three days.

    Feeding it it's own dead relatives is always a good idea, apparently

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    herenorthere's Avatar
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    I'm not so sure one has to learn Arabic to understand the meaning of jihad as much as one has to have a feel for Arabic culture/society/etc. Possibly, one has to be immersed in that society because words can be loaded with all kinds of social meaning. When I hear "states rights", I can give a bland definition of the separate roles of federal and state governments in the US. But I also picture apologists for people with white hoods and burning crosses and also picture people fighting against a corrupted central government. And that's only the beginning. How would I ever translate that phrase into another language or even give it its due in English?
    Bruce in CT

    Madness is something rare in individuals but in groups, parties, peoples, ages it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

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