Speaking Of Another Reality

“The area where the most striking evidence for the influence of language on thought has come to light is the language of space — how we describe the orientation of the world around us …

… But then a remote Australian aboriginal tongue, Guugu Yimithirr, from north Queensland, turned up, and with it came the astounding realization that not all languages conform to what we have always taken as simply “natural.” … Whenever we would use the egocentric system, the Guugu Yimithirr rely on cardinal directions. If they want you to move over on the car seat to make room, they’ll say “move a bit to the east.” To tell you where exactly they left something in your house, they’ll say, “I left it on the southern edge of the western table.” …

… speakers of geographic languages seem to have an almost-superhuman sense of orientation …One report relates how a speaker of Tzeltal from southern Mexico was blindfolded and spun around more than 20 times in a darkened house. Still blindfolded and dizzy, he pointed without hesitation at the geographic directions.

… While we are always at the center of the world, and it would never occur to us that pointing in the direction of our chest could mean anything other than to draw attention to ourselves, a Guugu Yimithirr speaker points through himself, as if he were thin air and his own existence were irrelevant.”

∼ Guy Deustcher, New York Times Magazine  (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/magazine/29language-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

bushhendreaming

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