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language what?

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  • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
    Wendell said:
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 27, 2003
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      Wendell said:

      << This would be part of the strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
      (which says that some languages can
      express ideas that others can't), and most linguists today say that that's
      just not true. The weak version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (which says
      that some languages can express certain things easier than others) may be
      true. ... >>

      Is that really current linguistic thought? Oh dear. I am so attached to
      the notion that learning other languages opens up unique modes of thought
      for each. The easiest example, to my mind, would be one related to gender
      and the name(s) of God. Everything is neuter in English, and most of our
      Biblical God-names are either neuter (God, which has a masculine flavor by
      tradition I suspect) or masculine (Lord, Father). But in some languages (I
      have been told, Hebrew), there is a taste of the feminine as well. That is
      not the best example, perhaps, but it is the only one I have handy.

      When a language has a word for something, then there is more easily the
      idea in the head of those people who speak the language. When there is not
      a word, or when the expression comes less easily, then so does the idea....
      is this another Sapir-Whorf heresy?


      Lizzie Triano
      lizziewriter@...
      amor vincit omnia
    • jamcconney@aol.com
      ... One of the examples I like to use is the Welsh word hiraeth which a native speaker (I forget the name) defined as a cry of outrage against the tyranny
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 27, 2003
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        > When a language has a word for something, then there is more easily the
        > idea in the head of those people who speak the language. When there is not
        > a word, or when the expression comes less easily, then so does the idea....
        > is this another Sapir-Whorf heresy?

        One of the examples I like to use is the Welsh word 'hiraeth' which a native
        speaker (I forget the name) defined as "a cry of outrage against the tyranny
        of fact." In English it's usually translated "regret." So yes, you can get that
        meaning in English--but look how many more words it took.

        The Hebrew word "ruach" means "spirit" and is often taken to mean the spirit
        of God or, in Christian terms, the Holy Spirit. It is feminine.

        Anne





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      • WendellWag@aol.com
        In a message dated 6/27/2003 1:15:04 PM Eastern Daylight Time, ... As I said, what the weak form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis says is that sometimes
        Message 3 of 5 , Jun 27, 2003
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          In a message dated 6/27/2003 1:15:04 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
          lizziewriter@... writes:

          > Is that really current linguistic thought? Oh dear. I am so attached to
          > the notion that learning other languages opens up unique modes of thought
          > for each. The easiest example, to my mind, would be one related to gender
          > and the name(s) of God. Everything is neuter in English, and most of our
          > Biblical God-names are either neuter (God, which has a masculine flavor by
          > tradition I suspect) or masculine (Lord, Father). But in some languages (I
          > have been told, Hebrew), there is a taste of the feminine as well. That is
          > not the best example, perhaps, but it is the only one I have handy.
          >

          As I said, what the weak form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis says is that
          sometimes differences between languages make it easier to express some ideas. The
          strong form, which says that the differences make it impossible to express
          some ideas is clearly not true. Let's take gender as an example. It may be
          true that the existence of gender in some languages makes it easier to think of
          certain things as having certain genders, but that doesn't mean that it makes
          it impossible to do so. In any case, the idea that speakers of languages with
          genders don't know perfectly well that the assignment of gender in their
          language is mostly arbitrary is absurd.

          There are several knock-down arguments against the strong form of the
          hypothesis. If it were impossible to express certain ideas in certain languages,
          then it would be impossible to explain to speakers of that language that there
          are ideas that they are missing. "You see, there's this idea that can be
          expressed in other languages which says that . . . um . . . well, I can't really
          explain it to you. But I swear that it's there." Furthermore, the world is full
          of people who grew up as native speakers of three (and sometimes even more)
          languages. If the strong form were true, they would have to be schizophrenic.

          Wendell Wagner


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        • alexeik@aol.com
          In a message dated 6/27/3 5:39:27 PM, Lizzie wrote: Only among English-speaking linguists. :-)
          Message 4 of 5 , Jun 28, 2003
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            In a message dated 6/27/3 5:39:27 PM, Lizzie wrote:

            <<Is that really current linguistic thought?>>

            Only among English-speaking linguists. :-)

            << Oh dear. I am so attached to
            the notion that learning other languages opens up unique modes of thought
            for each. >>

            It's a perfectly accurate notion. Anyone who genuinely knows several
            languages can test the validity of the weak version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis for
            him(her)self.
            Alexei
          • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
            It s a perfectly accurate notion. Anyone who genuinely knows several languages can test the validity of the weak version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis for
            Message 5 of 5 , Jun 29, 2003
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              It's a perfectly accurate notion. Anyone who genuinely knows several
              languages can test the validity of the weak version of the Sapir-Whorf
              hypothesis for
              him(her)self. >>

              thank you, Alexei. You remain on my Heroes list. xox

              For the rest, it is being educational ... keep it up.

              ... I do think that lovingkindness was the meaning of chesed we were
              exploring. Lovingkindness is one of those older English translation
              (Prayer Book? KJB?) words that we used to hear a lot. Not so much with the
              new versions of things.

              "Cheesed off" is not an expression I use.

              Lizzie Triano
              lizziewriter@...
              amor vincit omnia
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