Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought etc

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Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought etc

Unread postby faoileag » Tue Dec 14, 2010 2:25 pm

Not about Gaelic, but relevant:

http://www.economist.com/debate/overview/190&fsrc=nwl

This house believes that the language we speak shapes how we think.


Arguments for and against, incoming... :spors:



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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby Seonaidh » Wed Dec 15, 2010 9:53 pm

Dè mu dheidhinn:
"This house believes that how we think shapes the language we speak"?

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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby GunChleoc » Fri Dec 17, 2010 1:08 pm

Oileanach chànan chuthachail
Na dealbhan agam

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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby Thrissel » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:40 pm

Buil: 78% - 22%.

The Ayes have it.

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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby Níall Beag » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:55 pm

A bit of a pointless survey, though.
I don't know what it would feel like to be a native speaker of French, Swahili or even Klingon.

The survey's just another example of the Emperor's Nose Fallacy...

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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby Thrissel » Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:19 pm

Níall Beag wrote:I don't know what it would feel like to be a native speaker of French, Swahili or even Klingon.


Hmm, tha iad ag ràdh an cànan a tha sinn a' bruidhinn seach a' chiad chànan againn...

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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby Níall Beag » Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:58 pm

Thrissel wrote:
Níall Beag wrote:I don't know what it would feel like to be a native speaker of French, Swahili or even Klingon.


Hmm, tha iad ag ràdh an cànan a tha sinn a' bruidhinn seach a' chiad chànan againn...

Rilli?
This house believes that the language we speak shapes how we think.

Sin an cànan a bhios sinn a' bruidhinn, nach e...?

But the actual argument does seem to conflate the two issues.

I'm intrigued by the role of language as environment in the case of perception, and as a Gaelic learner I know I'm stumped by the colour system (were ancient Gaels colourblind?!?!?), but does that really constitute "thinking differently", or is it something more superficial. (In fact, it's very rare for anyone to even mention the idea of "environment" when discussing this issue.)

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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby akerbeltz » Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:17 pm

the house believes


Yeah right...

stumped by the colour system (were ancient Gaels colourblind?!?!?)


No, they just split the colour spectrum amongst different lines. On the bright side, I've run the standard colour swatch test past native speakers and the "modern Gaels" split the spectrum excatly like English speakers do. With the exception of the geal/bàn, dearg/ruadh split of course which is based on material.

Turnint to evidence based science rather than the Economist, there IS evidence that shows that our native language does indeed affect the way we process the world. Two studies in particular spring to mind:
1) Colour tests. Languages with extremely small color term sets perform less well in colour memorisation tests than speakers of other languages; i.e. if your language only has two terms for dark colour/light colour, then if you're asked to memorise and match different colours, you do less well.
2) Focus. Depending on what grammatical aspects of a statement your native languages places focus on, it affects how easily remember aspects of an event. Agent-Patient languages, if I remember rightly, funnily enough have the tendency to apportion blame more strongly if I remember rightly. Well, a tendency to ... we're not talking about massive differences.

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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby Thrissel » Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:25 pm

A short note on the colour system: When I saw for the first time some of the 'pedia templates named "Shades of ..." I felt similarly to how I felt when reading in my TYG that 'gorm means blue but also the colour of grass', because no way would you call some of the colours included for example here and here shades of [what goes for the tr*nsl*t**n of the general terms for] brown and orange in Czech. Not to mention that their treating of brown as a subcategory of orange seems absolutely bonkers to me.

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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby Níall Beag » Thu Dec 23, 2010 8:19 pm

akerbeltz wrote:1) Colour tests. Languages with extremely small color term sets perform less well in colour memorisation tests than speakers of other languages; i.e. if your language only has two terms for dark colour/light colour, then if you're asked to memorise and match different colours, you do less well.

But what I was trying to get at is that this is a matter of language shaping our perception. It's a bit of a leap to generalise from language affecting perception to language affecting all cognition.

The effect of language on perception can be trivially demonstrated by the ability of a child to distinguish phonemes as different and not distinguish particular allophones of a given phoneme. It's only a small stretch to impose that model of meaningful distinctions onto colours.

The case of cardinal languages is intriguing. Anything I've read about them talks as though adults are always right, and the mainstream view that this is because the language forces them to develop a super sense of relative direction. The idea that they're simply tuned in to the little magnetic organ in the nose may not be the most widely held theory, but it makes most sense to me. To me, that would make the influence of a cardinal language simply an "environment" which forces the child to pay attention to sensory input that to us as European kids with our little world of house, school, shop, park, house, school, shop, park (ad infinitum) isn't particularly important. (Have there been any rigorous studies on this theory?)

But however they perceive direction, it certainly is a question of perception, and there still seems a big gap between perception in particular and cognition in general....
2) Focus. Depending on what grammatical aspects of a statement your native languages places focus on, it affects how easily remember aspects of an event. Agent-Patient languages, if I remember rightly, funnily enough have the tendency to apportion blame more strongly if I remember rightly. Well, a tendency to ... we're not talking about massive differences.

Interesting. How do they measure it objectively?
Thrissel wrote:no way would you call some of the colours included for example here and here shades of [what goes for the tr*nsl***** of the general terms for] brown and orange in Czech. Not to mention that their treating of brown as a subcategory of orange seems absolutely bonkers to me.

There's a lot of things I wouldn't call "brown" under brown and a lot of things I wouldn't call "orange" under orange. (I certainly don't think of brown as a shade of orange!)

I think they've started from a purely technical definition of colour boundaries in making that list.

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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby Seonaidh » Thu Dec 23, 2010 11:35 pm

Thrissel wrote:A short note on the colour system: When I saw for the first time some of the 'pedia templates named "Shades of ..." I felt similarly to how I felt when reading in my TYG that 'gorm means blue but also the colour of grass', because no way would you call some of the colours included...

Dè mu dheidhinn "bluegrass"? Agus tha mòran a' fuireach anns na h-Appalachians aig a bheil sinnsearan Albannach...

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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby Thrissel » Fri Dec 24, 2010 12:00 am

Níall Beag wrote:It's a bit of a leap to generalise from language affecting perception to language affecting all cognition.

I suppose perception has some influence on cognition and the way I read the language we speak shapes how we think it's about having some (possibly small) amount of influence, not about an overall effect on somebody's thinking. But perhaps it's just my understanding of the word 'shape' having been shaped by the Czech tr*nsl*t**n of the word...

Níall Beag wrote:I think they've started from a purely technical definition of colour boundaries in making that list.

The way I know WP to work each of the colours appears in the template because somebody wrote in the particular colour's article [[Category:Shades of brown]] - in other words, the colour was seen as a shade of brown by the particular editor.

Seonaidh wrote:Dè mu dheidhinn "bluegrass"? Agus tha mòran a' fuireach anns na h-Appalachians aig a bheil sinnsearan Albannach...

:mc: Leis an fhìrinn innse, cha robh mi eòlach cairteal na h-uarach air ais air 'bluegrass' mar rud sam bi eile seach seòrsa ciùil...

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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby akerbeltz » Fri Dec 24, 2010 2:07 am

I would never claim it affects all cognition. All I was noting is that there are some studies that read well on paper that seem to point some interaction between language and cognition.

Regarding colours, the first piece of advice the colour linguistic that tutored me gave me was to stay clear of screen colours and artificial light. The standard test is made either with paper or thread samples under natural light. It's easy to see why when you place two screens side by side and look at the same RGB colour

Bluegrass, under the right light conditions does have shades of grey/sky blue. Anyway...

I'll try and remember some of these studies and post some links... can't remember off the top of my head.

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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby poor_mouse » Fri Dec 24, 2010 9:56 am

The name of bluegrass shows that its color is not usual for grass, so it isn't gorm.
How it would be in Gaelic?
Chan eil "bluegrass" coltach ri feòir eile oir a tha e fìor ghorm agus chan eil e gorm idir!
Eilidh -- Luchag Bhochd

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Re: Economist live debate this week: language shapes thought

Unread postby Thrissel » Fri Dec 24, 2010 1:25 pm

akerbeltz wrote:Regarding colours, the first piece of advice the colour linguistic that tutored me gave me was to stay clear of screen colours and artificial light. The standard test is made either with paper or thread samples under natural light. It's easy to see why when you place two screens side by side and look at the same RGB colour

Bluegrass, under the right light conditions does have shades of grey/sky blue. Anyway...


Of course a screen colour (based on an additive colour model), a printed colour made with a single pigment and a printed colour based on a subtractive model don't look identical. Of course, under the right light conditions you can change any colour to something quite different. I'm just trying to say that our naming of colours is purely arbitrary, based on tradition - precisely because neither the pigments in the local grass (technically, grass even isn't a single species) nor the usual local lights (if I remember correctly, our perception of a colour changes even under natural light depending on the angle of incidence, which is why colours change in the evening) are the same everywhere. And btw, there's another influence - the surroundings of the colour. A good optical illusion can be found here.