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August 29, 2010

Does Your Language Shape How You Think?

It begins with an indignant smackdown of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and just gets better from there. Does Your Language Shape How You Think? - NYTimes.com
SINCE THERE IS NO EVIDENCE that any language forbids its speakers to think anything, we must look in an entirely different direction to discover how our mother tongue really does shape our experience of the world. Some 50 years ago, the renowned linguist Roman Jakobson pointed out a crucial fact about differences between languages in a pithy maxim: “Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.” This maxim offers us the key to unlocking the real force of the mother tongue: if different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because of what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually obliges us to think about. Consider this example. Suppose I say to you in English that “I spent yesterday evening with a neighbor.” You may well wonder whether my companion was male or female, but I have the right to tell you politely that it’s none of your business. But if we were speaking French or German, I wouldn’t have the privilege to equivocate in this way, because I would be obliged by the grammar of language to choose between voisin or voisine; Nachbar or Nachbarin. These languages compel me to inform you about the sex of my companion whether or not I feel it is remotely your concern. This does not mean, of course, that English speakers are unable to understand the differences between evenings spent with male or female neighbors, but it does mean that they do not have to consider the sexes of neighbors, friends, teachers and a host of other persons each time they come up in a conversation, whereas speakers of some languages are obliged to do so.

August 23, 2010

Recommended Listening: "Acceptable Losses" by Simon Wood

Pseudopod -- Blog Archive -- Pseudopod 191: Acceptable Losses This...

August 22, 2010

Recommended Reading: The Fermi Paradox Is Our Business Model by Charlie Jane Anders

Tor.com / Science fiction and fantasy / Stories / The...

August 20, 2010

This contest cries out for the attentions of all Mojonauts, everywhere . . .

Jeff and Ann VanderMeer (of steampunk novel and Weird Tales...

August 18, 2010

Ray Bradbury has lost it

Ray Bradbury: ‘We’ve Got Too Many Internets’ | Underwire |...

August 15, 2010

The case for getting rid of tenure

The case for getting rid of tenure. - By Christopher...

August 11, 2010

What's the hot new trend in Romance novels? The Amish.

I give up, you guys. Romance novels set in Amish country pick up the pace - USATODAY.com
It's plain and simple: The Amish inspirational is one of the fastest-growing genres in romance publishing. For many readers today, it's all about the bonnet. In our sex-soaked society, nothing seems to inflame the imagination quite like the chaste. In popular series such as Beverly Lewis' Seasons of Grace, Wanda Brunstetter's Indiana Cousins and Cindy Woodsmall's Sisters of the Quilt,the Amish fall in love while grappling with religious taboos and forbidden temptations. And it all happens in uber-quaint settings brimming with hand-sewn quilts, horse-drawn buggies and made-from-scratch Pennsylvania Dutch specialties such as shoofly pie. "It's a huge, huge, huge trend," says romance blogger Sarah Wendell, co-author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels.

Foreign words that have no direct counterparts in English fascinate me

It's a wonderful idea for a book. Tartle, bufetak, kaelling: the foreign words to which English has no answer - Telegraph
If asked to describe a woman who stands on her doorstep screaming obscenities at her children, an English speaker would struggle to find a precise phrase. But any Danish person would tell you that such a woman is called a “kaelling”. The experience of hesitating when you are introducing someone whose name you can’t remember may be familiar – but you would be hard pressed to sum it up in a single word. A Scots speaker would be able to clear up your confusion by telling you that to hesitate in such a way is simply to “tartle”. . . . He discovered that a man who hangs around cafes and eats leftovers is called a “bufetak” in the Czech Republic, while someone who is only attractive from a distance is “layogenic” in Tagalog – the language of the Phillipines. A young man who tries to seduce his aunt is a “tantenverfuhrer” in German, while a person who is aroused by garlic is a “physiggoomai” in Ancient Greek.