coromandal


there’s an ant on your southeast leg
June 29, 2009, 11:21 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

From the article by sociologist Lera Boroditsky on the relationship between language, our bodies, and the space around us.  The past isn’t necessarily behind us, things aren’t always properly ordered left to right and, don’t look now but there’s a bug on your southwest leg.

Follow me to Pormpuraaw, a small Aboriginal community on the western edge of Cape York, in northern Australia. I came here because of the way the locals, the Kuuk Thaayorre, talk about space. Instead of words like “right,” “left,” “forward,” and “back,” which, as commonly used in English, define space relative to an observer, the Kuuk Thaayorre, like many other Aboriginal groups, use cardinal-direction terms — north, south, east, and west — to define space. This is done at all scales, which means you have to say things like “There’s an ant on your southeast leg” or “Move the cup to the north northwest a little bit.” One obvious consequence of speaking such a language is that you have to stay oriented at all times, or else you cannot speak properly. The normal greeting in Kuuk Thaayorre is “Where are you going?” and the answer should be something like ” Southsoutheast, in the middle distance.” If you don’t know which way you’re facing, you can’t even get past “Hello.”

HOW DOES OUR LANGUAGE SHAPE THE WAY WE THINK? by Lera Boroditsky on Edge.org.

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