02 december 2005
28 november 2005
Language determines the way in which people think
- Language = a prison; once people learn it, they are affected by its particulars;
- Effective and successful translation between two languages is never possible;
- So: competent intercultural communication is an elusive goal.
- Language shapes people and the way they think
Sapir-Worf's main focus was on variations in vocabulary and grammar:
- Variations in vocabulary
e.g. classical Arabic has 1000s of words for camel;
e.g. colours: Kamayura (Brazil) have one word for blue and green (parakeet coloured); Dani (West New Guinea) have only two words for colours (dark and light);
e.g. Some languages have one word to refer to grandparents, others (like Swedish) have four different words
- Variations in grammar
e.g. cultural conceptions of time: English (specific point on a linear plane divided into past, present, and future) vs. Hopi (time is an ongoing process, present will never actually arrive, but will always be approaching).
e.g. respect: English (you) vs. Dutch (informal jij and formal u)
e.g. pronouns: I (with capital!) vs. Vietnamese (12 words for I), Chinese (10), Japanese (over 100!)
- Language definitely shapes and influences our thoughts and behaviour, perhaps more than we are aware of...;
- Knowing more than one language = broadening your personal view on the world;
- Of course, there is always non-verbal communication as well...
Let's start with a few examples:
Englishman meets American - they will use English
Scandinavian meets Dutchman - they will use English
Englishman / American / Canadian / Australian meets Belgian - they will use English
Is that a fair thing to do from a business point of view?
Interesting features of language:
- language is learned (so is culture...)
- some aspects: typical in one language, lack in others (e.g. use of tenses)
- spoken first, then written; BUT: written language is stronger (Why?)
- verbal code = phonology + morphology + semantics + syntactics + pragmatics
Interpretation is the key word (// interpreter - cf. also localisation)
We have to look for equivalences between two different languages.
Types of equivalence:
- vocabulary equivalence: word by word
- problem: Igbo (Nigeria) has no word for window (they refer to it as opening)
- idiomatic equivalence
- problem: "put this tape on the television" (what do you exactly mean?)
- grammatical-syntactical equivalence: e.g. difference between English and Turkish / Chinese / Finnish
- experiential equivalence: e.g. if you want to talk about the "television", it means that you either have a television or at least that you know (from experience) what a television is.
- conceptual equivalence: e.g. snow in Inuktitut is not just snow.
Here is their linklist of the group working on Iceland: