Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages by Guy Deutscher

Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other LanguagesSome of my best friends are gendered.

Homer mentioned the wine dark sea, the iron sky… no blue. Why didn’t the ancient Greeks have a word for blue? The Bible doesn’t, either. (according to Guy Deutscher. Actually, blue is used fairly often in the 5 books of Moses.) Did they have deficient eye-sight, or a deficient vocabulary? OTOH, some cultures collapse blue and green into one color. OTOH, some cultures collapse navy blue and light blue into one color. Is it deficient vision or vocabulary? Deutscher follows several centuries of scientific testing, as the pendulum swung through nature vs. nurture, innate senses vs. cultural mores. Does it matter? Well, what if we all went around calling the sky black, because black has as many shades as that strange color called blue?

What about the screen you’re looking at? Is it in front of you or to the north of you? Does ego vs. geo-centric affect the way people think?
If you use geo-centric directions, such as the color of the water beyond the reef and the moss at the north of the tree and the wind always blowing in a particular direction at dawn and dusk – then when you travel a significant distance from home, you might find that the sun does not rise in the east. Because east if over -that- way.

What about le vs. la? Does that affect the way people think? Yes. ‘la’ bridge is slender and graceful, while ‘le’ bridge is long and strong. What about languages that have only one gender term for everyone?
Fun times!

This book does not claim to be definitive, and often takes opposite views of modern thinking – with the understanding that ‘modern thinking’ is going to change again in a few decades.

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