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I came accross an article about the Amazon trible the Piraha on http://www.newscientist.com, and googled the word and came accross this article which suggests that the language we use will either restrict or allow for certain thoughts. For instance the Piraha have no concept whatsover of numbers, and no amount of training will teach them any sense of numbers.

Here is another link about the Piraha with lots of links.

And a quote:

“What these experiments show, according to Gordon, is how having the right linguistic resources can carve out one’s reality. “Whorf says that language divides the world into different categories,” Gordon said. “Whether one language chooses to distinguish one thing versus another affects how an individual perceives reality.” ”

And another quote (has this ever happened to you in Thailand?):

“The Piraha view language as a defining characteristic of group identity in a strong sense you speak the language of your group . . . . Americans in their opinion are identified partially by their ability to speak other languages (since the only Americans they know are the only people they know that speak more than one language). Even so, it is difficult for them to grasp the fact that I can speak their language. They will often have conversations about me in front of me and then look astounded when I enter into the conversation even after all the years that I have worked there. When we go to villages that we haven t worked in much (i.e. other Piraha villages), they literally look at us with their mouths open in disbelief when we address them in Piraha. They eventually answer us, but the experience is clearly unsettling for them. (Everett, personal communication)”

I have heard that the English language is superior to all languages for nuance. There are many different words meaning almost, but not exactly, the same thing. And the literate also avail of metaphor and irony and allusion and alliteration. English, used poetically, is incredibly precise and rich.

Thais don’t do irony, nor metaphor, and I’ve yet to meet a Thai who has a strong grasp on if statements. If is a tricky word for Thais. If this, then that.

I’m told that the French have little feeling for the sounds of words, and so french songs may rhyme and have meaningul lyrics, but they pay little heed to the taste and feeling and power of the sound of the word. In English you have so many words to choose from, you can always avail of alliteration and choose choice choppy consonants or select liquid and loose sounds.

Note: this was posted on the Thaivisa forum, and the responses from English speakers who have good knowledge of Thai convinced me that the language can express some nuances more easily than English, and that it can convey rich subtleties, especially emotional ones.

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