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One, Two, Many - Language Shapes Thought

CowboyNeal posted more than 10 years ago | from the all-natural-language-processing dept.

Science 919

Chuck1318 writes "The Piraha tribe in the Amazon has only three words used in counting, that mean one, two, and many. A psychologist testing them has found that they are unable to accurately perform tasks involving quantities as few as four or five. He says that this shows that, at least for numbers, language shapes and limits how people can think." I can't help but be reminded of the gully dwarves from Dragonlance when reading this.

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Erster Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021197)

I claim this first post in the name of the Greater Germany Reich!

Re:Erster Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021249)

LOL, you did it, but you misspelled it. It's either GREATER GERMANY or the GREATER GERMAN REICH. Better yet, say GROßDEUTSCHLAND.

Re:Erster Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021271)

Don't be such a grammer Nazi.

Where have I heard this before? (4, Informative)

treehouse (781426) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021198)

"We have it...on the authority of African explorers that many Hottentot tribes do not have in their vocabulary the names for numbers larger than three. Ask a native down there how many sons he has or how many enemies he has slain, and if the number is more than three, he will answer 'many.'"
[ George Gamow, "One, Two, Three...Infinity" 1953 ]

Re:Where have I heard this before? (5, Informative)

XeRXeS-TCN (788834) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021322)

Well yes, but if you read the article, it's not claiming to be a new theory, simply *proof* of an existing theory. From the article:

Experts agree that the startling result provides the strongest support yet for the controversial hypothesis that the language available to humans defines our thoughts. So-called "linguistic determinism" was first proposed in 1950 but has been hotly debated ever since.

Re:Where have I heard this before? (1)

jest3r (458429) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021375)

Do we really need a psychologist from Columbia University to tell us that its difficult to perform tasks involving quantities over three within a tribe if you only have the volcabulary to count to two?

Re:Where have I heard this before? (5, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021378)

Interestingly enough, there is evidence that crows can count to 7. Test was done by having people enter a blind, then leave. Crow behaviour showed that with up to seven people involved, they knew when there was someone still in the blind. When eight+ people went in, and seven came out, they behaved as if the blind were empty.

Which makes them smarter than Hottentot tribesmen....

yeah well, (4, Funny)

castlec (546341) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021200)

my computer can only count to one, that never stopped it

funny but missing the point (5, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021355)

It doesn't matter what base you use. Your computer uses base 2 but can count far higher then 1 (the maximum value you can express with 1 digit in base 2.) The maximum value you can express with 1 digit in base 10 (the one most humans use) is of course 9. No one would suggest that most humans can therefore only count to 9.

If this tribe calculated 0, 1, 2, many, many 1, many 2 or something like it there would be no trouble. Just confusing for base 10 users.

But it seems this tribe doesn't have/need the concept of higher numbers.

What I would like to know if they understand the concept of zero. The invention of 0 is a usually considered a pretty big step in western culture and one arabs like to claim as their contribution to the world. If this tribe wich can only count to 2 understands 0 then it would make an intresting find.

They may not have a need to count higher numbers but me thinks it is very important to know the difference between 1 fish and 0 fish.

What may also be intresting is that if you need language to count and animals can count does that mean that all animals that can count have a language. And not just a language of "food" "danger" "sex" but a language with "1" "2" "3" etc?

Could it be? (4, Funny)

caston (711568) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021202)

A whole tribe of people with the same level of maths as me? I have found my new home!

FRIIIZZZOSSTAAAYYY MAH NIIIIIGGGGGGAaaaa!!!!111one (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021204)

IN UR FACE MUH FUCKASSSS!

Gentlemen, start your trolling (-1, Troll)

foidulus (743482) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021207)

I am officially sick of /., it seems that most of the posts are just parrots(esp. on YRO), and if you dare disagree with the PTB(Parrots that Be), you get modded down. Well, if I want to listen to parrots I can go to a pet store, so here you go trolls, a chance to burn good karma with your most creative trolls, my password is: t1hsux
Enjoy, and I will be back to ensure that my user name is being used for good trolls, so please, take care of her!

Discworld... (3, Funny)

DJTodd242 (560481) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021212)

"One. Two. Many. Lots."

Of course as soon as I saw the title all I could think about was Detritus the Troll.

Re:Discworld... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021243)

Trolls are usually thought to be so stupid they can count only up to 4. [...]
In fact, trolls traditionally count like this: one, two, three... many, and people assume this means they can have no grasp of higher numbers. They don't realize that many can be a number. As in: one, two, three, many, many-one, many-two, many-three, many many, many-many-one, many-many-two, many-many-three, many many many, many-many-many-one, many-many-many-two, many-many-many-three, LOTS.

- Men at Arms

Re:Discworld... (3, Funny)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021339)

Or King Arthur of MPATHG: [utwente.nl]

ARTHUR: Right! One!... Two!... Five! GALAHAD: Three, sir! ARTHUR: Three!

Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021213)

Or the Detritus the troll of Discworld. But once he learned binary, he had an easier time.

Re:Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021230)

"One, two, three, many."

But if given a chance he continued:
"Many one, many two, many three...
Many many many two, many many many three,
LOTS."

well in that case... (0)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021222)

the second language i'll teach my kid is hexadecimal.

Re:well in that case... (1)

kunudo (773239) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021287)

How about teaching him to count in hex and not in base 10 instead... Hex aint no language.

Do like christians do, blank out every reference to base 10 in any book he reads (instead of evolution, that is). His math teacher would brobably hate him.

Discworld Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021223)

... can top that: they have one, two, many, lots.

Does this mean anything? (5, Funny)

tod_miller (792541) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021226)

I always suspected that the native name of your town, and the local features affected your accent (explains Liverpool and Stoke)

Perhaps they are not used to takss involving more than 3 items because usually it goes like this:

Hunt
Kill
Eat

Bang over head
Shag it
Sleep

Now I think some of thier ways of going about business is even more refined than ours.

Like this then? (1)

Moth7 (699815) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021359)

1. One 2. ??? 3. Profit!!!

I wanna be a "researcher" too. (3, Insightful)

eggstasy (458692) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021231)

So, let me get this straight. These people have no concept of numbers, and upon testing them for mathematical skills, you found them lacking?
Why does that not surprise me.
It's not so much that language shapes thought, it's entirely the other way around. If you and your tribe have never discovered mathematics, it's only natural that you have no words to express them. These people are making it sound like if we recite a list of number names we will become genius mathematicians.

Re:I wanna be a "researcher" too. (1)

freak4u (696919) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021257)

I can see what you're saying, but when the testor put 5 objects up, they had a margin of error. Even a young child who hasn't learned formal mathematics can go one-for-one (see object on table, place object on table. Rinse, repeat)

Re:I wanna be a "researcher" too. (5, Informative)

bentcd (690786) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021268)

They weren't tested for mathematical skills, they
were tested for practical skills involving
quantities of items or events larger than 3.

Actually, it is surprising (5, Informative)

BrotherZeoff (776525) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021300)

The article states he wasn't testing them for mathematical skills--just their ability to remember four or five items, or remember how many lines were on a piece of paper. They couldn't do these things accurately in quantities greater than three. It is surprising. I'd think that just visually people of any language could group items up to six at least.

Re:I wanna be a "researcher" too. (4, Insightful)

lupin_sansei (579949) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021344)

Yes. If language shapes thought then how did we ever get the words for the numbers in the first place? We must have first conceptualised the need for those words, then thought of the words second.

Re:I wanna be a "researcher" too. (2, Informative)

fstrauss (78250) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021366)

How about reading the article to get it straight?

"... whose language only contains words for the numbers one and two, were unable to reliably tell the difference between four objects placed in a row and five in the same configuration ..."

Now what makes me able to tell the differnce between four and five objects? Could it be that i was tought the concept through the language i speak?

Obligatory Terry Pratchett quote (0, Redundant)

Rovaani (20023) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021232)

"One, Two, Many, Many-one, Many-two, Many-many, Lots!" -Detritus (might be in Guards! Guards!)

Troll (1, Redundant)

Hyler (99628) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021233)

Or the trolls in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, who have the system
  • One
  • Two
  • Many
  • Lots!

Or one, two, three, many, many-one, many-two, many-three, many-many, many-many-one...

Re: Troll (5, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021276)


> Or the trolls in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books

Finally, a /. story where trolls are on-topic! [Head explodes]

So, LISP programmers are dumb? (3, Funny)

phatjew (705716) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021234)

. . . after all, all they have is CAR and CDR.

Get those research grants! (2, Funny)

EssTiDee (784920) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021235)

1. Locate sub-average intelligent tribes in the deepest jungles

2. Learn their language

3. Propose and conduct some humiliating "research" that even a monkey could succesfully complete

Many. ??

Many. ??

Many. Profit!

Re:Get those research grants! (4, Funny)

cruachan (113813) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021282)

1. Locate sub-average intelligent slashdot poster

2. Leave aformentioned slashdot poster in amazonian jungle with same level of technology as amazonian tribe s/he ridiculed.

3. Wait for slashdot poster to die in hostile environment which ridiculed tribe thrives in

4. Collect his/her life insurance

5. Profit!!

Re:Get those research grants! (2, Funny)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021349)

No, that's not going to work here. 1,2,3 profit jokes don't work if 3 doesn't exist.

Inca's and Zero (3, Interesting)

freak4u (696919) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021238)

The Incas (I believe) were the first people to come up with the concept of Zero. Before that, (and during that time) nobody else could understand no objects. They were the first ones to come up with the word, but that was due to being the only ones who understood it. Intersting question now that I think of it is do these tribes understand zero?
There are 0 spoons

Re:Inca's and Zero (5, Funny)

Polaris (9232) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021263)

In fact certain Inca tribes worshipped the zero, leading to the inevitable question, Is nothing sacred?

Re:Inca's and Zero (1)

Tx (96709) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021295)

LOL, somebody mod parent up!

Re:Inca's and Zero (1)

foidulus (743482) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021264)

there is zero of my future inventions made.

INDIA (was Re:Inca's and Zero) (4, Informative)

samfreed (572658) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021297)

Not incas, Indians, as in from INDIA. The concept of zero is known for AT LEAST 2,500 years there. The way we count now, the decimal system, was invented there, and later learnt by the Arabs, who brought it to the west. That is why we call them Arabic Numerals....

You see, in American English, you have only one word for Indians, unlike in other languages where they can actually tell the difference between Native Americans and the people who invented the decimal system, grammar, and many other useful things, like "Karma".

Re:INDIA (was Re:Inca's and Zero) (3, Informative)

Troed (102527) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021337)

many historians of mathematics believe that the Indian use of zero evolved from its use by Greek astronomers

http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/HistTop ic s/Zero.html

Re:INDIA (was Re:Inca's and Zero) (1)

freak4u (696919) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021338)

Like I said, I could be wrong. I was quite certain it was the Incas or the Aztecs, but I was wrong.

No, we have one word for Indians but many meanings. They also used a system that I've heard of as Casting out the nines which is pretty much how we figured out 2's compliment allowing us to do all this fancy work on $3000 calculators.

Re:INDIA (was Re:Inca's and Zero) (4, Funny)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021348)

"in American English, you have only one word for Indians" Well, I keep on trying to use the word Injun to describe Native Americans, but everyone always gets mad at me. Something about politcial correctness or insensitivity or something.

Re:INDIA (was Re:Inca's and Zero) (1)

eraserewind (446891) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021353)

You see, in American English, you have only one word for Indians, unlike in other languages where they can actually tell the difference between Native Americans and the people who invented the decimal system, grammar, and many other useful things, like "Karma".
Nice try, but actually the Incas knew about zero too. They discovered it independantly (obviously).

Re:INDIA (was Re:Inca's and Zero) (1)

samfreed (572658) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021367)

Reference ?

Re:Inca's and Zero (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021311)

+5 and no one bothered to check.

The exceptions were the mathematicians who were involved in recording astronomical data. Here we find the first use of the symbol which we recognise today as the notation for zero, for Greek astronomers began to use the symbol O

History of zero [st-and.ac.uk]

Re:Inca's and Zero (2, Interesting)

bint (125997) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021327)

Minor nitpick: from what I've heard the concept of zero was "invented" in India. (Which fits quite nicely with buddhism's concept of nothingness.)


If the Inca's came up with it Europe wouldn't have learned about it until the 16th century, and arabic numerals (which of course inlucde zero) had been used for quite some time then AFAIK.

Re:Inca's and Zero (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021371)

Did some searching and found several sources (not in English though) that talk about other cultures using the 0 long before - like India where zero was used something like 300 BC.

Later on the arabs (round 1100 years later) "discovered" all this indian knowledge ... and they (those evil terrorists them) brought it to Europe. It took some 3,4 hundred years more until you heard of the Incas.

Re:Inca's and Zero (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021381)

If the Incas did have the concept of a zero, it's a shame that no one thought of taking a large stone representation of zero and putting a wood axle through the hole in the middle. Maybe they used a slash across the hole? :)

Terry Pratchett's solution (-1, Redundant)

[ThePsycho] (182640) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021239)

I believe Detritus (the ogre on the watch) has solved this by counting: one, two, many, many-one, many-two, ...

Re:Terry Pratchett's solution (1)

schmu_20mol (806069) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021274)

there's no ogre -> try troll instead (or invasion force in itself)

Too Many replies (5, Funny)

prgammans (134908) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021240)

Please no more replies I just can't keep track of them all.

Re:Too Many replies (4, Funny)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021328)

Score: Many, Funny.

Olympics (1)

dJOEK (66178) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021242)

Good thing that these people don't compete in the Games ... I'd hate to be the one that comes in Many-d

In that case (2, Funny)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021244)

We need to teach more women the french phrase "Menage A Trois" early on in life.

LK

Re:In that case (1)

Sir Fredman (740490) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021334)

Well ... you could also try to teach them the concept '69' ...

Sapir-Whorf (5, Informative)

stromthurman (588355) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021245)

This idea has been around for a while, originally, insofar as I know, called the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis [wikipedia.org] . It's neat to see it strongly confirmed in some capacity, though.

Re: Sapir-Whorf (1, Redundant)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021292)


> This idea has been around for a while, originally, insofar as I know, called the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. It's neat to see it strongly confirmed in some capacity, though.

Or do they lack the word because they never felt any need for it?

Re:Sapir-Whorf (1)

sk8king (573108) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021383)

That was not only informative, but that was my longest trip through Wikipedia yet. Sapir-Whorf led to Neologism, Robert Dilts and Spivak and Splat pronouns.

Thank you Wikipedia and thank you stromthurman for sending me there.

Hmm (0)

DarkLox (621089) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021246)

Well....I guess they couldnt tell me what post number this is....

Re:Hmm (0)

StevenHenderson (806391) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021265)

Well....I guess they couldnt tell me what post number this is....

Sure they can:

by DarkLox (621089) on Friday August 20, @08:08AM (#many)

Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (-1, Redundant)

mkro (644055) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021247)

Seems like no-one takes the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis [everything2.com] serious these days, but I always thought it makes sense. The idea of newspeak in 1984 was inspired by this theory: If you can't express it by words, it is harder to think and do too.

Re:Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (1)

The Cornishman (592143) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021296)

Obligatory HHGTTG reference "The best way not to be unhappy is not to have a word for it" If you can't be bothered to say 'the other Sheltenach's Juple-berry bush is a more mauvish shade of pink' then you don't care!

Obligatory discworld reference (5, Funny)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021248)

Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms, page 132, footnote:

"In fact, trolls traditionally count like this: one, two, three...many, and people assume this means they can have no grasp of higher numbers. They don't realize that many can be a number. As in: one, two, three, many, many-one, many-two, many-three, many many, many-many-one, many-many-two, many-many-three, many many many, many-many-many-one, many-many-many-two, many-many-many-three, LOTS.

Re:Obligatory discworld reference (1)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021346)

Hmm, trolls are silicon-based, right? so a base 4 counting system makes sense, kinda.

We can do one better (1)

StevenHenderson (806391) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021251)

All we really need is '0' and '1' - they are wasting their time with "many." :)

Discworld trolls (0, Redundant)

valkoinen (81260) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021252)

This is from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.

Number theory [to.infn.it]
Trolls are usually thought to be so stupid they can count only up to 4. [...]
In fact, trolls traditionally count like this: one, two, three... many, and people assume this means they can have no grasp of higher numbers. They don't realize that many can be a number. As in: one, two, three, many, many-one, many-two, many-three, many many, many-many-one, many-many-two, many-many-three, many many many, many-many-many-one, many-many-many-two, many-many-many-three, LOTS.

[from: "Men at arms"]

Wittgenstein says I told you so ! (1)

compling (514537) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021255)

if you want to have the same kind of fun these guys did, try out some of his thought experiments.

This proves nothing (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021256)

The study proves nothing. You can't generalize from a single example. You might indicate something, but that's another story.

Obviously, this should be self-evident. Sadly, it seems this is not the case.

So it goes.... (1)

foo12 (585116) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021262)

The Mean One
Two
???
Many

--- and then another '???' for them?

Access to information + willingness to acquire it (1)

adzoox (615327) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021266)

Access to information and the willingness to acquire information shapes how you think.

This tribe has no access to information and is therefore secluded (in thought and potential for creative thought). Creative thought EXPLODED upon the advent of the printing press - and actually before that with monk transcription.

You could say it takes language to be able to assemble the ability to access information, but I don't see that.

I can't quite understand from the /. article if the author is relating all this to intelligence or not. I do believe that willingness to learn is what creative thinking is about.

of course (1)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021267)

of course langauge shapes thought. it is almost impossible for assembler programmer with 10 year experience to grasp lisp. Oh well.. even switching from C to ocaml is pretty hard.

Language is key (5, Insightful)

Ba3r (720309) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021269)

Language is the uniting factor in society because it is the basis for complex thought (just try to plan out your day while thinking abstractly); different languages, and dialects, have different grammatical structures that lead thought patterns to be constructed in different ways. Even for me, with German as a second language, I still notice that when i am in Germany (currently i Berlin), and think in German I compose thoughts and analyze my environment differently.

I can only imagine that one in a completely different society would have a very different thought pattern. The common roots of Western languages indicates a similarity in thought, and people who learn foreign languages are far more adept at understanding and integrating with that society.

Similarily, in computer languages different grammatical structures lead different programmers to analyze and solve problems differently: i.e. functional vs imperative. Add the context-sensitive nature of human languages, and this becomes substantially more complex.

Ok, thats longer than my normal post, but this is a really interesting topic :)

Re:Language is key (3, Interesting)

adzoox (615327) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021299)

"Language is the uniting factor in society because it is the basis for complex thought"

No, I can learn how to make a gun, plow a field, fetch water from a well from an Asian person with whom I have no common language - almost as easily as I could with an English speaking person.

I posted previously to this topic that it's all about the willingness of the people to learn,and the access to information that they are willing to subject themselves to is what forms thought and intelligence.

psych 101 (5, Interesting)

Angry Black Man (533969) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021270)

Language in this case has certainly limited their ability to express concepts. Their brains, however, will still recognize the existence of four or five things. Unfortunatly the limitations on their language will keep them from expressing verbally that knowledge. It could even bar their comprehensive abilities.

0+1 = 1, 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 2 = Many (1)

TwoStepsBehind (762238) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021272)

Actually I think its the other way around. Thought shapes language. They don't think about numbers other than 1, 2 or many, so the language they developed only contains these specifiers. And in a sense, 2 and many are probably the same thing to them, depending on what units your counting (2 tribes is the same as many people). I wonder how they trade or use money with only 1, 2, or many.. Does the article say if they have a zero? (I didn't RTFA)

Since no one else has said it.... (0, Offtopic)

Xiver (13712) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021277)

There are FOUR lights!

Physics class (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021283)

I find it a bit amusing that in College on our physics class we were teached exactly that, "one, two, many molecules" when simplefying gas environments etc...

They may not be great at arithmetic ... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021285)

But theyre pretty good at fooling earnest anthropologists who only want confirmation of their pet theories ...

Re: They may not be great at arithmetic ... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021380)


> But theyre pretty good at fooling earnest anthropologists who only want confirmation of their pet theories ...

Supposedly a group of Pacific Islanders convinced visiting anthropologists that they didn't know what caused babies.

spam name (1)

hey (83763) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021288)

If we are every told we can use the registered name Spam for junk mails always "Piraha". How many junk mails did you get.... many.

A crow can do better (0, Redundant)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021293)

Crows can distinguish one, two, three, many. Crows are able to count hunters entering an area, unless you bring "many" people in, in which case the crows forget after a few of them leave, that there are more around.

Thank you, nameless Arabic and Central American mathematicians, for inventing the zero!

Mathematics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021294)

Training yourself in mathematics, in particular Goedel type reasoning, will really give you notions on limitations of normal language.

Anyone?

(US) English Language (2, Interesting)

anandpur (303114) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021302)

I have seen same problem in (US) English also when words do not represent what exactly supposed to be.
With us or with them; there is no neutral ground.
Credible threat; How credible (little, none highly)?
Imminent danger; Like Hurricane Charly or collision of earth and moon
Coalition of willing; How willing or paid
...

Re:(US) English Language (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021320)

We have a similar problem in UK English. We use the phrase 'New Labour' when we really mean 'Tory'.

No Orwell references? (3, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021304)

I'm surprised nobody's made the "reduced language = reduced ability to form mental concepts" link with Orwell's '1984'. This seems like some strong evidence that it might actually work.

=Smidge=

superior language implies superiour thoughts? (4, Interesting)

mbrx (525713) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021308)

So in essense this seem to support the Sappir-Worph hypothesis (http://venus.va.com.au/suggestion/sapir.html [va.com.au] ) that the language strongly affect our ability to think.
This makes one wonder if a another language would give us the ability to better reason about other things. Would we be smarter if we had a better language in which to think?
There is an artifical language called lojban (http://www.lojban.org/ [lojban.org] ) based on predicate logic but which is meant to be used as other "real" languages (compare with eg. esperanto, interlingua and swahili). The question is, would native speakers of lojban be better a rational thought? As far as I know there are no native speakers of lojban but what would happend if I raised my (hypothethical) children to speak if from birth?
Mathias

Unable to distinguish items (1, Insightful)

tod_miller (792541) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021315)

"were unable to reliably tell the difference between four objects placed in a row and five in the same configuration, revealed the study."

The items used were 2 mini Ipods, the new iPod, an iPaq and a miniDisc Player.

They were then asked if they preffer ATI or NVidia cards, and what FPS would you get if you enabled 4xAA on a GF3 running at 1024x768 Doom3 will full detail, demo 1.

I would like to see when of those researchers get bitten by something really wierd in the jungle, see who can find the plant that will save his life then.

Forget protecting the rain forest, how about protecting these people from the advanced of these researchers with nothing better to do than subject them to numeracy tests.

1 dangerous animal, 2 dangerous animal, lots, run!

You see, don't need more than that.

Does this overthrow the idea that we can cope with 10 items because we have ten fingers? Maybe fingers moulded the language which moulded our own capabilities. If we counted in base 100 would women finally remember their own mobile phone numbers?

How many licks (1)

bcarl314 (804900) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021316)

For some reason, I just picture this owl on a tree being asked "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop" and the Owl replies:

"One, two, many. Crunch, many"

LOL LOL LOL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10021332)

Just fyi, you weren't the only one to think of DiscWorld Trolls wrt this topic.

Who am I kidding, no one reads this early - they are scrambling for early posts to win the karma lottery.

Manditory quote (1)

Espo_SHIZ (790086) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021342)

"One, two, and a shit load." - Darrel Hammond

Personality depends on language, too (5, Interesting)

DeadVulcan (182139) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021343)

Many fluently multilingual people will tell you that they are a slightly different person when they speak a different language.

I'm fluent in English and Japanese, and I can attest to this. In fact, there have been occasions when I was out of touch from Japanese speakers for a long time, and I began to miss my "Japanese self" because it hadn't had a chance to surface for so long.

Haven't you read Orwell's 1984? (2, Interesting)

noamt (317240) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021352)

In this 1949 book, the "Newspeak" language is designed exactly for that purpose. For example, they don't have a word "bad" - only "not good" (which is supposed to be the opposite of bad, but isn't).
They use language control for thought control.

Batteries? (1)

tod_miller (792541) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021354)

" he sat opposite an individual and laid out a random number of familiar objects, including batteries"

I think we may have already gone to far... must be using them to power their HP RPN calculators that they need now they realise what dunces they are.

Counting sheep? (2, Interesting)

edwilli (197728) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021356)

I've heard stories of tribes in Australia having the same "problem".

They couldn't count above 3, but if they had 200 sheep they could instantly tell if one was missing.

Maybe they know exactly how many sheep they have, but no way to verbalize it. Simply because they have no need to.

Time to bring back Latin (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021364)

In that case everyoune should get a broad language set.
Something like:
English(unstructured), Latin(very structured), Japaniese (More contextual)

sorry? (1)

tekunokurato (531385) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021372)

And I'm sorry you're such a nerd

(kidding! I play DnD too!)

Licensing? (-1, Offtopic)

webwalker (15831) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021373)

Sounds like RedHat licensing to me. We just signed a deal with them for the bazillion installations we have and the cost of support is more than our MSFT contract by a considerable amount. TCO my ass!

RMW

Cart before the horse (3, Insightful)

PhysicsGenius (565228) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021377)

The test was to give them 4 or 5 items and ask them which was which. If they can't tell, they can't count well. If they can't count well, according to the theory, it is as a result of them not having words for higher numbers.

But later in the same article we find this: "There are not really occasions in their daily lives where the Pirahã need to count,"

This statement is in direct opposition to the stated theory. In this quote, the scientist is saying that the causitive arrow points the other direction. They don't have much need to count -> their language doesn't contain those words.

To my mind, their failures on the tests are more parsimoniously explained by their simply not having had much practice with a technique (counting) they don't use much and their language merely reflects this.

Programming languages form thought as well (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 10 years ago | (#10021384)

Hm,

watching the language wars (and even more the procedural versus oo versus functional versus aop versus what ever wars) its obvious that the programming language you use most forms your thought.

People not using perl likely don't like perl, likely because they can not think in perl.

Same for any otehr programming language.

angel'o'sphere
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