T Nation

Any Language People?

I am interested in doing a linguistics project in which I compare differences in perception between native speakers of two radically different languages. Does anybody know of any somewhat bizarre languages that have very different representations of abstract concepts as compared to English?

For example, there is an Aboriginee Australian dialect that has no words for left and right, only East and West, and German has multiple words that all represent what in English would be termed ‘love’. Anybody know of any languages with similar situations?

my girlfriend is in school for linguistics and speech , ill ask her and repost.

there are some african languages where there is no distinction between Dance and Music… they only have one word that means Dance/Music

I might be able to help you out a little. Any particular concepts you’re focusing on?

My wife’s native language is Ilonggo, but her national language (for the Philippines) is Tagalog. They were also taught English since 3rd grade in school.

I was on the island of Diego Garcia when I was in the Navy, which has a lot of civilian employees who are also Filipino, and one friend of mine said that some words mean the opposite in different dialects (over 6000 different dialects in the Philippines).

That could cause a lot of confusion, and could start trouble between islands.

[quote]KombatAthlete wrote:
I am interested in doing a linguistics project in which I compare differences in perception between native speakers of two radically different languages. Does anybody know of any somewhat bizarre languages that have very different representations of abstract concepts as compared to English?
[/quote]

In Japanese, there are no pronouns such as we know them in English. The word watashi, the most commonly-used word for “I”, actually is a noun meaning “private”. Other words for “I” include boku (used almost exclusively by men and boys), meaning “your slave” or “your servant”, and uchi (used mostly by women and young girls), which is related to the word for “inside”. If you’re a manly-man you can call yourself ore (“us”), but only among other manly-men, and preferably while riding a motorcycle, drinking beer or smoking cigarettes.

Second-person pronouns (“you”) are more varied, and depend on the status of the speaker compared to the person being addressed. To a child or one’s social inferior, one may say kimi, meaning (counter-intuitively), “my lord”.

A friend or drinking buddy you might address as omae “person in front of me”, but unless you want to start a fight, don’t call someone kisama, which literally means “noble lord”, but figuratively means “you” as in “you son of a bitch!”

You might be safe addressing someone as anata (person over there) for “you”, unless you are speaking to someone older or socially better than you (your boss, for example). These people are addressed by title, as in “How is Doctor (Teacher, President, Section Chief, etc.) today?”

Yes, it can be annoying at first. You get used to it.

The Piraha language has no past tense or numbers:

Also I remember reading about a language in South America that viewed the future in the past tense and the past in the future tense, but I can’t remember the name of the language…

Also Finnic languages have no masculine or feminine definitions for the third person pronouns. For example in Finnish you would say ‘h’n’ (him/her), which does not specify the gender of the person it refers to.

  • POC

In many Slavic languages, the spelling and pronunciation (obviously) of a last name change based on the person’s gender. So, if Bob Swerski (from SNL Super Fans) ever took his wife to Poland, he would be Mr. Swerski and she would be Mrs. Swerska. For names ending in “ski,” it’s easy - just change the “i” to an “a.” For other names, it becomes a huge pain in the ass.

How about the whistling language?

http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/science/11/18/whistle.language.ap/index.html

And I’m struggling with Spanish…

[quote]KombatAthlete wrote:
…compare differences in perception between native speakers of two radically different languages.

[/quote]

What differences, specifically, do you want to compare between how one native speaker percieves something and how another percieves something. What are these native speakers going to be percieving? If you want some really good suggestions we’re going to need some more info.

Japanese and English are about as radically different as two languages can be. (If you forget about all the english loan words and exposure to english language media, etc.) However, there are already mountains of research comparing these two languages from every possible perspective in every branch of linguistics. So, I would recommend that you found someone would spoke Tok Pisen instead (the new creole of Papi New Guinians - spelling?)

Tok Pisen sounds absolutely ridiculous to a native speaker of English because they use so many recognizable english loan words, in a very strange way. For example, past tense is Tok Pisen is usually an english verb + penis. And the pronoun “we” is literally the the phrase you-me. So, if I wanted to say, “we drank last night” in Tok Pisen it would be:

Last night you-me drank penis.

Seriously, look it up on the internet and listen is a parlimentary debate in Tok Pisen… it’s unbelievable funny.

Yeah, what is this for? You could get way beyond any college paper with any of the suggestions here. This is the stuff of PHDs.

Not sure if this is what you’re looking for, but I’ve studied a few languages, and I’ve come across a few peculiar translations.

You coffee drinkers may order cafe latte, cafe au lait or perhaps even a (slightly less known) cafe con leche. But do you realize that those 3 means coffee with milk in italian, french and spanish? I don’t get it.

Allso, in many coffee shops you have the option to buy yourself a baguette, panini or a sandwich, and they are 3 different types of bread. In Norway (and Great Britain too I believe(?), baguettes are long (usually white) breads cut on the long side with cheese/ham/salad/etc between the cuts. However, in italy, it’s translated to panini. And in france, where the word come from, they just call it a sandwich.

KombatAthlete,
If you’re looking for raw language data, I can recommend these two links for some info:

Seri auto parts names
http://www.sil.org/mexico/seri/12i-Seri-AutoParts.htm

selections from the Seri dictionary
http://www.sil.org/mexico/seri/G004-Diccionario-sei.htm

Seri is a language spoken by a small group of people in Sonora, Mexico. I would also recommend picking up a copy of George Lakoff’s “Women, Fire, and Other Dangerous Things” and/or “Metaphors We Live By”. Both books deal with the interaction between the words we use in our languages and the way we conceptualize the world around us.

Good Luck!

A comparison of some different languages:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nglMDkUbRSk

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Torpenhow Hill, a little ridge near Plymouth, England, which was renamed three different times over the centuries by three rather unimaginative groups of invaders.

The native Cumbrians called the ridge “Tor”, a name that the Celts evidently liked well enough to keep, but added their own word Pen, making it Tor Pen. The Danish Vikings, when they invaded, dubbed the site Torpen Haugr. After the Norman Conquest, the ridge acquired the name Torpenhow Hyll.

The problem is that Tor, Pen, Haugr and Hyll all mean basically “hill”, so the name of this little mound of rock is, literally, “Hillhillhill Hill”.

[quote]oaxaca joe wrote:

I would also recommend picking up a copy of George Lakoff’s “Women, Fire, and Other Dangerous Things”

Good Luck![/quote]

Haha. The title is actually “Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things”, but I like it better with the “Other” in there. After all, no hay cosas mas peligrosas que mujeres, eh? :wink:

[quote]Imbrondir wrote:
You coffee drinkers may order cafe latte, cafe au lait or perhaps even a (slightly less known) cafe con leche. But do you realize that those 3 means coffee with milk in italian, french and spanish? I don’t get it.

Allso, in many coffee shops you have the option to buy yourself a baguette, panini or a sandwich, and they are 3 different types of bread. In Norway (and Great Britain too I believe(?), baguettes are long (usually white) breads cut on the long side with cheese/ham/salad/etc between the cuts. However, in italy, it’s translated to panini. And in france, where the word come from, they just call it a sandwich.[/quote]

This isn’t odd at all. Different kinds of coffee with milk have differing amounts of milk to coffee, or may have a different “base.”

In terms of sandwiches, a panini in Italy isn’t generally made with the same kind of bread as a baguette. It is often pressed and heated in some sort of italian panini machine. A sandwich (at least in the US, uses sliced pieces of bread.

Well, personally I speak swiss german, german, english, italian, french, russian, and croatian. The interesting thing about swiss german is that germans can’t understand it, but the swiss all understand german. Also, in german and swiss german, there are 4 different endings for every noun, depending on the context.

A similar concept in english would be whom, whose, who, but in german it goes much further. Also, ther is a language in Switzerland called rumansch that is almost extinct and is very different from the languages spoken in the countries around Switzerland.

[quote]Robert P. wrote:
Also, ther is a language in Switzerland called rumansch that is almost extinct and is very different from the languages spoken in the countries around Switzerland.[/quote]

Really? I thought that Romansh was basically another offshoot of Vulgar Latin, so it couldn’t be too different from Italian or French.

[quote]Varqanir wrote:

Haha. The title is actually “Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things”, but I like it better with the “Other” in there. After all, no hay cosas mas peligrosas que mujeres, eh? ;)[/quote]

haha glad you caught that slip up. Ay pero que dolor mas dulce…