Sunday, January 18, 2009

lingual

I'm trying to read Snow by Orhan Pamuk, but haven't been able to find a decent place/time to sit down. And Merisi is who put me on to this book in the first place . . . I didn't get this in first time around.

I also have another of his books from the library: Istanbul: Memories and the City. Last evening, while waiting in the car for L to finish playing with her quartet at a fundraiser for the food bank here, I started it.



I was very intrigued by the following:

In Turkish we have a special tense that allows us to distinguish hearsay from what we've seen with our own eyes; when we are relating dreams, fairy tales, or past events we could not have witnessed, we use this tense. It is a useful distinction to make as we "remember" our earliest life experiences, . . .


This made me think about other complexities of personality and thought process that in English we cannot give voice to because we don't have the tense that expresses them. What are we locked out of because of linguistics?

15 comments:

Kurt said...

Very interesting.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

I wonder what language possesses the most tenses... it is interesting to ponder how language shapes and influences our understanding of the world/reality/selves/universe.....

hey speaking of language, I see you have a new french word of the day gizmo! cool!

wv: moopo
(definitely one of my all time favs)

Betty C. said...

What a fascinating concept. Tenses, modes...a very interesting field in all languages, methinks.

e said...

Very interesting. Once upon a time, I could think in two languages simultaneously. Now, alas, that ability is withering. We are locked out of much with this crazy English we are all encouraged to adore.

If more language education and opportunities to use various languages actively were provided, people would soon find themselves with more avenues for expression. That, among other things, is reason enough to abandon the "English-Only" perspective one often encounters here. Thanks for a great post.

Avid Reader said...

looks like fascinating book. a dream tense... I'm going to start relating these "could not have witnessed" tales with the intro, "this is in the dream-tense of course"


we don't have all those words for snow that the Inuits supposedly have.

Maddy said...

That is very thought provoking. I've never heard of that before. I wonder if it's too late to try and start tinkering with the English language to make that a possibility?
Best wishes

citizen of the world said...

How interesting. It makes sense to make that distinction.

Joanne said...

What are we locked out of b/c of linguistics? Hm. It is limiting our modes of communication, maybe, by decreasing our dependency on the other senses. Without words, the senses are sharpened.

Megan said...

That is fascinating. I had absolutely no idea!

But no time for Turkish at the moment as I am trying to learn both Spanish and Korean...

Barbara said...

Did you ever realize just how many books have SNOW in the title? I have read at least 3: Smilla's Sense of Snow, Snow Falling on Cedars, Snow in August.

As for English restrictions, I'm sorry we don't actively incorporate the subjunctive that is part of Latin-based language grammars. It serves a useful function. Also I find the old his/her thing cumbersome in English.

angela said...

Fascinating about the dream tense though as a teacher of english as a foreign language the thought of adding more tenses horrifies me..

Becca said...

That is very interesting! I bought the audio tape of Snow for journeys back and forth to DC from Pittsburgh and it is the first book I have not finished ... almost finished but could not turn it back on by about three quarters of the way through. It moved so slowly and seemed overwrought to me. Hope you have better luck with it!

Avid Reader said...

Re: C. Bucket--you were thinking of the Roald Dahl character maybe, Charlie?

JGH said...

Great question, tut. I've been reading a lot about the fifth flavor "umame" that nobody seems to quite be able to describe in English. Some kind of savory that is found in seaweed (?)

Mountain Dweller said...

I've often wondered about the linguistic differences in languages and where they come from. Every language seems to have at least one thing that is almost untranslatable.