A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
Language is prevalent in all that we do. Right now, you’re reading in English and maybe you think in English. The music playing on the radio is language. Our entire world revolves around our ability to communicate through language, but what else does our language do? What are the unseen benefits and harms that our language does for us?
Did you know that speaking a futured language may actually cause problems for you later in life? A futured language is one like English. We have a different verb tense to explain the future. When we want to say something about the future, we say it differently than something that is happening in our present. For example: I am in class. I will be in class tomorrow. Two completely different structures.
This separation from future and present subtly makes us look at the future as though it is a separate entity. It is distant and far from us. It is not our present. This can actually cause us to take less care of ourselves and develop bad habits, like not exercising, because “tomorrow is only a day away.” We become bad at planning for our future in saving money for retirement because the future is not today, so we don’t really think about it in the same sense of “what do I have to do today to get to tomorrow?”
We even engage in more risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, than people who speak a non-futured language because we have trouble realizing the consequences of our actions tomorrow. People who speak in non-futured languages, like Finnish, do better at looking at the future the same way they look at the present. As a result, the do not engage in as many risky behaviors because they can better understand the consequences that come tomorrow because they talk about them as though they happen today.
This is a real sign. Do I smell a road trip?
Our language can even determine how we see and interpret our world. Some languages make it hard for people to distinguish colors because words are the same for colors like orange and yellow, or blue and green. Other languages enable people to know where they are directionally (north, south, east, or west) at all times because they have no left or right. Other languages have distinctions for family members that tell you in a word whether or not your aunt is your mother’s sister and your uncle is your mother’s sister’s husband and therefore related to you by marriage. We all have differing levels of exactness in our languages which can affect how we view and interpret the world. Some languages do not even have any numbers that go up from one. They just have many.
In some languages, none of these exist. How do they ever do differential calculus?
Not only can our language help us prepare for the future or make it easier for us to engage in risky behaviors, but our language can present us with our identity. We are our language and sometimes, speaking one dialect over another can diminish our self-worth within the greater system. When people speak with a Southern accent, they are normally mocked and treated as though they have a lesser intelligence, even if they have a PhD from Harvard in astrophysics. This happens all over the world. In Mexico, you are looked down on if you speak the border Spanish, Chicano, or Tex-Mex, a combination of English and Mexican Spanish. People’s identities and cultural heritage can be denied as lesser or invalid because of the way they speak. When the language looks at only one true form as the correct form, like Standard American English in the United States, those who are different are forced to conform.
Because let’s face it, if you’re from Michigan, you’re just weird.
If you’d like to know more check out the book Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria E. Anzaldua or watch this video. If you’re just as fascinated about this as I am, I encourage you to do your own research too. Go pursue your knowledge and your passion.
Well, that’s all we’ve got for this Fascination Friday. What would you like to learn about next week?
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Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
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Stefan Falke photographs artists who live and work along the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region on both sides. All photos © Stefan Falke (use with written permission by the author only)