On language, cognition and nothingness.

To talk about all that in just one post, keeping up with your interest level, is a challenge for my language,difficult for my cognition and will eventually end up in nothingness. So pardon me for trying to put too much stuff in one.

I won't take stand for or against the populist Gladwell bashing (for Outliers, that is) and simply move on to the point he makes regarding the chinese language and mathematics.


Chinese number words are remarkably brief. Most of them can be uttered in less than one-quarter of a second (for instance, 4 is ‘si’ and 7 ‘qi’) Their English equivalents—”four,” “seven”—are longer: pronouncing them takes about one-third of a second. The memory gap between English and Chinese apparently is entirely due to this difference in length.
The regularity of their number systems also means that Asian children can perform basic functions—like addition—far more easily. Ask an English seven-year-old to add thirty-seven plus twenty two, in her head, and she has to convert the words to numbers (37 + 22). Only then can she do the math: 2 plus 7 is nine and 30 and 20 is 50, which makes 59. Ask an Asian child to add three-tens-seven and two tens-two, and then the necessary equation is right there, embedded in the sentence. No number translation is necessary: It’s five-tens nine.

Now this brings us to the question in debate. Does language affect cognition? If yes, to what extent?

The study of tribal languages and subsequent comparison of their cognition reveals interesting results. One of the tribes uses cardinal directions even to enunciate small scale descriptions. You'd say the mouse is to your right, but they might say it's on the east. This enables them to locate the north much more quickly than native English speakers, but cripples them in arranging objects, or going through mazes, where subjective directional sense becomes more important.
The Hopi tribe do not have a word for 'new' in their language. For them, the concept belongs to the mental realm only ; they think, therefore 'tis new. 
English puts it as an adjective, it becomes a property of that thing. However, for the Hopi, it'd be like "By my seeing, I deduce that it is new" and the novelty of the object becomes my own interpretation of it. 
I frankly believe, it is truly beautiful, to be able to realize that the object is in itself not new, but new to me and brings about a wondrous feeling relating to my insignificant exposure in the vast unknowns of the world. But for the MadMen out there to advertise a product for the Hopi, it becomes imperative to break into the 'attitude' and not on the newness of the object.

Language is the dress for your thoughts, the more variety you have, be it in terms of the language brand, or the vocabulary accessories, the better your thoughts would look like.

Or would it? Here's something I got from this podcast

One morning, neurologist Jill Bolte Taylor woke up with a headache. A blood vessel then burst inside her left hemisphere, and silenced all the brain chatter in her head. She was left with no language. No memories. Just sensory intake, and an all-encompassing feeling of joy.

The comments section has a whole list of theories, ranging from similar effects through psychedelic drugs, near-death experiences and even meditative practices. One would like to believe that almost all religious practices are ultimately trying to bring those few moments of pre-language thought back into the psychological jargon crammed existence. A very potent haiku succinctly described it.
And perhaps, the sandwiched nothingness that lasts at the end of the each sentence in a haiku, is what completes it. 
Words create worlds, and ruin them as well; and there lies beauty in both.


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