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Aha moments in languagepdf/doc/txt格式电子书下载

书名:Aha moments in languagepdf/doc/txt格式电子书下载

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作者:SarahTan(谭又妍苏)著

出版社:

出版时间:2020-01-01

书籍编号:30622916

ISBN:

正文语种:中文

字数:103322

版次:1

所属分类:社会科学-语言文字

全书内容:

Aha moments in languagepdf/doc/txt格式电子书下载

OF LANGUAGE…


CECI N’EST PAS UNE PIPE?


Perhaps you’ve seen the intriguing painting“The Treachery of Images”by Surrealist painter René Magritte. The painting shows a pipe, and below it reads:


“Ceci n’est pas une pipe.”(This is not a pipe.)


Aha moments in languagepdf/doc/txt格式电子书下载


“The Treachery of Images”by René Magritt


When asked about the meaning of this controversial piece of work, Magritte replied famously:


“The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation,is it not? So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe,’ I’d have been lying!”


There is a linguistic, or even philosophical nature to this metamessage. Locke first introduced the concept of the symbolistic nature of language in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Words were made to“stand as marks for the ideas within his own mind, whereby they might be made known to others, and the thoughts of men’s minds be conveyed from one to another.”Sounds are the human creation that made the transmission of ideas possible, serving as a medium. These sounds, which were later recorded as the written“words,”are the“signifiers”that are arbitrarily associated to the“signified,”or the idea that the words represent. For instance, when the word“circle”is evoked, one would, in most cases, call into mind the shape of a circle, instead of a square or a triangle.


However, the word“circle”itself is a mere combination of strokes that form the letters“c,”“i,”“r,”“c,”“l”and“e”placed in such an order that humans recognize this particular symbol as well as the meaning of the symbol. However, it doesn’t have to be like so: if history of the English language evolved in any other way, perhaps English speakers today would associate the circular shape with“bird,”or any other random word. The same rule applies to all established linguistic systems.


Unfortunately, humans too often mistake the signifier with the signified. It may be hypothesized that the origins of slavery were rooted in such a confusion. The perceived difference in skin color led to the naming of the ethnic groups—the“blacks”and the“whites”—which is where the misuse of symbols began. Since the word“black”was previously associated with darkness, filth and evilness in the cultural context, the word itself is now a symbol that is attributed an additional meaning: the dark-skin-colored people. Human beings, without making a distinction between the two meanings and perhaps induced by the need for cheap labor,equated the two meanings to justify slavery. Yet if the perceived difference between the two social groups was something else rather than skin color, then instead of the tag“black”, some other tag such as“curly-haired”or“big-foot”that didn’t hold other meanings would have, perhaps, avoided the tragedy.


Going back to the painting, Magritte is fairly justified in his explanation for the work: the image of the pipe itself is a mere image; it would indeed be lying to say that it was a pipe!

“I DREAM OF YOU IN COLORS THAT DON’T EXIST”


Color studies have been one of the most intriguing fields in linguistics as well as in anthropology. By looking into how languages name colors, researchers have discovered mindblowing facts about human perception and languages across cultures.


For the first part, not all languages have color terms. Anthropologist Alexandre Surralles, after working with the Candoshi people in Peru for three years, concluded that they simply don’t have concrete words for color in the same way that we have basic color words such as red, orange, blue, and green. This same happens for the Piraha people in Brazil as well. When they try to describe colors, such as a red object, they would compare it to other red-coloured objects, for instance,“it is like blood.”They simply didn’t need color words in their language.


When languages do have basic color words, it becomes even more fascinating because we see a universal principle behind the construction of color words. This groundbreaking discovery was made by anthropologists Paul Kay and Brent Berlin, published in their 1969 study“Basic Color Terms, their Universality and Evolution.”whose results are further confirmed by a much broader field study conducted on 110 languages in the book“The World Color Survey.”carried out by the Summer Institute of Linguistics, a group of missionaries translating the Bible while documenting languages around the world. Their research revealed that there exists a hierarchy of priority when it comes to creating color terms in languages. All languages, assuming that they do have color terms, seems to be able to separate light colors from dark ones. These are called the stage I languages. Then, if a certain language has another term apart from dark and light, this term would most probably be red, and these would be the stage II languages. Stage III languages have either green or yellow in addition to red, and stage IV languages have both green and yellow. In stage V, languages acquire blue, then brown in stage VI, and at last languages display a complete range of colors in stage VII, the final stage.


The results are extremely controversial, and many have questioned the methods of the study and its accuracy, but it nonetheless strengthen the belief of universalists——the belief that some universal principle must exist behind the myriad of languages. However, what’s most curious about this principle on color is that the rule applies to how the human eyeball works. At the back of the eyeball, there are cones and rods that helps us perceive lights, with the cones working in the day (to distinguish colors) and rods at night (to discern shapes). About 64 percent of cones respond most to red light, while about a third are activated most by green light and another 2 percent of the them are triggered most by blue light. Yellow light lies just between red and green on the wavelength spectrum, which could explain why green or yellow colors often appear next to each other in the hierarchy. Blue has a relatively lo

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