Sunday, August 29, 2010
In the "Letter on Humanism" Heidegger wrote that:
Language is the clearing-concealing advent of Being itself.

P. 230
When we orient ourselves with left and right, and front and back, are we concealing the cardinal directions?

The NY Times asks about language.
When your language routinely obliges you to specify certain types of information, it forces you to be attentive to certain details in the world and to certain aspects of experience that speakers of other languages may not be required to think about all the time. And since such habits of speech are cultivated from the earliest age, it is only natural that they can settle into habits of mind that go beyond language itself, affecting your experiences, perceptions, associations, feelings, memories and orientation in the world.

BUT IS THERE any evidence for this happening in practice?
But then a remote Australian aboriginal tongue, Guugu Yimithirr, from north Queensland, turned up, and with it came the astounding realization that not all languages conform to what we have always taken as simply “natural.” In fact, Guugu Yimithirr doesn’t make any use of egocentric coordinates at all. The anthropologist John Haviland and later the linguist Stephen Levinson have shown that Guugu Yimithirr does not use words like “left” or “right,” “in front of” or “behind,” to describe the position of objects. Whenever we would use the egocentric system, the Guugu Yimithirr rely on cardinal directions. If they want you to move over on the car seat to make room, they’ll say “move a bit to the east.” To tell you where exactly they left something in your house, they’ll say, “I left it on the southern edge of the western table.” Or they would warn you to “look out for that big ant just north of your foot.”
I bet the Guugu Yimithirr were early adopters of GPS, since their language already uses externalist coordinates.
Interesting, but I'm somewhat doubtful that MH would have approved of linguistics of the modern PC Chomsky/Sapir Whorf sort.

recall Heidegger's proclamation (aged MH apparently, apres-WWII) that "Greek language and it alone is Logos": a somewhat sublime sentiment, yet rather opposed to the multicultural aspects of collegetown linguists, who insist all languages are more or less equal--one can poeticize in Hopi or hindi as well as ancient hellenic.
I usually turn off when Heidegger starts prioritizing Greek or German languages or folks, but its fairly common for me to be with a cosmopolitan group, and have to express something in some other language to get a meaning across.
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