LINGUIST List 10.1802

Fri Nov 26 1999

Sum: re:10.1673 Ling and Socio-Economic Development

Editor for this issue: James Yuells <>


  1. Niladri Sekhar Dash, for Query:10.1673 Ling vis-a-vis Socio-economic development

Message 1: for Query:10.1673 Ling vis-a-vis Socio-economic development

Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 03:11:38 PST
From: Niladri Sekhar Dash <>
Subject: for Query:10.1673 Ling vis-a-vis Socio-economic development

First of all I would like to thank to all those persons who have responded 
to our question regarding economic development and language use which I put 
in the LINGUIST LIST on Wednesday, 3 Nov., 1999. So far we have received 
responses form 8 persons. I sum up the responses. I apologise beforehand if 
any one is missed form the list.
Dr. Rob Pensalfini, Lecturer in Linguistics, Department of English, The 
University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072. Australia 
<> is curious about our project and doubts 
whether the ability to understand metaphors has anything at all to do with 
socio-economic development. What he understands from our query is that the 
"speakers of languages associated with socioeconomically advanced (or 
exploitative) cultures would be able to understand the metaphors of 
underdeveloped societies better than they understand ours". Unfortunately it 
was not our hypothesis. Moreover, to support his disagreement he has cited 
two metaphors ('I have it in my ear' and 'The brother is in the knee') from 
the Jingili people of central Australia, an oppressed and almost extinct 
aboriginal people of Australia. Finally he concludes that metaphors require 
an understanding of the culture that gives rise to it. He deserves thanks 
for sending a quotation form King Lear ("Speak what we feel, not what we 
ought to say.") that gives me the flavour of my by-gone college days.
Johannes Reese <> strongly disagrees with our 
assumption. He is in the opinion that "on those islands, there is no winter" 
and "metaphors are somehow idiomatically restricted in any language or at 
least any culture". He believes that "any metaphor hinting at concepts like 
these must fail to be understood by other cultures". He agrees that of 
course, there is an impact, but the impact is not to be technical or even 
cognitive, but towards a universal English-based culture, and "this is the 
output of contact plus preponderance of English nations, preponderance being 
the crucial factor".
Peter T. Daniels" <> is unfortunately very much 
hasty and harsh in drawing conclusion without considering the gravity of the 
proposition. To him "this sort of racist bullshit was very popular during 
the 19th century." No more comments on it.
Prof. R.K. Agnihotri, Univ. of Delhi. India <> also 
disagrees with our proposition. He is afraid that we are "absolutely on the 
wrong track". He thinks that "you first decide the standards, then call them 
objective and then measure the rest of the universe with those standards". 
He informs that tribal languages have metaphors but they are NOT from the 
English language.
Robert Orr <> has enclosed review of Dixon, the Rise and 
fall of languages, plus the book itself, both in RTF and WordPerfect format 
considering them relevant for our query: <dixon.dia.doc> (177k) (Download 
without Scan - Scan with McAfee) and <dixon.dia.wpd > (165k) (Download 
without Scan -- Scan with McAfee).
Prof. Suzette Haden Elgin <> http:<//> 
provides us the address (website of the Union of 
International Organisations), where one can find a huge repository of 
materials on precisely the topic we are getting ready to work with. The UIA 
metaphor projects, including Metaphors Of Governance, address our problem in 
abundant detail. Finally she wishes us good luck with our project.
M. J. Hardman <> is "sorry to see anyone waste time and money 
and expertise justifying prejudice. It is very sad and will be used against 
the profession down the line." He has many experiences of his students 
listening dumbfounded to people saying metaphors in English that they had no 
clue as to the meaning of. They were being translated out of other 
languages". He considers that sometimes the people saying them did not have 
much money.
Thanking you all again who have responded our query.
Niladri Sekhar Dash
Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Unit
Indian Statistical Institute
203, B. T. Road.
Calcutta - 700 035.
mail : <>

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