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Summary Details

Query:   Kinesthetic-based Human Languages?
Author:  Dan Moonhawk Alford
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Linguistic Theories

Summary:   Two weeks ago I asked if anyone had ever seen any references or musings about any languages being more kinesthetically than visually oriented. Well, as we say in linguistics, sometimes no data is actually data. ;-)

So we're left with the possibility that no one has ever proposed that languages -- and even entire language families, especially in indigenous North America -- have escaped notice of being a different KIND of human language, where semantic primes are FELT rather than pictured from sound. Since I have heard this same idea expressed by Natives of different language families, I hereby dub this the ''Turtle Island Hypothesis'' about their own languages -- as far as I know the first such indigenous hypothesis ever proposed in this discipline.

The next hypothesis I'm working on concerns the philosophical linguistics industry around the truth-value of propositions, and how it's useless in Turtle Island languages. Whorf talked about how these languages continually turn our propositions about things into propositions about events (or eventing). That's great, but his limited fieldwork couldn't get him to the next step, again an indigenous proposal: Algonkian (specifically, and
undoubtedly other) languages' speakers make propositions about their *awareness of eventing in consciousness*, not the eventing itself. This understanding is integral with the hypothesis above, that they're reporting on their feelings. I'm told speakers don't say ''I saw a coyote'' as in English but more like ''I saw-experienced coyote-ing'' or ''coyote-ing [+ manifest, or validity-marking of personal experiencing]'' -- always leaving the ''truth'' of it to the Great Mystery, since we're human and don't really
know whether ultimately it's a coyote or, say, a shapeshifter.

My thanks to Suzette Hayden Elgin, Hiromi Oda, Erica Smale and Deborah Ruuskanen for kind and useful comments, partly excerpted below.

Elgin: I just want to mention one thing... Although it can't be proved (because nobody has done the necessary research), it's very possible -- even very probable -- that sensory system dominance is primarily genetic rather than ''enculturated.'' I ordinarily compare it to handedness; it's _possible_ to force a child to favor some other sensory system, just as it's possible to force a lefthanded child to write with his or her right
hand, but the results are not going to be satisfactory, and problems are almost inevitable. Different cultures rank different sensory systems at the top of their list; American Anglo culture puts sight at the top and does its best to shove touch clear off the ladder. But that doesn't keep touch dominant kids from being touch dominant, it just causes trouble for them in communication.

Oda: You might be interested in my dissertation I submitted last year.

An embodied semantic mechanism for mimetic words in Japanese
by Oda, Hiromi, PhD
INDIANA UNIVERSITY, 2000, 330 pages
AAT 9981009

Smale: My contribution to this latest discussion is to do with English,regarding an example in semantic perception of a person who is cortically blind and developmentally delayed. The sound of a sheep and the sound of a crow are much the same. He knows the crow is above him, because he heard it atop a pole. By his gestures of flinging his arms upward, we understand he thinks sheep are also above him. There is no possibility of forming the visual image, so in this case it would seem that the semantic perception
here is aurally based, though not onomatopoeiac, even though he speaks English.

Ruuskanen: I must say first of all that your hypothesis that language can be A, K, or V, is out of my field, but that it certainly has been mentioned in the L2 acquisition studies I've read. There is even an entire programme of language learning based on students 'acting out' the sentences they say (I pick up the banana), which works fine for
beginners but breaks down when abstract concepts have to be learned. All that you say makes absolute sense to me. I've found in my own teaching of translation that there are students who are definitely more audio oriented (they don't work out what the sentence means until they say it out loud), and those who are visually oriented (they've told me they get 'pictures in their heads' when they translate) - but I've not studied it in any rigorous way.

Any further comments are welcome.

warm regards, moonhawk

LL Issue: 12.918
Date Posted: 01-Apr-2001
Original Query: Read original query


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