waluk at earthlink.net
Fri Mar 11 02:33:00 UTC 2005
Thanks Paul for this reply and for your historical
rendition. I have taken the liberty of posting this to
my language-origins group because I believe your
interpretation of what's needed in understanding
language is "spot on".
Language is not only the words or sentence structure we
use; it also encompasses the "sense" of what we are
trying to say. I totally agree that for anyone to have
a Worldly View, one needs to be versant in Arabic,
Chinese and English. Only then will a scholar have a
handle on language.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul J. Werbos, Dr." <paul.werbos at verizon.net>
To: "The new improved paleopsych list"
<paleopsych at paleopsych.org>; "'The new improved
paleopsych list'" <paleopsych at paleopsych.org>
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 2:45 PM
Subject: [Paleopsych] English
> Hi, folks!
> Certainly there are times when the US is like a blind
> elephant that really needs to work
> on its vision. And there are areas of science where
> Brazil offers opportunities to US folks
> just as much as vice-versa.
> The English language is a totally different matter!
> To begin with, the US doesn't own that language.
> There was a time when Latin was the lingua franca of
> intelligent work in Europe. It wasn't because of the
> great pressure
> exerted by dead Roman emperors. It was because
> and conventions are critical to universal
> It is often said these days that "Bad English is the
> universal language
> of science."
> Have you seen people in Budapest who complained why
> all Americans did not learn
> Hungarian? And then turned around and used English
> themselves to talk to visiting
> Rumanians or Chinese? We can't learn all the
> On the other hand, I personally believe that Arabic
> (not counting the alphabet) does
> have a kind of special logical status. The Russian
> linguist Sapir had some very deep and
> valid empirical insights into the evolution of
> language. Like Freud, he didn't frame his
> concepts in the most precise mathematical way, and he
> did hit a few distracting hot buttons
> (like Freud and like E.O. Wilson.) But we are deeply
> impoverished when we do not
> learn what we can from his observations -- and
> reinterpret it in a more modern context.
> Basically -- the modern western European languages
> are really very, very close in terms
> of the world view they impose. Some US theorists
> imagine that Western grammatical
> structures are hard-wired into the genes of all
> humans -- but I hear that the Chinese
> Academy of Sciences has had some very intense
> discussions about the weirdness
> of "scientists" who postulate that English grammar is
> wired into even their genes!
> (I have heard a lot more about those discussions...).
> Yes, there is some special colorful vocabulary in
> each Western language, but the underlying structures
> are very similar, in a way that Sapir noticed.
> And, as Max Weber suggested... these structures of
> thought may owe more to Plato than to DNA.
> We underestimate Plato's influence (and Socrates'..)
> because of how thoroughly we have absorbed it, in the
> But... for humanity as a whole... Arabic and Chinese
> represent a major flowering of a different
> way of phrasing things. If we were trying to be truly
> cosmopolitan, maybe everyone would
> learn English, Arabic and Chinese. But maybe we would
> have computers and courses to make this easier for
> people, and do some other fixes in the meantime.
> (Maybe enlarging some vocabularies a bit?)
> Long ago, I remember suggesting... that in a rational
> world... we would make a
> Great Bargain, perhaps in the European community or
> even OECD. English would get greater
> status as a common official language... IN RETURN for
> fixing up the spelling,
> to make it truly phonetic. And the English would
> agree to drive on the right side of the road,
> and the US to fully adopt the metric system.
> And with Chinese, computers would have a very special
> But... long enough, this email is already.
> On the Irish side of my family, there were people who
> fought very hard to
> resist English imperialism. Their feelings about it
> were not restrained.
> But they never fought the English language. They felt
> that they could speak it
> and write it better than the English, and that doing
> so would be a stronger path
> for them. (They spoke some Gaelic in school... but
> never tried to take it further.)
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