[Paleopsych] English

G. Reinhart-Waller 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.

Gerry Reinhart-Waller

----- 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.
> But..
> 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 
> standards
> and conventions are critical to universal 
> communication.
> 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 
> languages.
> --------
> 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 
> West.
> 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 
> role...
> 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.)
> Best,
>     Paul
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