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24 September 2003 @ 12:22 pm
Damn you, Bibble! All insightful and shit...  
Am I taking Japanese for the wrong reasons? I really think it's a beautiful language, and I like being able to speak it with my friends in the class, but I'm not by any means great at conversational Japanese when I'm not immersed for long periods of time.

It's not the speaking I enjoy...it's the decoding. Not the translation. That's different. It's the brain choices, the patterns of use that come about because of the way in which they are deduced. Wow. That's why I do get so excited when I understand a Kanji pattern in a new way or translate something I've come across.

I'd once thought learning Japanese was just a hobby. I'd never excel at it, but I liked knowing some of it. Now I realize it's a different kind of means to an end. I didn't take Japanese to understand Japanese, but to better understand the Japanese.

You got me, boy. Thanks.
Mood: enlightened
S0n of N00n: isn't that nice??bibble on September 24th, 2003 09:40 am (UTC)

"It's the brain choices, the patterns of use that come about because of the way in which they are deduced. Wow. That's why I do get so excited when I understand a Kanji pattern in a new way or translate something I've come across."

This is what I figured out when we were talking about hearing different sounds, and our reaction to music that uses sounds we're not used to listening to - like those sounds literally dont exist for us. This is probably also the kind of thing that Patrick was so excited to hear you spout about. I knew that you were on to something. Now you do too.
Laudrelaudre on September 24th, 2003 10:20 am (UTC)
I find the last bit most telling -- about understanding the Japanese.

Are you familiar with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis? Basically, the language you speak shapes the way you think, to the point that not only can you articulate some things better in one language than another, you can actually think things through better when you're thinking with the patterns of a language better-suited to describing it.

Benjamin Whorf developed the theory based on his study of Hopi, and discovering that not only did Hopi describe certain concepts in physics far better than English, but that it was easier to comprehend and conceive of them in Hopi. (I don't remember enough details about the Hopi language, and the examples given to go any further than that, unfortunately. I read his book on the subject about nine years ago, so it's a bit fuzzy.)

Knowing what I do know about Japanese, which is Standard Otakunese Lexicon plus what I've picked up by virtue of my aptitude for languages and studying and reading things about and set in Japan that go beyond otakudom, I'd say that Japanese is a marvelous example of this. There are concepts inherent and exclusive to Japanese culture that are single words in Japanese, but can take pages upon pages to explain, such as enryo, giri, hara or sempai, to name a few. And while most people raised in Asian cultures would probably understand them easily enough, Westerners probably wouldn't, and even with the above-mentioned pages of exposition, still might not ever really get it. I've been interested in Japanese culture, and studying it off-and-on on an amateur basis save for one course on Japanese culture in colelge, for a good eighteen years now, and I'm not sure I've got my head fully wrapped around a lot of those kinds of concepts, and I may not until and unless I start studying the language.
ex_randalgra425 on September 24th, 2003 06:59 pm (UTC)
cognitively speaking, the sapir-whorf hypothesis is based on the two basic ideas of linguistic determinism (the idea that language provides speakers with habitual ways of expression; or, language determines thought) and linguistic relativity (if two languages differ on how they express a concept, speakers of the languages will differ on how they think about that concept; or, language differences lead to thought differences). i'm not familiar with a study conducted on the hopi indian, but a better applicable study would be that on the yucatec. i say this is better because it, like japanese, is a classifier language. the study, conducted by lucy in 1992, supported the idea of linguistic relativity: basically, the english-speaking subjects classified objects due to similarity in appearance (two boxes), and the yucatec-speaking subjects classified objects due to similarity in construction (two plastic objects).

however, the majority of research has strongly rejected the sapir-whorf hypothesis. appearance-reality tasks involving spanish-speaking, english-speaking, and bilingual children have shown that cognitively, all children were similar. language differences merely affected comprehension. similarly, a study conducted regarding focal colors and their classification (as tested with english-speaking subjects and members of the dani tribe) found that color is universal; that both types of subjects had similar ideas of focal/nonfocal colors- again, they simply differed in basic terminology (which can be debated is a result of utility). a third study of interest is the stepanova and coley study on emotional terms in english versus russian. because this third study is quite involved, i digress. i think you get the point.

in sum, linguistic relativity is unsupported and controversial.

and as a side note, cognitive psychology sounds right up your alley. i say go for it ;)
Mellenabsentmammoth on September 24th, 2003 07:17 pm (UTC)

Unsupported and controversial...

...sounds like me, alright!
ex_randalgra425 on September 24th, 2003 09:05 pm (UTC)
hahaha i was wondering if it came off like that... the sapir-whorf thing is just a tiny controversial part of the whole cognition deal. i think a lot of cognition is really right up your alley, like the various forms of language study. and actually a lot of people that go into cognition are language students. like the stepanova i meantioned is olya stepanova and she's the ta for my cognition lab and part of my cognition directed study. the grad student i'm working with said something about her being a native russian and majoring in english and studying that. and now she's here, and i overheard her talking about trying to learn german. and her studies in the cognition department are mostly language-oriented and stuff. so it's pretty popular, and you really can get into it with any sort of major. a major in a language kind of sets you ahead, i think.
Mellenabsentmammoth on September 24th, 2003 09:41 pm (UTC)
One can hope, right?

I've noted a lot of things specifically in Japanese, both written and spoken, I'd like to look into in this respect. Hopefully, I'll find a way from one to the other, like the synapses of the brain branching from one place to another.

This looks like it could be a lot of fun. I'm such a dork.
Laudrelaudre on September 24th, 2003 11:55 pm (UTC)
I dunno -- it's been, as I've said, nine years since I read Whorf's book, which wasn't terribly stimulating reading for all that the subject matter was extraordinarily fascinating, but I dunno if a study with two IE languages, especially ones as closely associated as North American English and North American Spanish (I'm assuming that's the languages the study discussed) is going to give an accurate reflection, simply because of the similarity of the languages involved. I'd be more interested in, say, a study comparing kids who grew up speaking English vs. kids who grew up speaking Cantonese, and a bilingual group of same. Or Vietnamese and French, as another example.

Be that as it may, what I can say -- and anyone who's ever studied a foreign language in any depth can attest to -- is that your behavior patterns and even your personality can change quite dramatically depending on the language you're speaking. My body language actually changes slightly if I start thinking in French -- and I'm a very mild example of the phenomenon. That's one of the reasons why I think Sapir and Whorf were onto something.

But, anyway, I'm just a random auto-didact who happened to at one time have a strong interest in the mechanics of language and language acquisition -- at this point, I'm more interested in actually learning languages than learning about languages.
ex_randalgra425 on September 25th, 2003 11:26 am (UTC)
learning languages changes one's behaviors and practices, i don't doubt. learning anything will change the way someone sees things- learning biology will make you look at the body differently, and learning sociology might make you a vegetarian (the studies on meat plants- good god). my point was that cognitive experiments have been run to test the validity of that feeling, and evidence supports there not being a drastic cognitive difference between peoples of different language backgrounds. the studies didn't look into the emotional or personal changes a person might feel when learning or speaking various languages. and as for the argument about english/spanish not being great comparative languages, perhaps that is why other famous studies have delved into the linguistic differences between english, dani, russian, yucatec, etc.
herding virtual hedgehogsnessur on September 24th, 2003 02:59 pm (UTC)
ya, well, maybe you should be studying linguistics and anthopology in general, with a focus on eastern cultures. shapes of destiny are always foggy until you're about to run into them.
Mellenabsentmammoth on September 24th, 2003 03:13 pm (UTC)
Well, I've just done the East Asian studies part first I guess.