The influence of the mother tongue

“Language has two lives. In its public role, it is a system of conventions agreed upon by a speech community for the purpose of effective communication. But language also has another, private existence, as a system of knowledge that each speaker has internalized in his or her own mind. If language is to serve as an effective means of communication, then the private systems of knowledge in speakers’ minds must closely correspond with the public system of linguistic conventions. And it is because of this correspondence that the public conventions of language can mirror what goes on in the most fascinating and most elusive object in the entire universe, our mind.

This book set out to show, through the evidence supplied by language, that fundamental aspects of our thought are influenced by the cultural conventions of our society, to a much greater extent than is fashionable to admit today. In the first part, it became clear that the way our language carves up the world into concepts has not just been determined for us by nature, and that what we find “natural” depends largely on the conventions we have been brought up on. That is not to say, of course, that each language can partition the world arbitrarily according to its whim. But within the constraints of what is learnable and sensible for communication, the ways in which even the simplest concepts are delineated can vary to a far greater degree than what plain common sense would ever expect. For, ultimately, what common sense finds natural is what it is familiar with.

In the second part, we saw that the linguistic conventions of our society can affect aspects of our thought that go beyond language. The demonstrable impact of language on thinking is very different from what was touted in the past. In particular, no evidence has come to light that our mother tongue imposes limits on our intellectual horizons and constrains our ability to understand concepts or distinctions used in other languages. The real effects of the mother tongue are rather the habits that develop through the frequent use of certain ways of expression. The concepts we are trained to treat as distinct, the information our mother tongue continuously forces us to specify, the details it requires us to be attentive to, and the repeated associations it imposes on us-all these habits of speech can create habits of mind that affect more than merely the knowledge of language itself. We saw examples from three areas of language: spatial coordinates and their consequences for memory patterns and orientation, grammatical gender and its impact on associations, and the concepts of color, which can increase our sensitivity to certain color distinctions.

According to the dominant view among linguists and cognitive scientists today, the influence of language on thought can be considered significant only if it bears on genuine reasoning-if, for instance, one language can be shown to prevent its speakers from solving a logical problem that is easily solved by speakers of another language. Since no evidence for such constraining influence on logical reasoning has ever been presented, this necessarily means-or so the argument goes-that any remaining effects of language are insignificant and that fundamentally we all think in the same way.

But it is all too easy to exaggerate the importance of logical reasoning in our lives. Such an overestimation may be natural enough for those reared on a diet of analytic philosophy, where thought is practically equated with logic and any other mental processes are considered beneath notice. But this view does not correspond with the rather modest role of logical thinking in our actual experience of life. After all, how many daily decisions do we make on the basis of abstract deductive reasoning, compared with those guided by gut feeling, intuition, emotions, impulse, or practical skills? How often have you spent your day solving logical conundrums, compared with wondering where you left your socks? Or trying to remember where your car is in a multilevel parking lot? How many commercials try to appeal to us through logical syllogisms, compared with those that play on colours, associations, allusions? And finally, how many wars have been fought over disagreements in set theory?

The influence of the mother tongue that has been demonstrated empirically is felt in areas of thought such as memory, perception, and associations or in practical skills such as orientation. And in our actual experience of life, such areas are no less important than the capacity for abstract reasoning, probably far more so.”

THROUGH the LANGUAGE GLASS – Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages (2010), Guy Deutscher (1969). Pages 233 to 235, published by Arrow Books (2011).

Our kiss


I know they also told you
about fear
and hate
us being excluded
from their feast
from our fate
from our fading eternity

You learned very well how to hide
and eventually forgot
that longing
for truth
and denied
a lovely place in our smile
where our life is our destiny

Our kiss is the kiss
from that time
when the first two were really surprised
finding darkness, sadness
and light
beyond one’s cage of body or mind
caressing chaos with synergy.

El Matallana

Beschreibung VIII

«Was für ein wunderschönes Gedicht!

Die Bilder tragen einen Zauber in sich, so dass ich mich in jeder Strophe in einem anderen Moment, einer anderen Situation, Umgebung und Universum fühle.

Vielen Dank fürs Malen und Teilen…»


Sonja – 23.08.2015

Descripción VII

«Cada vez que nos encontramos, sin importar el tiempo que pasa, siento que continuamos nuestra conversación.

Es increíble que me recuerdes tantas cosas.

Tienes una memoria exquisita.»


Tania – 09.08.2015

Te vengo a cantar – Grupo Bahía*

Una gota de agua, una noche, una luna nueva me hace recordar,

siendo el pensamiento una cosa volátil yo no sé porque no te puedo olvidar…

Olvidar, para que olvidar, para que olvidar esos momentos lindos…

Olvidar, para que olvidar, para que olvidar esa felicidad…


Buscando un poco de paz y buscándote a ti yo me perdí,

me perdí, me perdí, me perdí, me perdí, pero yo aprendí:


Aprendí que para hallar la luz, hay que pasar por la oscuridad.


Aprendí que para uno encontrarse tiene que buscar en la raíz,

en la familia, en el pueblo, en la tierra, allí donde un día tú fuiste feliz.


Aprendí que perder y perdonar son dos remansos que le dan a uno tranquilidad.


Aprendí que no soy sólo yo y que somos muchos más:

muchos más soñando, sintiendo, viviendo, buscando la felicidad.


Aprendí que el camino es largo, que el camino es duro, pero se puede llegar,

aprendí que el camino es largo, que el camino es duro, pero se puede llegar.


Una gota de agua, una noche, una luna nueva me hace recordar,

siendo tú la mujer más divina, fantasía que Dios un día hizo realidad,

realidad para deleitarme, para navegar en tus encantos de mujer,

realidad que fue mi verdad, pero un día te fuiste sin más nunca regresar…


Con tanto sentimiento acumulao

y con el corazón aquí guardao,

con tanto sentimiento acumulao yo te tuve que vení a cantá…


Me salgo de mi concha y (yo te vengo a cantá)

Ehhh por la madrugá, por la mañanita (yo te vengo a cantá)

Te vengo a cantá, morena (yo te vengo a cantá)

Y con mi guitarra y bajo el palmar (yo te vengo a cantá)

Por el río Guapi, arriba en mi champita yo me vine (yo te vengo a cantá),

buscándote por la orillita (yo te vengo a cantá),

con el corazón lleno’ e sentimiento (yo te vengo a cantá)

me dejaste en un mar de sufrimiento (yo te vengo a cantá)


Me salgo de mi concha y (yo te vengo a cantá)

te vengo a contar mi historia (yo te vengo a cantá):

Me caía, me paraba, me perdía, aprendía y yo seguía (yo te vengo a cantá)

En una noche estrellada te volviste un sueño y fantasía de Dios (yo te vengo a cantá)…

Duele, duele, duele, duele, negra linda vuelve ya (yo te vengo a cantá),

te canto esta serenata de amor (yo te vengo a cantá)…


Ahora yo vivo mi vida bien sabrosito y cantando

¡porque la vida es un goce y felicidad! (yo te vengo a cantá)


Te vengo a cantá….


* “Grupo Bahía, composición del maestro Hugo Candelario González. El video fue dirigido por Nicolás Cabrera y Luis Antonio Delgado, en asociación con Juan Martín Fierro de Music Media Colombia ( Se grabó del 2 al 6 de junio de 2011 en Guapi, Cauca, tierra natal del maestro Hugo Candelario y es un homenaje a la gente, al paisaje y a la música de este rincón del Pacífico colombiano. La canción hace parte del álbum «Con el corazón cerca de las raíces», de 1998.”


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