Monday, September 6, 2010

Where Language and Thinking Collide

Guy Deutscher, a linguist at the University of Manchester, writes in his new book, Through the Language Glass, about one of the language questions that people love to chew over: does language shape how we think, or do we all think the same way? I guess I claim the middle ground: that we all essentially think the same way, but that language shades some spots, and offers subtlety and innuendo.

Here's an example of what I consider real shadiness, where my English "thinking" and my Chinese language learning collided. It's about two small but powerful Chinese words: xia and shang.

Xia     means "next" as in future time (next time) , but it also means "beneath, under", as in location or place (under the table).

Shang  上  means "last" as in last time (last week), but it also means "above, on top", as in location or place (on the table).

All my Chinese language teachers introduced the complete sets of meaning of xia and shang in the same lessons. For them, they were just teaching the words -- xia and shang -- and it seemed very straightforward. But for us students, this was amazingly confounding and awkward. It took a few back flips to sort them out, keep them straight, and land on the right choice. The problem?

For me at least, the problem was all about the collapsing the notions of time and place into a single word xia or shang, and then remembering the arbitrary assignment of the time reference (future or past) and place reference (above or below). To me, there was nothing at all intuitive that future time and location below should be together as one word (and character!).  Or why past time and location above should be together. It could as easily be the opposite pairings.

I finally drew myself a little grid, where the vertical axis represented place and the horizontal axis represented time. Then I put  xia in the southeast quadrant and shang in the northwest quadrant. This helped me visualize and remember until I finally just "got a feel" for the words, after a long, long time.

I ask a lot of Chinese people about the xia and shang conundrum, but get blank looks in return. This is obviously just a conundrum for me (and most other Chinese language learners whom I have casually polled).  It just doesn't register as an issue with the Chinese.

This stumper of xia and shang doesn't answer the philosophical questions about language and thought, but it is at least an example of where concepts and vocabulary collide and make trouble for the brain, because of differences in language specifics.

167 comments:

  1. Hahaa! Yes, I had this problem too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The way I look at the xia & shang to indicate time is like this:

    Sometimes in Chinese, the past of time is compared to the flow of water, as in 时光如水.

    Water always flow downwards, so the time of xia means future, shang means past.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fillmore talks about the English metaphors for time putting the future ahead of the observer, and the past behind them:
    Your productive years are behind/ahead of you.
    The coming year/the passing months/days gone by
    etc. There are hundreds of such expressions.

    The conundrum for English speakers (which we never seem to notice until it's pointed out to us) is that, while this feels quite natural, we can't in fact perceive the future "ahead of us", while we have intimate knowledge of the past "behind us". Maybe we're going through time facing backwards? It would explain a lot.

    The Chinese metaphor of water falling past the perceiver, from the past above to the future below, seems no stranger than the English one; and the characters 上 and 下 form a pretty good mnemonic.

    Could it be (I know no Chinese languages) that 上 has a high tone and 下 a falling one?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Both 上 and 下 have a falling tone I think.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My favourite Cantonese teacher explained this concept by asking us to think of a calendar hanging on the wall.
    The unused future pages are on the bottom under the current month, the pages from the previous months are on the top (behind the art for the current month, for example).

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yes, both xia and shang have falling tones, unfortunately. LissRR's teacher's calendar idea is a great one. I love that. I wish my teachers had suggested that. My teachers always expressed surprise that we western students had a problem learning the two different concepts for xia and shang at the same time. Even teaching them on different days would have helped!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Finely constructed, lovely wristwatches are generally the indication of your respective omega replica along with class. These are mostly of the fashion accessories which a gentleman will use for you to disclose personalized fashion, in particular when they should costume suitably pertaining to operate. Girls could don wristwatches similar to necklaces. An outstanding timepiece using complex moves is a superb omega replica. That is certainly since these kind of designer watches will certainly last longer. A number of okay designer watches are generally transferred, age group for you to age group, along with there are various reports to see with regards to these people. There are several okay enjoy designers around. On the other hand, Patek hublot replica would be the greatest ones. Antoni Patek commenced generating bank account designer watches throughout Geneva throughout 1839. Throughout 1845, they signed up with way up using Adrien Philippe, a new This particular language watchmaker who would conceived your keyless winding procedure. Patek Philippe along with Firm ended up being launched throughout 1851. On the other hand, rolex replica has not been until eventually 1868 that this agency built their 1st timepiece. Back then, wristwatches ended up deemed the decoration simply for girls. On the other hand, with the stop in the 1st Entire world Warfare, these folks were satisfactory pertaining to adult men, way too. Over send out record, Patek Philippe features built a great deal of advancements. These are to blame for revolutionary your everlasting calender, instant repeater, chronograph along with split-second return designer watches. For countless years, they've been widely used using cartier replica uk along with home chefs whom determine what they really want.

    ReplyDelete
  8. You’ve written nice post, I am gonna bookmark this page, thanks for info. I actually appreciate your own position and I will be sure to come back here.
    mortal kombat x, a10, roblox, color switch

    ReplyDelete
  9. Today I have been working very stressful and want a little entertainment. Hope helps me play the game fun again. Or I'll go out with a few friends. I think it would be better
    baixar facebook l baixar whatsapp l run 2 online l happy wheels l slitherio l piano tiles 2

    ReplyDelete
  10. Coach Outlet http://www.coachoutletfactory-stores.us.com

    North Face Outlet http://www.northface-outlets.com.co

    Kate Spade Outlet http://www.katespadefactoryoutlet.in.net

    ED Hardy Outlet http://www.edhardypopsale.com

    Coach Outlet Store Online http://www.coachstoreonline.in.net

    Kate Spade Outlet http://www.katespadeoutletstore.in.net

    Cheap Jordans http://www.cheapjordansretro.us.com

    Coach Purses http://www.coachpurses.eu.com

    Coach Outlet http://www.coachoutlet2016.us.com

    Tory Burch Shoes http://www.toryburchoutlets.us.com

    Longchamp Outlet http://www.longchampoutlet.in.net

    Michael Kors Handbags http://www.innnov8.com

    Coach Outlet http://www.innnovate.com

    Red Bottom Shoes http://www.redbottomshoes.us.org

    Moncler Jackets http://www.monclerdownjackets.us.com

    North Face Outlet http://www.northfacestoreoutlet.in.net

    Kate Spade Outlet http://www.katespadeoutletstore.us.com

    Moncler Outlet http://www.moncleroutletonline.in.net

    Coach Factory http://www.maganates.com

    Coach Factory Outlet http://www.coachfactorysoutlet.in.net

    Kate Spade Outlet http://www.katespadesoutlet.us.com

    Ray Ban Outlet http://www.raybanoutletstore.in.net

    Christian Louboutin Shoes http://www.christianlouboutinshoes2016.in.net

    North Face Outlet http://www.northfaceoutlets.us.org

    Coach Factory Outlet http://www.coachoutletstore.name

    Kate Spade Outlet http://www.katespadeoutletonline.name

    Coach Outlet http://www.coach-outlets.us.org

    Nike Roshe Run http://www.tanie-nikerosherun.pl

    Buty Nike Air Max http://www.airmaxsprzedazdla.pl

    Nike Air Max http://www.nikeairmax.us.org

    Red Bottom Shoes http://www.redbottomshoe.in.net

    Christian Louboutin Outlet http://www.christianlouboutinoutlet.us.org

    Balenciaga Handbags http://www.balenciagaoutlets.us.com

    Balenciaga Handbags http://www.balenciaga-handbags.us.com

    Kate Spade Outlet http://www.katespadefactoryoutlet.in.net

    Toms Shoes http://www.tomshoesoutlet.us.com

    Hermes Belt http://www.hermes-belts.us.com

    Prada Outlet http://www.pradafactoryoutlet.com

    Louis Vuitton Outlet http://www.louisvuittonsoutlet.us.com

    North Face Outlet Store http://www.northfaceoutletstore.in.net

    North Face Jackets http://www.north-face.in.net

    North Face http://www.north-faceoutlets.us.com

    Louis Vuitton Outlet http://www.louisvuitton-outlets.us.org

    Timberland Boots http://www.timberland-outlets.us.com

    Cheap Timberland Boots http://www.timberlandoutlet.us.com

    Tory Burch Outlet http://www.toryburch-outlets.us.com

    Ralph Lauren Outlet http://www.ralphlaurenstoreoutlet.us.com

    Gucci Shoes http://www.guccifactoryoutlet.name

    Gucci Outlet http://www.guccioutletco.us.com

    North Face Jackets http://www.northfacefactoryoutlet.us.com

    Prada Outlet http://www.pradaoutlets.in.net

    Hollister Clothing http://www.hollister-clothing.us.com

    Ferragamo Shoes http://www.ferragamoshoes.us.org

    Tiffany Outlet http://www.tiffany-outlets.us.com

    Tiffany Outlet http://www.tiffanyco-outlet.us.com

    NFL Jerseys http://www.nfljerseys.name

    Toms Outlet http://www.outlettoms.us.com

    Cheap Jordans http://www.cheapjordans.eu.com

    North Face Outlet http://www.thenorthfaceoutlet.us.org

    Prada Handbags http://www.pradaoutlet.us.org

    Chan Luu Sale http://www.chanluu.us.com

    Toms Outlet http://www.tomsoutletstores.us.com

    Kate Spade Outlet http://www.katespadeoutletofficial.us.com

    Beats By Dr Dre http://www.beatsbydrdre.us.org

    Coach Outlet http://www.coachstoreoutlet.us.org

    Christian Louboutin Shoes http://www.christianlouboutinshoe.eu.com

    Valentino Shoes http://www.valentinoshoes.eu.com

    Michael Kors Outlet http://www.michaelkorsoutlet.us.org

    Coach Factory Outlet http://www.coachfactoryoutlet.us.org

    Coach Outlet Online http://www.coachoutletonlinestore.us.org

    Coach Purses http://www.coachpurse.us.com

    ReplyDelete
  11. Punjab Education Board will be going to issues out PSEB 10th Result 2017 in the month of May, 2017 for all of you.

    Check & Download PSEB 12th Result once announced.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Drive Fumes USA is the essential high-class esmoking brand in Indian formally giving esmoking apparatuses which concentrates to individuals to change from smoking cigarettes to esmoking in 48-72 hours guaranteed. Evovle Fumes has its own particular Inner taste generation lab in Florida with 30+ tastes accessible. Said farewell to every single unremarkable pose a flavor like Apple, kiwi natural product, paan, and so on and make fitting collaborator with Bananas cheddar dessert, grape-ojello, Candy caramel fudge and vanilla flavor kappa to give a couple cases.

    https://www.evolvevapors.com/collections/vaping-juice/
    Vape india
    e hookah online india
    online e cigarette
    vaping liquids online india
    Vape pen
    buy online e hookah
    e cigarette online india
    e liquids online india
    Vape pen online

    ReplyDelete
  13. Interesting updates on CBSE 10th Result 2017 mentioned here. Proceed to download CBSE 12th Result 2017 after uploads out.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Jobs Chat is one of the biggest Indian Job Site so here you will getAll Government jobs Syllabusso

    ReplyDelete
  15. valentines day greetings 2017 This is the image of a couple who are proposing each other on the event of Valentine day. It is a beautiful picture which you can use to suggest your lover. Share this image with your friends

    ReplyDelete
  16. Visit us now to view & share beautiful collection of Best Images of
    rose day

    ReplyDelete
  17. http://isongsoundtrack.com/

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thank you for the useful information. Check Kerala HSE

    12th Result
    So

    ReplyDelete
  19. Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.
    laser level 2017
    best self leveling laser
    best laser level
    self propelled lawn mower

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thank you for the useful information. You might be interested in Orissa 12th First Year Result So

    Nice Article. Good to see this. Bihar Board 12th Results So

    Nice Article. Good to see this. NBSE 12th 1st Year Result So

    Thank you for the useful information. You might be interested in MP Board 12th 1st year Result So

    Thank you for the useful information. Check Mizoram Board 12th 1st year Result So

    Thank you for the useful information. Check AP Inter 1st Year Results So

    Good information. Keep sharing this kind of useful info. MBOSE 12th 1st Year Result

    Thank you for the useful information. Check COHSEM Inter 1st year Result So

    Good information. Keep sharing this kind of useful info. CGBSE 10th Result

    Thank you for the useful information. Check Goa 10th Class Result So

    ReplyDelete
  21. Great Website. Good to see this. So

    Thank you for the useful information. You might be interested in APPSC Jobs So

    Nice Article. Good to see this. Arunachal Pradesh PSC Jobs So

    Nice Article. Good to see this. Assam PSC Jobs So

    Thank you for the useful information. You might be interested in BPSC Jobs So

    Thank you for the useful information. Check UPSC Jobs So

    Good information. Keep sharing this kind of useful info. Goa PSC Jobs

    Thank you for the useful information. Check GPSC Jobs So

    Good information. Keep sharing this kind of useful info. Haryana PSC Jobs

    Thank you for the useful information. Check HPPSC Jobs So

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thank you for the useful information. Check JKBOSE 10th Class Result So

    Thank you for the useful information. Check Kerala SSLC Results So

    Good information. Keep sharing this kind of useful info. Maharashtra SSC Result

    Thank you for the useful information. Check Manipur Board 10th Class Result So

    Good information. Keep sharing this kind of useful info. AP SSC Result

    Thank you for the useful information. Check Assam HSLC Result So

    Good information. Keep sharing this kind of useful info. JKBOSE 10th Class Result

    Thank you for the useful information. Check HP Board 10th Class Result So

    ReplyDelete
  23. Here we can check Rajasthan Board 10th Result 2017 Rajasthan Board 10th Result 2017

    Here we can check Rajasthan Board 12th Result 2017 Rajasthan Board 12th Result 2017

    ReplyDelete
  24. Nice post http://www.selfcarinsurance.com

    ReplyDelete
  25. First of all i am saying that i like your post very much.I am really impressed by the way in which you presented the content and also the
    structure of the post. Hope you can gave us more posts like this and i really appreciate your hardwork.
    Fathers Day Images
    Fathers Day Pictures
    Fathers Day Wallpapers

    ReplyDelete
  26. The information you have posted is very useful. Thank you for nice and wonderful Information.
    Freshers Job
    Government Job
    Bank Job
    Walk In Drive
    OFF Campus Drive

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thanks for this wonderful post. The information in this article is very helpful to me. Thanks a lot for sharing. Keep blogging.
    Interest Waypoint
    For dirty truth or dare questions for couples
    Dirty Truth or Dare Questions for Couples
    Dirty Truth or Dare Questions for Couples

    ReplyDelete
  28. Madlyvape is an Indian company that Suppliers Vaporizers, Eliquids In India for Smokers & Shisha Lovers. They also deal with E-liquids that has a huge selection of Tobacco flavors, Fruity Flavors, Tingling Candies and Delectable Deserts and lots more. Vaping can be defined as the act of inhaling water vapor through a personal vaporizer which is 98% more safer as its tobacco-free, tar-free and smoke-free!!
    Vapers actually get the same satisfaction as a cigarette as its give them same smoke and same flavor.
    https://www.madlyvape.com/

    ReplyDelete
  29. Blog AdminOctober 6, 2016 at 11:03 AM

    Haryana Board Results 2017
    HBSE 10th Result 2017
    HBSE 12th Result 2017
    Himachal Pradesh Board Results 2017
    HP Board 10th Result 2017
    Cisce Results 2017
    ICSE 10th Result 2017
    ISC 12th Result 2017
    Manipur Board Results 2017

    ReplyDelete
  30. a pride for me to be able to discuss on a quality website because I just learned to make an article on
    cara menggugurkan kandungan

    ReplyDelete
  31. www.mcafee.com/activate have complete set features which can protect your digital online and offline life of the computing devices, and it not only help you to protect it but also it can maintain the stability of your computer, increase the speed with inbuilt PC Optimisation tool.

    ReplyDelete
  32. office.com/verify, www office com setup, office.com/myaccount, Office Com Setup, office.com/productkeycard, Office Setup, setup.office.com, Office Com Set Up, office 2017 download, Office Setup Enter Product Key,

    office.com/setup

    ReplyDelete
  33. Microsoft Office includes a wide range of desktop applications such as Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Groove, OneNote, Publisher and Outlook which helps you to complete the various task easily such as writing a letter, sending an email and creating PowerPoint presentation.

    office.com/setup

    ReplyDelete
  34. Norton has vast range of software such as Norton security premium, Norton Security Basic, Norton Security Standard, Norton Internet Security, Norton 360, and Norton Antivirus etc, which provides the protection from threats and identity theft and monitors the antimalware.

    norton.com/setup

    ReplyDelete
  35. McAfee Installation is such an easy or simple process as you have to make sure that above-mentioned prerequisites should be fulfilled before getting started with the McAfee Activation Process.

    mcafee.com/activate

    ReplyDelete
  36. If user wants to use the Microsoft Office online then open the web browser you are using on your system and visit office.com/setup. Login to your Microsoft account with your registered email id and password. The data which you have stored on OneDrive or DropBox, you can access and modify it.


    office.com/setup

    ReplyDelete
  37. Norton has vast range of software such as Norton security premium, Norton Security Basic, Norton Security Standard, Norton Internet Security, Norton 360, and Norton Antivirus etc, which provides the protection from threats and identity theft and monitors the antimalware. The security or protection provided by the Norton is better than any other security tool, because of it's unique structure and easy to use interface it is very popular among the users.

    norton.com/setup

    ReplyDelete
  38. www.Webroot.com/Safe

    Having Problem In Installing Your Webroot Antivirus with link www.webroot.com/safe ? Don't Worry And Call Our Webroot Support Expert To Get Instant Support.

    http://www.webrootsafe.xyz/

    Webroot.com/Safe

    ReplyDelete
  39. Kaspersky Customer Support

    Kaspersky Customer Service

    Devices would be free from Virus, Malware, Trojan and other online threats
    Kaspersky Activation with the link activation.kaspersky.com gives you the Complete protection , like email protection , Banking Details Protections, Sensitive Information protection, important Software Protection, Get Instant Kaspersky Support or Call Kaspersky Customer Service.

    http://www.kasperskysupports.us/

    Kaspersky Support

    ReplyDelete
  40. Go to www.Avg.com/Retail to Login Account


    Avg.com/Retail
    Get protection from malware , Intrusion, Trojan , cyber attacks get Avg software installed with the help of link www.Avg.com/Retail or call Avg support for any technical help

    www.Avg.com/Retail

    ReplyDelete
  41. www.Webroot.com/Safe

    Need to Have Advanced Technology internet Security software from Webroot safe Software company with the following Link webroot.com/safe that help to protect all device from virus, malware and other online threats.

    Webroot.com/Safe

    ReplyDelete
  42. www.Webroot.com/Safe

    Need to Have Advanced Technology internet Security software from Webroot safe Software company with the following Link webroot.com/safe that help to protect all device from virus, malware and other online threats.

    Webroot.com/Safe

    ReplyDelete
  43. www.McAfee.com/Activate

    Protect Your Computer , Network, Social Media Account And all other from hackers, infection ,Virus and other online threats, Mcafee Total Protection Software very Important to Activate or Setup with the Official Link mcafee.com/activate

    McAfee.com/Activate

    ReplyDelete
  44. Avast Support
    Avast Antivirus is a world-renowned name in the field of internet security and antivirus. Avast services are available for almost all the computing device in the market and secure them against the critical virus, spyware, malware, Trojan files and ransomware.
    AVAST SUPPORT

    ReplyDelete
  45. AVG Support
    AVG (Anti-Virus Guard) is software technology that is also a subsidiary of Avast Software. An easy and simple solution to all the security need of an individual and a business. Use your computers with confidence and without aggravation by protecting them from threats.
    AVG SUPPORT

    ReplyDelete
  46. Kaspersky Support
    Kaspersky is word leading Antivirus and Cybersecurity Multinational company situated in Moscow, Russia. Kaspersky Lab is committed to work with their customers and provide the best security possible. They are dedicated to saving you from the trojan virus, worms, adware, ransomware, spam, rootkits, phishing, malware and other malicious activities.
    KASPERSKY SUPPORT

    ReplyDelete
  47. Outlook Support
    Outlook is one of the services provided by Microsoft that deals in web-based suits of webmail, tasks and calendar service. Founded as Hotmail, Outlook is the first webmail service.
    OUTLOOK SUPPORT

    ReplyDelete
  48. AOL Support
    AOL Mail is a free web-based email service owned by an American Company that enable the user to use all the email features provided by them. AOL Mail is also known as AIM which stands for AOL Instant Message.
    AOL SUPPORT

    ReplyDelete