Date: Wed, 6 Dec 1995 20:46:17 -0700 From: Rudy Troike Subject: Re: Language and Intelligence Dan, Be careful about overgeneralizing about American Indian/Native American languages. They are as different among themselves as English and Chinese. One of the saddest facts about research on these languages is that we have almost no studies on how children learn them (and most are going fast and won't be around in another 30 years). Cheyenne, for example, presents a daunting computational demand, which is in my experience paralleled only in one South American language. But the last I heard, no children were any longer learning Cheyenne, so we will never know how they learned to master this amazing system. Whorf used to think that Hopi was structured in a way that would conduce to quantum-math thinking, but unfortunately there aren't many Hopi mathematicians. However, Barney Old Coyote once told me a wonderful story of how he was once in a 3rd-grade classroom of mixed Crow and Anglo children, and the teacher was doing a painful review of 1st-grade arithmetic with the usual apples and oranges, and the Crow kids were struggling terribly, while the Anglo kids were bored to death. He asked the teacher if he could inter- vene for a few minutes, and asked the class how they would figure the odds on a stick-ball game, given certain parameters. The Crow children started jumping up and down with the right answers, and the Anglos were totally flabbergasted. This of course involves some really high-level computation which would ordinarily be considered beyond the cognitive abilities of children of that age. I doubt very much that the structure of Crow had anything to do with it, but certainly their cultural experience did. When I was a grad student, and excited about the intellectual challenges of linguistics, I tried to convert many of my archeological (I used to be an archeologist, among other things) and historian friends to linguistics by getting them to take a course. Most found it much too difficult to deal with, and went back to their potsherds and manuscripts. I've yet to read anything in archeology or history which begins to compare with the cognitive demands of an article on Government and Binding theory .. --Rudy Troike (rtroike[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]