Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 22:56:31 -0700 From: Rudy Troike Subject: American Indian languages and thought I'm not sure what is meant by the statement that speakers of (some) American Indian languages don't use entification in their communication. There is a difference between "world view" and the grammar of a language one talks about it in. Relationship is of prime importance to Koreans, for example, and the hierarchical social structure is encoded in the grammar in a way that is untranslatable in English, but one can use the same kind of GB tree-diagrams for Korean as for Turkish or English. The same diagrams and UG principles-and-parameters work as well for many American Indian languages, although I have heard it argued that they don't work well for the Northern Caddoan languages (but have not looked closely to see whether the claim can be disputed). As anthropologists have long argued from the "culture area" concept, even pre-dating it going back to Boas, the same language (or closely related variants) can mediate radically different cultures, and world-views, and the same culture/world-view can be mediated by totally different and differently structured languages. Language structure can influence thinking so some extent, and can facilitate or inhibit expression of certain things (that's one reason there are different computer languages), but English, like other languages, basically deals with relationships, too. That's why the kind of grammatical analysis that Fillmore introduced (Case Grammar) and Chafe's variation on it, remain so useful and revealing of cross-language uniformities. Adopting that more abstract model (further evolved by Chomsky in not always helpful ways) enables us to see beyond the apparent great differences of surface grammatical differences. There are real differences regarding the aspects of events that languages can express, or how they can express them, as Chinese, for example, has no tense, but only aspect. Even German, as closely related to English as it is, does not make the distinction we do between present and present progressive "tense" (really aspect). But I would want to see clear grammatical evidence that language X could express relationships and language Y could not, or that language X could not express entification whereas language Y obligatorily did so. From there it would be necessary to provide empirical evidence that the structural differences enhanced or precluded certain kinds of thought. --Rudy Troike (rtroike[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]