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How language defines us

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Without looking at a compass, can you tell what cardinal direction you're facing right now? Probably not. But the indigenous people of Australia's Pormpuraaw community most definitely could. You see, the concepts of “left” and “right” don't exist in the Pormpuraawan language. Instead, the people of Pormpuraaw refer to the eight cardinal directions when talking about the place something occupies in space – and because of this seemingly insignificant linguistic difference, researchers have recently discovered that the people of Pormpuraaw exhibit almost superhuman spatial awareness.

Such is the power of language to influence how we view the world and even to alter our deepest cognitive functions. In fact, cognitive scientists are recently finding that language can not only influence our perception of space, but even of time, causality and the way we think.

In a revealing experiment conducted by Caitlin Fausey of Stanford, speakers of English, Spanish and Japanese were asked to watch videos in which an actor accidentally spilled a drink. After watching the videos, the subjects were asked to remember the actor that perpetrated the accidental spilling.

The results were telling: Speakers of English – a language that almost always assigns agency to an action – had no difficulty remembering the actor. On the other hand, the Spanish and Japanese speakers were far less likely to remember who had spilled the drink. Both Spanish and Japanese often drop the agent from a sentence.

Now here's where things get mind-boggling: in another cognitive study, two groups of participants were shown a print story about Janet Jackson's infamous Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction”. The stories were identical except for the last line. The last line for the first group used the active “Justin Timberlake ripped the costume”, while the other group's line read in the passive (“the costume was ripped”).

Amazingly, the subjects in the first group were far more likely to blame Timberlake for the accident, and when asked to assign an appropriate fine, were inclined to demand a 53% higher dollar value than those in the second group.

All this would suggest that speakers of Japanese, who are less likely to assign agency in a sentence, might in fact also be more willing to let bygones be bygones when it comes to accidents, and may in fact be less likely to assign blame or fault in a given situation - a theory that Stanford psychology professor Lera Boroditsky appears to support in a recent Wall Street Journal report.

These and other recent cognitive breakthroughs are beginning to paint a picture of how language defines us. And from there, it isn’t a huge logical leap to conclude that language must also be a driving factor for a culture’s social customs.

Could the Japanese language’s conservative application of agency be the story behind the infamous Japanese concept of “sho ga nai” (it can’t be helped)? If this language feature is what causes the Japanese to refrain from levying blame, could it also be the reason they so often see things as out of their control?

I certainly find myself constantly compelled to seek closure whenever misfortune strikes in my life – often by seeking out an outside force, identifying it as the cause, and attempting to rectify the situation. Likewise, I find myself frustrated with Japanese friends who seem content to languish in dead-end jobs or unfair working conditions, abusive relationships or unhealthy lifestyles.

This and other linguistic differences may also affect social interaction between people of different cultures. The Japanese appear to have no trouble approaching someone directly – good friend and distant acquaintance alike – and matter-of-factly observing that they’ve “become fat,” while English speakers will tiptoe around the issue, use euphemisms, or avoid making the observation entirely. Could this be because when an English speaker hears this criticism, they see themselves as to blame, while the Japanese simply see it a natural consequence of some outside force that cannot be confronted? Where an English speaker might blame himself (“I've really let myself go”), the Japanese might shrug and think, “Well, work has been busy lately.”

Could English speakers’ predilection for assigning blame, even to ourselves, also be the reason the Japanese cling to the stereotype of westerners as creatures of pride? Looking at it in that light, it makes sense that the normally modest Japanese might find Westerners themselves unusually reluctant to touch on topics that would affect their self image.

Let’s take it a step further: Was it Japan’s rigid social construction that gave rise to honorifics in Japanese, or was it the other way around? Does the mind automatically seek to strictly identify another's place in the social hierarchy when one’s language places such an emphasis on titles and formalities?

It’s no secret that Western and Japanese culture are vastly different. My American friends who have never been to Japan often like to observe that “Boy, the Japanese sure are weird!” But those same people – superficial differences aside – are far less likely to comment on how strange, say, Australians, who also speak English, are. This can’t possibly be a coincidence, can it?

So if differences in language lead to differences in thought process, and differences in thought process often lead to conflict and misunderstandings, how do we perfect international social interaction?

The answer is deceptively simple. As Lera Boroditsky writes, “It turns out that if you change how people talk, that changes how they think. If people learn another language, they inadvertently also learn a new way of looking at the world. When bilingual people switch from one language to another, they start thinking differently, too.”

Time to dust off those Japanese textbooks.

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I suspect you have some deep-seated and misguided issue with Americans, whom you freely stereotype despite having never been there and in all likelihood having never known an American to any significant degree.

I suspect you miss the point, namely that that is exactly what Mike is saying about his American friends who have never been to Japan. He sees it as a language issue. I was merely trying to use his own wording to show that it's not.

(The Americans I've met in person have nearly all been very nice people, not weird at all. I'm talking specifically about the ones we don't meet, but hear weird things about - just like Mike's friends' take on the Japanese.)

I wonder how Mike applies what he's telling us in this article with his own, speaking-English-might-complicate-the-relationship outlook on socialisation?

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and when asked to assign an appropriate fine

That in itself is interesting. If you ask people to assign a fine, they generally will. But I look at that and say "No fine".

I do my best not to let semantics control the flow of thought. I wish language would be constructed to better prevent that happening, because too many people are very weak-minded with regards to semantics.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

My American friends who have never been to Japan often like to observe that “Boy, the Japanese sure are weird!” But those same people – superficial differences aside – are far less likely to comment on how strange, say, Australians, who also speak English, are.

lol I've never been to America (except in transit) and though they're supposed to speak the same language I read and see lots that makes me want to say, superficial similarities aside, 'Boy, the Americans sure are weird!'

English speakers’ predilection for assigning blame

Not all English speakers buy into the American litigation mindset.

I don't think language is the biggie Mike wants it to be. If it were, being fluent in two languages he claims create totally different personalities would turn us all neurotic. And while I don't know about the rest of you, I think I'm pretty normal. The language i speak doesn't change the way I think. I'm still me under all these verbs and no-subject sentences. (Mike also overlooks the point about generally non-subject sentences, that when a subject is included, it's all the more powerful.)

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Cleo,

Your completely anecdotal evidence you use to refute the article doesn't really stand up to the actual scientific studies cited therein. More likely, I suspect you have some deep-seated and misguided issue with Americans, whom you freely stereotype despite having never been there and in all likelihood having never known an American to any significant degree.

Also, where in the article does the author state that two languages = two totally different personalities?

Keep on truckin', Mike. There are always going to be armchair "experts" who think one or two personal experiences trumps actual research.

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@Oikawa,

I actually checked out the WSJ report cited in the story and it goes into a lot more detail. The keyword, apparently, is "accidental". Japanese and Spanish speakers were less likely to remember the actor in accident situations, but all had the same recall for things done on purpose.

But the WSJ article, which was written by a cognitive scientist, agrees that Japanese and Spanish speakers are less likely to assign blame.

I think you're looking at things too black and white. Neither the WSJ article nor this one are implying that Japanese speakers never assign a subject, or always let things slide, but are only implying that there are certain tendencies apparently affected by language.

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Thanks for the clarification HumanTarget.

I don't think I'm reading too it too black and white though. The article said

speakers of a language that assigns agency to an action remembered the actor better

All I said just explained why I disagreed with that. Firstly they do know the subjects even if they don't state them as much as English, and secondly I've never noticed a difference in recall ability of people of different countries. If the original experiment was actually concerned with the accidental nature of the spillage and assignation of blame that would be different from what this article stated. It went on to talk about it but not in that case, and only concerning Japanese speakers, not Spanish speakers. And if it did I think it would be ridiculed because anyone who has ever been to Spain knows the Spaniards are not shy and retiring, slow to apportion blame type of people.

Also from the assertion people are more wiling to stay in abusive relationships or dead-end jobs because of language is absolutely ludicrous.

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This article makes no sense. I am fluent in 7 languages and speak another few at a conversational level. According to your way of thinking, I would be completely messed up. Besides, it doesn't have anything to do with languages anymore because you compare native people of one country with native people of another one. The only thing that happens if you speak more languages is that you become more open minded and look at situations from different angles before reaching a conclusion.

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Might I suggest, Mr Oakland, that when you use information from another source you cite that source? I knew I read part of this article before but it took me a while to remember where:

http://www.cracked.com/article_18823_5-insane-ways-words-can-control-your-mind.html

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That happens all the time. I mean, the Cracked article you so proudly presented more or less listed its revelations in the same order that the WSJ article did. I'd say it comes a lot closer to flat-out plagiarism than this does. The writer cited his source. You somehow overlooked that and unfairly attacked him based on your belief that he didn't.

If you check my comment history, you'll see I'm pretty much pro "be nice" and anti "act superior and make unsubstantiated claims"

I'm not attacking you personally, but your comment pretty much falls into the former.

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There is something Hegelian in this article. To simplify. Hegel said ideas create material conditions. Marx said, uh uh, material conditions create ideas. I am basically with Marx. Were I to turn this article upright, I would call it "How We Define Language."

Let's take, to start, "Pormpuraaw" and their "almost superhuman spatial awareness,” I would argue there was some necessity of these people's acute sense of spatial awareness that they developed it and their eight cardinal directions after considerable trial and error. Probably a lot of Pormpuraaw had to get lost and not return before they developed their extraordinary spatial awareness.

We create language and upload it into the general language pool where it is downloaded and redefined again. ("Upload" and "download" would exist without the Internet.) In the Gay 90s "gay" had a different meaning from today. A "gay blade" was a euphemism for a heterosexual coxcomb until fairly recently. Now if someone is "gay" he or she is not necessarily happy but is homosexual. Importantly "gay" was initially utilized by the gay community to put a positive spin on homosexuality.

Mr. Oakland writes: "Was it Japan’s rigid social construction that gave rise to honorifics in Japanese, or was it the other way around? Does the mind automatically seek to strictly identify another’s place in the social hierarchy when one’s language places such an emphasis on titles and formalities?"

Obviously the hierarchies (I think this what he means) developed first the language followed. Hierarchies developed with agriculture and the inequalities that it entailed. In an equalitarian society there would be no use for honorifics. In this regard, Mr. Oakland not quite right in speaking of "Japan's rigid social construction." Modern urban Japan's social structures are quite fluid in many respects, thanks not only to democracy but also anonymity. Case in point. At university I am called "sensei" but at the doctor's office I am called "san," even if people know I am a professor. The doctor is called "sensei."

I should point out that I was not called "doctor" before I got my Ph.D. Today, unless you wear a white coat, you are seldom called "doctor" if you are a Ph.D.

The tests Mr. Oakland describes are interesting but by themselves inconclusive. You need a lot of tests to weed out possible cultural filters and the testers' own bias.

I find Mr. Oakland engages in too cultural generalizations. One I find particularly annoying is the sho ga nai business. He writes: "I find myself frustrated with Japanese friends who seem content to languish in dead-end jobs or unfair working conditions, abusive relationships or unhealthy lifestyles." Hello, hello, there is nothing uniquely Japanese about this. I could say the same thing for a lot of Americans, Germans, Britons, and others I have known. So could you.

I truly wish that Mr. Oakland had deconstructed his final quotation. The key words are "if you change." This implies an agency outside of language. This is what George Orwell's "Nineteen Eight-Four" was about. The agency in that case was Big Brother. The truth is that you cannot entirely change how people think by changing the language. Your own circumstances, bias and events always intervene to change your perceptions and how you regard and define words.

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Kabukilover,

I think your own logic is a little flawed. What you say about the Porpuraawans seems to make sense, until you really look at it. In Pormpuraaw, the people refer to EVERYTHING in the cardinal directions. "Pass me the plate to your Southwest" for example, or "There is a pen to my North". Clearly, statements like this would be irrelevant to navigating the Outback. If this linguistic pattern arose out of simple necessity, don't you think they would have also separately developed words for "left" and "right"?

Also, back in my college days, I did a lot of research on ancient Japan and the Japanese lived in more or less small, isolated, egalitarian farming communities where everything was shared in early history. That persisted until the early Yayoi period, and if I'm not mistaken, this is right around the same time the Japanese language began to develop into something resembling modern Japanese. In other words, the heirarchical social structure of Japan, and the Japanese language as we know it were both being developed pretty much in tandem. Now, I think the author was just using a bit of hyperbole when submitting the "which came first" question, but his second point is valid, I think: ie, would the Japanese care so much about hierarchy if their language didn't mandate they do so?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Mike, interesting topic, but unfortunately your handling of it is undisciplined, clumsy and not terribly original.

1 ( +4 / -4 )

Not blaming Mike but I find this part very hard to believe -

The results were telling: Speakers of English – a language that almost always assigns agency to an action – had no difficulty remembering the actor. On the other hand, the Spanish and Japanese speakers were far less likely to remember who had spilled the drink.

Firstly because this is surely simply a problem of memory in such a short space of time. If it was true for the reason stated Japanese and Spanish people would go around in daily life forgetting who it was that had done things. That is blatantly not the case.

Secondly because although the subject in the sentence might be dropped it is still understood, and pretty much explained explicitly in Spanish because of the verb forms, and if it is not understood in Japanese clarification is needed, implying interest in the subject. Either way the subject is known even though it's not necessarily stated, and even in English once the subject is stated once it is often not stated again.

Also if the Japanese are not interested in the subject how on earth is there a culture of celebrity far greater than almost anywhere else on earth?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Language is certainly one of the primary keys to culture and socialisation. I can observe in my own life that the patterns how I act change, when I change language. Nevertheless, calling different cultures that use the same language the same is plainly wrong. American culture and European culture are two different pairs of shoes. Neither of them is homogeneous - but it often happens that members of one perceive members if the others as such.

But the different cultures of the British and the Americans probably reflect in the way they use a common language. If You hear both American English and real British English spoken, You realise that it is definitely not the same conduct.

As Lera Boditsky writes:

It turns out that if you change how people talk, that changes how they think. If people learn another language, they inadvertently also learn a new way of looking at the world.

That might be the reason why Europeans perceive many Americans (or Japanese) as weird. The majority of Europeans grow up as multicultural individuals with multiple languages (given that they don't skip higher education). I'm not sure that this can be claimed about the majority of Americans (though it surely fits to the above-average educated layers of society).

1 ( +3 / -2 )

If you check my comment history, you'll see I'm pretty much pro "be nice" and anti "act superior and make unsubstantiated claims"

I made a substantiated claim; hence, the link. The Cracked article follows/summarizes in a humorous way the WSJ article and provides a link to said article - how is this plagiarism?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The author is so confused, it is a false theory and false speculations.

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Was it Japan's rigid social construction that gave rise to honorifics in Japanese, or was it the other way around? Does the mind automatically seek to strictly identify another's place in the social hierarchy when one's language places such an emphasis on titles and formalities?

When I read this I felt that Mr. Oakland, as an American, doesn't understand hierarchical societies such as England and Japan. Does he understand that a hierarchy leads ever upward until it reaches the ultimately superior being: a queen or king in England; an emperor in Japan? Could he really suppose that Japan's more than millennia-old emperor system originally came about because of the prior use of honorific and humble forms in the language before there was anything like an emperor: that the language could have developed these honorific and humble forms first and then because they existed, it became necessary to create an emperor? This is just absurd. I believe that in this case cause and effect cannot be reversed. The emperor system caused language that fit the system. It could not be that the emperor arose to fit the language.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Language directly define your linguist knowledge. also helps little, to show your Cultural backgrounds. Its not a big deal..... If you speak Filth or Rocket science it only shows your knowledge in relevant subject nothing than that .

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Rather then language, I think that peoples reasoning originates in the culture of a country.I found that in Japan there is an encouragement for collective thinking and behaviour. To be the same as, rather then to be an individual. Not to stand out in a crowd. The teenagers will voice oppinions and dress in a flaboyant and individual attire, only to be dispensed with as soon as they are old enough to seek employment.After that it seems look the same and behave the same. Conform and be servile,not to draw attention to yourself. To be modest and play down achievements and talents. To supress openly expressing pride at their accomplishments. It does seem strange to westerners brought up with free thinking, openly able to question the establishments and yes to be proud of their endeavours.To be able to debate topics they feel stronly about even if their oppinion is unpopular.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Pawatan,

The hyperlink that Cracked article provides is the exact wall street journal report the author cites in this article.

Or did you just overlook that the moment you smelled blood in the water?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Or did you just overlook that the moment you smelled blood in the water?

Did I attack you personally? No? Then don't attack me. Show some respect to others.

I pointed out that the bulk of this article has appeared in other sources (sources that actually linked to the original report, too), that's all.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Readers, please focus your comments on the commentary. The author cited his sources.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Readers, please discuss the story itself.

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The problem with such experiment is the same as with the hen and the egg. Do people think that way because of the language... or do people that thinks that way end up using a language in a certain way ? They have a large choice of words for snow in Inuit, I was told... now, teach Inuit to Tahitians. and go back a few years later to see if they keep using the words for snow... When they defined the Anglo-Saxon vs Latin behavioral patterns, they linked them to languages. French speakers were said Latin. And French people matched the Latin behavior (in average). But when they took, among the Swiss, the Canadians, the Belgians, those that speak French, they could no longer find that result at all, many were totally in the Anglo-Saxon pattern. If you want to go a little further, these pattern can be taught and learned. And there are enough gurus to tell you that if you are trained at such patterns, your inner soul, mind, system whatever will change. They have as much scientific evidence for them the homeopathy, reiki, etc.

"If people learn another language, they inadvertently also learn a new way of looking at the world. "

I only meet the cases that are immune to that phenomenon.

"When bilingual people switch from one language to another, they start thinking differently, too.”"

I switch between 3 languages on a daily basis, I have a few more in the closet that I use more occasionally. I'd really get headaches... What mostly change is the reaction of people. My sister : "Please stop talking Japanese, that scares me when I don't understand what my sister says...". And the big family gag, when my smily teddy bear grand-dad suddenly switches to German and becomes serious, all the idiots that don't speak German jump away : "Aaaah, he is so angry your grand-dad ! -No, it's a poem about little birds, it's so sad, see how his face darkens...". I say idiots not because they didn't learn German but because they dare judging a person in language they don't know at all. As if among people with harsh German accents there were not totally cute and delicate persons, and as if among speakers of the soft syrupy Mexican Spanish there were not those thugs that shoot whole families in tourist resorts...

"My American friends who have never been to Japan often like to observe that “Boy, the Japanese sure are weird!” But those same people – superficial differences aside – are far less likely to comment on how strange, say, Australians, who also speak English, are. This can’t possibly be a coincidence, can it?"

Your White friends noticed the Japanese were not White. I don't say they are intentionally racist, but people feel proximity/weirdness due to physical appearance... as long as they are not used to meet many types of people. What do they say when they meet ( English speakers) from India or Cameroon ? Or even if the Australians you bring them are Aborigenes or of Asian ethnicity ? I know the answer. Whenever I've been in the US, nobody had a second of doubt, they talked to me in English (or Spanish) expecting answers in the same language and the (thick) accent never troubled them as I could be from the other coast or inventing myself a genre. 5 minutes after boarding in JFK, I already had those Texan farmers convinced I was the airport staff in charge of guiding them. They all made a superb effort to understand me, never asked me to repeat... That happened many times. But a British friend (with a Chinese face) was meeting the same persons as me. They hesitated, fewer people would talk to him. Then they would try English, and when he answered as his accent was not 100% American (but still more than mine), they concluded he was not from New York's Chinatown. With a foreigner, they could go commando and shoot at him : "Where you from ? Wow that accent...can you repeat ? Oxford, yeah, but before ? London, and before ? But why you look like a Jap (anese) ? Adopted ? Ah, your parents, from Hong-Kong... so you a Chinese Commie ? You won't eat my dog ? " He has heard everything from all those peeps that think they don't need a passport. Not everybody did that, there were many degrees of it, and I don't mean that's only Americans.The same model can be found in many countries, including mine. In Japan, that will be the contrary, that guy will be considered Japanese at first sight.

"the Japanese to refrain from levying blame"

I had no idea. You can even buy animated dolls that "moshiwakenai" for you... I should get one for my kanrinin, she is always accusing us of the worst crimes against humanity (like taking out the PET bottles on the day of plastic gomi !).

" English speakers" "the Japanese"

Mike, you don't see a bug in your theory here.... For instance me, you put me in what box ? I've learned English and Nihongo. So when I go to your country I become an English speaker, and here in Japan, I am Japanese ? Honestly I don't see the slightest difference between the 2 languages and their speakers, native or second language.

"the infamous Japanese concept of “sho ga nai”"

Explain me the difference with the infamous "sh*t happens", sometimes.

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Language and socialism in different languages in a given situation if we look at things too black and white will be sensitive. Its good to look at situations from different angles and with open mindedness = 1 language.

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"....{W]ould the Japanese care so much about hierarchy if their language didn't mandate they do so." Language per se cannot dictate anyway. Language only exists in the minds and speeches of people. Because hierarchies exist and have power over people Japanese care about hierarchy. If their lives were not so strongly influenced by hierarchy probably the language would change.

I am no expert on the Pormpuraaw. I only deducted that they needed those cardinal directions to navigate the outback. That it could influence influence behavior not directly connected to navigation. Anyway, I can see a correlative between turn southwest at the big rock and pass the plate southwest to Jack. What strikes me is just how important those cardinal directions are in the lives of the Pormpuraaw. We urbanites seldom think would what is north and what is south. Even on the expressway we think more of right and left.

Anyway, social circumstances and language no doubt to develop together. When we create something new or come upon new phenomena we have to create a word or a phrase for it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"If people learn another language, they inadvertently also learn a new way of looking at the world. "

I only meet the cases that are immune to that phenomenon.

Let me guess. It's those people who (try to) learn another language by rote learning of vocabulary lists and grammar rules...?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I gave Mike here an A for his effort! He is at least trying his best to come up with some interesting subjects about language, Japan etc..good job Mike!

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If English is good enough for me, by golly it's good enough for the rest of the world!

Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes
0 ( +0 / -0 )

The other famous paper is Kashima and Kashima http://jcc.sagepub.com/content/29/3/461.short which shows that pronoun drop is more prevalent in "collectivist" cultures.

In the past Masa Arimori expounded the "You for You" (omae no omae) theory of the Japanese first person. The proliferation of first person pronouns in Japanese and the use of different language forms depending upon the person that you are speaking to means that the Japanese first person is always embedded withing a relationship with second person of communication, such that "I" always only means "you for you." Masa Arimori, who was a Christian living among Parisian Intellectuals, claimed that in the West the first person pronoun is used in contrast to the third person, and "I" (or Je) means always exactly the same thing before that presumed everpresent other. Natty theory, methinks.

Yohtaro Takano, who thinks cultural psychology is bunkum, points to how, conversely, the Japanese language is more individualistic. Using the research of a linguist Yoko Hosogawa here http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~hasegawa/Papers/Self.pdf points to how 1) In Japanese it is not correct to say that someone is cold, hot, or in any other emotive state since such states are presumed private and knowable only by the feeler. Instead one should say that others are look happy, cold, or hot for which there are special adjective endings (Samutagatteiru etc) that don't exist in English. 2) In English there is confusion in phonetic statements such as <> because the word "I" could refer to either "He" or the Speaker. English speakers must resort to using the quotes in the air gesture to show "He said 'I am stupid'". In Japanese however the word "jibun" refers, they argue, to the private self of the reported speaker, so "He said I (jibun) am stupid" can only mean that he was talking about himself. These linguistic devices suggest, Hosokawa and Takano argue, that the Japanese are more aware of a non-relational, private self.

Taken together this would suggest that the Japanese language is both collectivist and individualist, a conclusion paralleling recent cultural psychology which argues that the Japanese are aware of the mutual construction of self and society.

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The original article is here http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~lera/papers/who-dunnit.pdf

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Sorry no, the above Fausey paper only compares Spanish and English. This one below compares Japanese and English. http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~lera/papers/constructing-agency.pdf

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And this is the Wall Street Journal Article that combines both http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~lera/papers/wsj.pdf

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Might I suggest, Mr Oakland, that when you use information from another source you cite that source? I knew I read part of this article before but it took me a while to remember where: <

This is what you said, right? How is that "pointing out that the bulk of this article has appeared in other sources"? What you said is clearly attacking the author personally for writing an article without citing his sources, despite that not at all being the case.

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Guys, Cleo, Lovenot, this is not a "speculation" and a theory. The link between linguistics and behavior is well documented in cognitive psychology for a number of years. Google is your friend. Heck, people like Noam Chomsky have even taken it forward and suggested how language, semiotic symbols, and such, are tools of propaganda. So the idea is not as preposterous as it might sound to the uninitiated mind.

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