by Wang Ming Yue.
Some languages, like Matses in Peru, oblige their speakers, like the finickiest of lawyers, to specify exactly how they came to know about the facts they are reporting. You cannot simply say, as in English, “An animal passed here.” You have to specify, using a different verbal form, whether this was directly experienced (you saw the animal passing), inferred (you saw footprints), conjectured (animals generally pass there that time of day), hearsay or such. If a statement is reported with the incorrect “evidentiality,” it is considered a lie. So if, for instance, you ask a Matses man how many wives he has, unless he can actually see his wives at that very moment, he would have to answer in the past tense and would say something like “There were two last time I checked.” After all, given that the wives are not present, he cannot be absolutely certain that one of them hasn’t died or run off with another man since he last saw them, even if this was only five minutes ago. So he cannot report it as a certain fact in the present tense. Does the need to think constantly about epistemology in such a careful and sophisticated manner inform the speakers’ outlook on life or their sense of truth and causation?
I think politicians should be held to this linguistic standard.
Ha! That’d be interesting.
I love that there are so many language shapes thinking articles doing the rounds!
You can almost feel the strength through your eyes. Their shoulders are held quite far back while walking and all movement seems to be from and within the hips…Their erect haughty and even queenly posture, their clothes and the way they stand and walk and move. It’s not just grace of posture; it is an art, beautiful, practiced, effortless.
|—||Orville Bulman on the women of Haiti in a letter to his wife (1952).|