Scent of new-mown hay

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AuthorTopic: Scent of new-mown hay
By Committee
Member # 4233
Profile #25
That would not be unlike feeding monkeys to us...

The needle/ferrets and spelling aside, I'll miss that hampster - what he lacked in power production, he more than made up for with pluck.
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #26
Ah, yes. He showed a lot of bottle and a willingness to get stuck in. I was chuffed by the fact he got knackered every day.

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"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
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Drakefyre's Demesne - Happy Happy Joy Joy
Encyclopedia Ermariana - Trapped in the Closet
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You can take my Mac when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the mouse!
Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
By Committee
Member # 4233
Profile #27
If the BU gig is done, what are you up to now?
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #28
I am chillin' and preparing to move to Germany. Time to learn some prepositions.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
By Committee
Member # 4233
Profile #29
Hmm... I thought German was big on declensions.

One of these days I'll have to learn it.
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #30
Declensions don't bother me so much, since I studied Latin for a few years, but German is much fussier than English about its prepositions. You have to use different words, for instance, for the vertical 'on' of a picture on a wall, and the horizontal 'on' of a bowl on a table. This is the fun part of learning a new language, where you're not just memorizing a code but learning to see the world in a different way. It's hard, though, because it isn't intuitive.

You also come to see your own native language in a new light. English has an unusally large vocabulary, like around twice as many words as most languages, with a lot of words that are roughly equivalent in literal meaning, but have different connotations because they belong to different registers (styles of speech). So you could talk about eating pig meat instead of pork, and everyone would understand you exactly, but it would sound gruesome. Other languages tend not to make these kinds of subtle distinctions, at least not nearly as often (though of course one can find lots of individual examples where English neglects distinctions made in other languages, like the German 'an'/'auf' vs. English 'on').

A brilliant physics colleague who speaks several languages told me once that English seemed especially well adapted to describing nuances of social organizations. This struck no chord at all with me, but maybe he's right.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
By Committee
Member # 4233
Profile #31
I've found that English has nothing on ancient Greek for nuance - it's not uncommon for English translations of Greek sentences to be twice as many words in length.
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #32
I loved Ancient Greek. Declensions, conjugations, it's all good. So much meaning can be packed into a single word.

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"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
====
Drakefyre's Demesne - Happy Happy Joy Joy
Encyclopedia Ermariana - Trapped in the Closet
====
You can take my Mac when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the mouse!
Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #33
Well, it's common for translations to be longer, whatever languages are involved. And English isn't especially efficient, it just has lots of words.

Counting words is also tricky. In the Eskimo language my wife studies, there is a single long word that translates as "but because I also went to the really big house". Actually, there could in principle be almost anything as a word -- that's just the biggest example she has found in actual use. The language is polysynthetic, allowing ad hoc combination of words into giant words. That's why the popular factoid that Eskimo languages have huge numbers of words for snow is a complete crock.

Greek and German are a bit like this, only less so. I believe the term for them is 'agglutinative'.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
Profile Homepage #34
Ancient Greek is particularly insane with its multiplicity of tenses formed entirely from principle parts and endings. At least most major modern languages with as many tenses as Ancient Greek have the decency to use auxiliary verbs.

Also, pitch accent is nutty but beautiful.

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Arancaytar: Every time you ask people to compare TM and Kel, you endanger the poor, fluffy kittens.
Smoo: Get ready to face the walls!
Ephesos: In conclusion, yarr.

Kelandon's Pink and Pretty Page!!: the authorized location for all things by me
The Archive of all released BoE scenarios ever
Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #35
Definitely beautiful.

Too bad I don't remember much besides generalities, pronunciation, and the first seven lines of the Odyssey.

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"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
====
Drakefyre's Demesne - Happy Happy Joy Joy
Encyclopedia Ermariana - Trapped in the Closet
====
You can take my Mac when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the mouse!
Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #36
What I liked most about the little I learned of classical Greek was just how much it seemed to rely on verbs. Between infinitives and participles, half of its other parts of speech seemed to be verbs in thin disguise. It seems to be a language of verbs, in a way that English certainly isn't, and that makes most things said in ancient Greek seem more vivid.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Lack of Vision
Member # 2717
Profile #37
What I find most fascinating about language, in general, is how it affects thought. It's like the old "common wisdom" about Eskimos have 20 words for 'white' - which unfortunately isn't true. But it really is the case that language represents the limits of thought. Or, at the very least, the limits of communicable thoughts.

I've never read a linguistic study of ancient Greek in relation to the development of culture, but I'm not surprised by its attention to nuance and details.

Do any of you classic scholars know if there were any particular linguistic changes that occurred among Ionian Greeks shortly after the Battle of Marathon? It has always struck me as nearly magical that the flower of Greek culture happened essentially among the two generations following this battle. It was when Plato began his writings, Socrates (who fought at Marathon as a young man) was teaching. The Sophists were active, as were Parmenides, Protagoras, & Philebus.

It is hard to imagine what would have happened had the Persians won the Battle of Marathon and sacked Athens - killed all its men and selling all its women and children into slavery. The consequences for Greek culture (and indeed, perhaps Western culture) would have been staggering had the Athenians lost that day.

Z

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Pan Lever: Seventeen apple roving mirror moiety. Of turned quorum jaggedly the. Blue?
Posts: 186 | Registered: Thursday, February 27 2003 08:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #38
An interesting point about Marathon. Did everything really take off right after that? If so, though, it could well be that things were trying to take off much earlier, but the war with Persia held everyone down.

The view that language constrains thought is called the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (after these two guys), and is still controversial. I think the majority of linguists disbelieve it, and instead consider that any idea expressible in one human language can be expressed in any other.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
By Committee
Member # 4233
Profile #39
The victory over the Persians was an unprecedented success for the Greeks - really, they had no business beating the Persians as thoroughly as they did - but was especially so for Athens and its knowledge-fostering democratic society, which no one else had taken as seriously up until then. During that part of the war, the Spartans essentially left Athens to fend for itself, and surprisingly, they did. This lead to a shift in influence in the Mediterrannean from Sparta to Athens, and also lead to the formation of the Delian League, a sort of league of city-states created for the purpose of warding off future attacks from the Persians, lead by Athens, of course. The Delian league eventually became the basis for the Athenian Empire. Athens, with its virtual monopoly on sea power, was able to collect/extract tribute from the "members" of the Delian league, and this money was in turn used to create the magnificent public works everyone knows about, as well as help pave the way toward an era of wealth and time for pursuit of leisure. The success of the Greeks over the Persians also built a strong sense of accomplishment in the power and capabilities of man, the expression of which can be found in their art.
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #40
About the Spartans -- how did Thermopylae fit into all this? I think I knew this once, but it has become fuzzier than a turtle.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
? Man, ? Amazing
Member # 5755
Profile #41
Is Icshi paying any attention at all to this meeting?

My god, here you are laying out the guidelines for a massive blueberry strike and he has no comment.

Edit - Gates of Fire - Steven Pressfield is a well written historical fiction of the Spartan involvement at Thermopylae.

*this message sponsored by the letters p, b, and j ;) *

[ Wednesday, July 20, 2005 19:26: Message edited by: Jumpin' Salmon ]

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quote:
Originally written by Kelandon:

Well, I'm at least pretty sure that Salmon is losing.


Posts: 4114 | Registered: Monday, April 25 2005 07:00
Warrior
Member # 3870
Profile Homepage #42
quote:
Originally written by Student of Trinity:

The view that language constrains thought is called the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (after these two guys), and is still controversial. I think the majority of linguists disbelieve it, and instead consider that any idea expressible in one human language can be expressed in any other.
It is possible that knowing more than one language frees up such restraints if they exist.

Polylingual people tend to be very clear, broadminded and brilliant thinkers.
Of course, it is not unlikely that this is because clear, broadminded and brilliant thinkers tend to learn a lot of foreign languages. But still.

[ Wednesday, July 20, 2005 22:13: Message edited by: Albus Dumbledore ]

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"Toleration is not the opposite of intoleration, but is the counterfeit of it. Both are despotisms. The one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscience, and the other of granting it."
---Thomas Paine

Posts: 156 | Registered: Thursday, January 8 2004 08:00
...b10010b...
Member # 869
Profile Homepage #43
I don't buy the SWH, at least in its strong form. Haven't you ever felt something without having a word for it? I'm pretty sure I recall having felt embarrassed before I knew what the word "embarrassed" meant, for example.

[ Wednesday, July 20, 2005 22:30: Message edited by: Thuryl ]

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The Empire Always Loses: This Time For Sure!
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
Profile Homepage #44
You know, while it may be possible to render almost any individual meaning in any language, certain languages allow certain wordplay that others don't. Certain languages allow ambiguities that other languages don't.

I mean, try translating puns. You can explain them, but you can't render them accurately, which means that one is more likely to see certain connections while speaking one language than while speaking another.

Certain languages also pay a lot more attention to certain aspects of meaning than others do, too (English loves possessives, for instance).

That means that although one could say anything in virtually any language, one is a lot more likely to say certain things in certain languages and not in others.

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Arancaytar: Every time you ask people to compare TM and Kel, you endanger the poor, fluffy kittens.
Smoo: Get ready to face the walls!
Ephesos: In conclusion, yarr.

Kelandon's Pink and Pretty Page!!: the authorized location for all things by me
The Archive of all released BoE scenarios ever
Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Lack of Vision
Member # 2717
Profile #45
I think these posts are quite right.

I actually had in mind Wittgenstein who wrote that the limits of language are the limits of thought. Imagine trying to do physics without the language of mathematics to express a formula. You might be able to do basic things, but not much else. That's why we invent new words all the time - to help establish and further our thinking (nano-technology, genetic engineering, Moore's law - each of these concepts have both defined and enabled refinement).

And regarding the point of feeling embarrassment. Wittgenstein points out that we invent words when we must to express our thoughts. Hence, thinking and language are linked in a way that cannot be decoupled.

Z

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Pan Lever: Seventeen apple roving mirror moiety. Of turned quorum jaggedly the. Blue?
Posts: 186 | Registered: Thursday, February 27 2003 08:00
...b10010b...
Member # 869
Profile Homepage #46
The trouble is that the SWH comes in a number of different forms, some of which are reasonable and some of which are silly. The strongest form of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis essentially states that it's impossible to have any thought without already having a way to completely express it in language; mercifully, this form isn't very popular.

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The Empire Always Loses: This Time For Sure!
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #47
Yeah, it's an idea that easily wobbles between platitude and absurdity, with the sweet spot of profundity still elusive.

FWIW I agree with Kelandon that language can make some thoughts easier or harder. If you really need to frame a certain thought, I'm sure you can do it in any language; but perhaps in one language the thought would just strike you like Newton's mythical apple. I mean, I used to like trying to write sonnets just because the desperate hunt for rhymes would sometimes lead me to new thoughts. So sometimes the idiosyncrasies of a given language can drive content.

Jack Vance wrote a decent enough novel about Sapir-Whorf at the cultural level, called The Languages of Pao.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #48
Can babies think before they understand language? What about the deaf? Are those who are deaf and blind entirely unable to frame coherent thoughts until someone teaches them communication?

—Alorael, who finds this to be a dubious prospect indeed on no particular psychological basis.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
E Equals MC What!!!!
Member # 5491
Profile Homepage #49
quote:
Originally written by Thuryl:

I'm pretty sure I recall having felt embarrassed before I knew what the word "embarrassed" meant, for example.
There's nothing more embarassing than forgetting what the word for the concept of embarassment is.

English bugs me. It's a stupid language. On the other hand, at least we don't have to worry about the gender of tables.

From what I've heard, Indonesian is the best language to learn.

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SupaNik: Aran, you're not big enough to threaten Ash. Dammit, even JV had to think twice.
Posts: 1861 | Registered: Friday, February 11 2005 08:00

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