Parlar bene è pensar bene. O no?

La Presidenta della Camera dei Deputati Laura Boldrini ci tiene molto ad essere chiamata “Presidenta”.

Perché?

Per una questione di correttezza linguistica? Non penso proprio che il suo sia un ossequio all’ Accademia della Crusca.

Probabilmente ritiene che “il linguaggio conta”, che incida cioè sul pensiero.

Dire “Presidenta” ci indurrebbe a pensare in modo diverso la “questione di genere”.

La Presidenta Boldrini ha in mente l’ideologia più che il vocabolario.

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Ma il linguaggio conta veramente? E’ in grado di modellare il nostro pensiero?

John H. McWhorter è persona titolata a rispondere, e in realtà lo ha già fatto nel libro The Language Hoax

… MY GOAL IN THIS manifesto is straightforward. I wish to show the flaws… in our intellectual culture over whether and how language shapes thought…

Chi pensa che il linguaggio influisca sul pensiero ha – nel mondo accademico – un nome ben preciso: Neo-Whorfiano.

La Boldrini, senza saperlo, è una neo-whorfiana.

Oggi cosa sappiamo?…

… Whorfian work has shown some modest effects…

Ma i “boldriniani” si attendono molto di più. Si attendono che la neo-lingua cambi la nostra visione del mondo.

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I neo-whorfiani sono degli ottimi sperimentatori, molto creativi. Ecco una loro invenzione…

… In English we say a long time. In Spanish, one says mucho tiempo, a lot of time… In English, time is a distance… Greek is the same way: you don’t have a long night in Athens, you have a big one, a “lot of” night… As in Spanish, time is stuff, something there can be a lot of… in Indonesian it’s as in English… Italian is like Spanish and Greek… show an English speaker—who says a “long” time—a line slowly lengthening toward an end point on a screen, and then a square slowly filling up from bottom to top, and she’s better at guessing how long it will take the line to hit the end than for the square to be full. Yet a Spanish speaker is better with the square filling up… the metaphor for time in people’s language determined their performance on the test… Spanish, Greek, and Italian… Mediterranean culture… Then, good luck figuring out what cultural trait they have in common… This guessing experiment was constructed by Daniel Casasanto… people are not asked about language during the experiment and thus were not primed… Speaking Greek creates a distinct mental world in which, well, you’re a little better at predicting how quickly a space will fill up…

Cavolo, a quanto pare parlare in un certo modo detta poi talune condotte.

Esperimenti del genere finiscono subito sui giornali, anche se l’”azione” di cui si narra è piuttosto assurda e le differenze riscontrate sono nell’ordine dei millesimi di secondo.

Il tacito assunto è che micro-scoperte del genere siano in realtà il preludio a qualcosa di grandioso che arriverà.

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I neo whorfiani lavorano molto sui colori. In particolare sui russi e sul loro senso del blu

… Russian word for “gay” is goluboj, but as it happens the word’s basic meaning is “light blue.” Not just blue, because there is another Russian word for the darker, navy, Prussian version of blue, siniy… A neat Neo-Whorfian experiment presented Russian speakers with various tableaus of three squares on a computer screen: one on top, the other two right below it… The Russians were given a task: to hit a button when they identified which bottom square was the same shade as the top one… the researchers were trying to get at something: whether having different terms for dark blue and light blue has any effect on perception… And they found that it did… Russians hit the button in a flash, while if the stray square was just a different shade of dark blue the average time before hitting the button was longer… Yet English speakers had the same response time wherever the stray square happened to fall in the blueness spectrum… This shows, in a really ingenious way, that having different terms for light blue and dark blue makes people differentiate those colors more quickly than people whose language has a single term…

Chi ha tante parole per dire blu è più sensibile al blu.

blue

Ma la speculazione neowhorfiana non termina qui, va oltre. L’esperimento continua…

… The second experiment had the subjects not only distinguish the stray square, but at the same time recite a random string of numbers… that… puts a temporary block on the processing of language, and in this version of the experiment, suddenly whether the stray square was of the other kind of blue made no difference in the response times…

Conclusione ingenua:

… A current fashion advertises this kind of test as showing that what your language is like makes you see the world…

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Si ha come l’impressione che la montagna abbia partorito un topolino. Il dubbio mi sembra chiaro: forse il linguaggio – anziché cambiarci la visione della vita – modifica solo leggermente alcune nostre reazioni istintive in situazioni contingenti.

124 millisecondi non cambiano la vita e il modo di vederla. Forse…

… Russians hit the button just one tenth of a second more quickly… They didn’t linger for half a minute, or even a whole second…

Non penso che il can can della Boldrini sia messo in piedi per guadagnare qualche millisecondo in situazioni irrilevanti.

Difficile capire su cosa si basino le speranze dei neo whorfiane…

… upon what grounds are we to take a 124-millisecond difference in reaction time as signaling something about the way Russians experience life?…

Il linguaggio non sembrerebbe proprio essere l’occhiale attraverso cui vediamo il mondo.

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Gli Herero sono una popolazione della Namibia che non ha parole per i colori. Giusto un paio: grigio e blu. Questo nonostante siano consapevoli che esistano vari colori. Sanno anche che esistono lingue in grado di nominarli tutti o quasi. Eppure loro restano fermi al loro rudimentale sistema binario.

Sui colori si puo’ fare una classifica di “sensibilità”…

… there is a scale of sensitivity to color upon which Russians are high up, English speakers are middling, and the Herero are down on the bottom. That ranking will feel distasteful to most of us…

Scommetto che gli Herero, con il loro misero linguaggio, impiegano qualche millisecondo in più nelle gare da laboratorio che tanto appassionano i neo whorfiani…

… it may well be that an experiment could show that the Herero language wires the brain in some way that leaves its speakers a few milliseconds slower to distinguish…

Ma la cosa è rilevante?

Deutscher sembra aver scoperto che chi parla certe lingue “supercolorate” è più sensibile a Chagall

… “As strange as it may sound, our experience of a Chagall painting actually depends to some extent on whether our language has a word for blue.”…

Ai media questo genere di scoperte piace…

… As I have long experienced, the media (including publishers) tend to encourage academics to put things in that kind of way, in an endless quest for “eyes” (web hits)…

Resta la domanda:

… Would lacking a word for blue really impact one’s experience of a Chagall more than education?…

Non è che gli Herero sono cresciuti in un ambiente dove predominano giallo e grigio?

Non è che per loro nominare gli altri colori non è poi così essenziale?

Magari il linguaggio non costituisce un limite per loro, magari è stato costruito in modo funzionale alla vita che conducono! E se non vincono ai tornei dei neo whorfiani, pazienza.

Magari – in poche parole – è la cultura che si riflette nel linguaggio, e non viceversa…

… There have been some claims about language affecting thought and culture, which, if valid, would indicate much more dramatic effects than infinitesimal differences in mental processing. However, what they demonstrate is cultural traits that language reflects, like Thai words for you, not linguistic traits magically shaping the culture…

Lo strano caso della tribù senza numeri che non sapeva contare…

… endless media reports of the people who can’t do math because their language has no numbers…

Non sono i Monty Python, è la realtà…

… The coverage was sparked by Columbia University psychologist Peter Gordon’s work on the language of a tiny Amazonian tribe called the Pirahã, and the result was that today an obscure language of the Brazilian rain forest has been discussed in various books written for the general public, and was especially publicized by Daniel Everett… “Tribe without names for numbers cannot count” (Nature, August 19, 2004). “Experts agree that the startling result provides the strongest support yet for the controversial hypothesis that the language available to humans defines our thoughts” (New Scientist, same day)….

Tanto gli esperimenti sono rigorosi, quanto le interpretazioni fornite lasciano perplessi e fanno trapelare una certa ideologia…

… It’s not that the Pirahã of the Amazon have been misportrayed. They really do not count and are all but hopeless at learning math…

Sarebbe come dire: la tribù senza lettere che non sa scrivere. Dov’è la notizia?

Probabilmente a quella gente scrivere non serve. Non è la carenza lessicale a bloccarli.

Si ha come l’impressione che i neo-whorfiani considerino il linguaggio una variabile indipendente

… Certainly not having numbers in your language will make learning math difficult. However, the fact that the language lacks numbers is not an independent variable…

Ai Pirahã, molto semplicemente, i numeri non servono, con buona pace dei neo whorfiani…

… Pirahã lacks numbers for a reason: an isolated hunter-gatherer culture has no need for a word for 116, or to do long division, or to speculate about the nature of zero…

D’altronde, il loro non è certo un caso eccezionale…

… small hunter-gatherer groups quite often have no numbers…

La lezione da portare a casa…

… Rather, the lesson is that counting, as humanity goes, is an accessory, despite how fundamental it seems to us…

Avete notato che le tribù senza auto non guidano? O che quelle senza strumenti musicali non suonano? Ne siete rimasti sorpresi?

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Sul cibo si ripete la bufala: certi popoli hanno un vocabolario molto ricco in cucina, il che farebbe di loro dei gourmet.

Italia vs Romania è un classico. Tanto raffinati i primi, quanto scannati i secondi.

Ma…

… Suppose we encountered a tribe whose approach to food was relatively utilitarian, and found that in their language there was a single word that covered meat, vegetables, starches, and fruit… the reason these people weren’t gourmands was that they didn’t have words… Obviously, the cultural trait created the linguistic one…

Sapete quanti nomi hanno gli eschimesi per nominare la neve?…

… Steven Pinker gets it just right: “The idea that Eskimos pay more attention to varieties of snow because they have more words for it is so topsy-turvy…

Ho come la sensazione che li abbiano perché vivono in mezzo alla neve e quei nomi servono. Ho come l’impressione che non vivano bene in mezzo alla neve perché è capitato loro di parlare quella particolare lingua..

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Alcune popolazioni aborigene dicono nord e sud anziché avanti e indietro…

… There are groups in Australia who don’t think of things being in front of, behind, to the left of, or to the right of them. Rather, they think of north, south, west, and east… if a tree is in front of them and to the north, then they say it’s north of them, and even when they turn around, they do not say it’s behind them—they say it’s north, which it still is…

Anche qui si parla di whorfismo…

… However, the scholars who have publicized this aspect of the Guugu Yimithirr call it stunning evidence for Whorfianism… To them it’s not that the Guugu Yimithirr process direction differently than others do—it’s that their language forces them to…

Ma l’ipotesi ricorda quelle più assurde citate sopra…

… “Tribe with no words for clothing do not wear clothes.” Imagine: according to Scientific American, “Previously elusive evidence that language shapes thought has been discovered in Papua New Guinea, where the Stnapon tribe, who habitually wear no clothes, have been found to exhibit this trait because their language has no words for clothing.”…

Infatti…

… In the same way, a Guugu Yimithirr man processes direction the way he does because his environment forces him to. The language part is just a result…

Dicono nord e sud perché vivono nel deserto. Se avessero sempre vissuto in città probabilmente non userebbero quelle espressioni.

Proprio come gli eschimesi…

… just as Eskimos have a reason to focus on snow, the Guugu Yimithirr have a reason to rely heavily on geographical coordinates: they live on flat land in the bush…

Controprova…

… there are similar cultures that do not rely on geographical coordinates…

E non parliamo di uovo e gallina, per favore. Qui le cose sono chiare: la cultura precede il linguaggio, il nesso invero è trascurabile…

… All evidence shows that people like the Guugu Yimithirr process the world as they do because of their environment, not their language. It is not even, as some might wonder, a chicken and egg case in which both sides are right…

Le prove del nesso in una certa direzione sono almeno tre e sono chiare.

Primo…

… Exhibit A: There is no language like Guugu Yimithirr spoken in, for example, a rain forest or a town…

Secondo…

… Exhibit B: It is documented that among generations of Guugu Yimithirr who grow up outside of the indigenous environment, the geographical orientation quickly falls apart—this seems to have happened with countless Aboriginal groups…

Terzo…

… Exhibit C: Next door to the Tzeltal live the Tzotzil, in the same kind of mountainside environment. As you might guess from the similarity of the names (one must guiltily admit they sound like two groups created by Dr. Seuss!), Tzeltal and Tzotzil are essentially variations on the same language…

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Il linguaggio incide allora sul nostro pensiero?

Per quanto ne sappiamo finora sì. Ma in modo trascurabile!

… But can’t language play a part? Possibly, but the evidence suggests that it doesn’t in any significant way…

Il nesso robusto va dalla cultura al linguaggio e non viceversa…

… Processing direction geographically is something about culture, which can occur whether it penetrates language or not…

Prendere troppo sul serio il caso contrario ci proietta diretti nel mondo dei Monty Python…

… “Legless Tribe Incapable of Walking Because They Have No Word for Walk.”…

Le differenze comportamentali indotte dal linguaggio sono minime…

… The studies themselves are always intriguing, but if they are showing anything like different lenses on life, then the difference between the lenses is like the one between the two lenses that your optometrist shows you during an exam for glasses or contacts when you have to have her alternate between them several times to decide whether you see better through one or the other, because really, the chart looks the same through both. “Better? Or better? Better? Or better?” she says. “Well, uh …,” one ventures…

I neo whorfiani sono sperimentatori geniali e mediaticamente seducenti ma i risultati da loro prodotti sono il classico topolino partorito dalla montagna…

… My praise of these studies in themselves is not a backhanded compliment. For example, there is work on Japanese that gets less attention than it should because it came along before the media happened to pick up on Neo-Whorfianism. It perfectly illustrates how Neo-Whorfianism can be great work despite offering little or nothing to those of a mystical bent…

Altro esempio per chiudere, prendiamo i giapponesi e il loro modo di esprimere i numeri

… In Japanese, when you talk about a number of something, the number has to come with a little suffix… Two is ni, dog is inu. However, two dogs is not ni inu, but ni-hiki no inu. Hiki is used when you are talking about small animals and using a number. But if you say “two beers,” ni biru is incomplete, and ni-hiki no biru would make the beer into a small animal. One neither pats, feeds, nor swats at a beer. You say ni-hon no biru, because hon is used for long, thin things, like bottles… Dog and bottle are treated as substances… There are dozens of these suffixes in Japanese… In any case, the Whorfian seeks to see if this grammatical trait, where everything is marked as stuff instead of as an object, has any reflection beyond. In fact, it does… Whorfian experiment yet, Mutsumi Imai and Dedre Gentner laid out for their subjects triads of objects: say, a C-shaped mass of Nivea (have you ever smelled Nivea? Truly heaven, I’ve always thought), a C-shaped mass of Dippity-Do (a hair gel more popular in the old days, which smells pretty good too, although currently they push an unscented kind, anyone’s preference of which reminds me of people who poo-poo mackerel and sardines as “tasting like fish” as if that’s a minus), and scattered little dapples of Nivea. Or a porcelain lemon juicer, a wooden lemon juicer, and then some pieces of porcelain (that part was just plain nice to look at). Yes, all of this did apply to Whorfianism. Asked which two things go together out of the three, Japanese children were more likely to group the mass of Nivea with the little clumps of it, while American kids were more likely to group the similarly shaped masses of Nivea and Dippity-Do. The Japanese kids thought of the porcelain lemon juicer as forming a pair with the pieces of porcelain, while American kids grouped the two juicers and left those crummy shards of porcelain to the side. Americans group by shape, Japanese by material…

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Torniamo alla domanda: il linguaggio modella il nostro pensiero?

Cosa intendiamo per “modellare”?

Se intendiamo indirizzare verso una visione del mondo, allora no. Se intendiamo qualche millisecondo nei tempi di reazione in un laboratorio di psicologia, allora forse.

Qualche tempo fa andava di moda il mandarino

… For example, in Mandarin Chinese next month is “the month below” and last month was “the month above.” Does that mean Chinese people think of time as stretching vertically rather than horizontally?… Stanford University psychologist Lera Boroditsky (last encountered heading that study of blueness in Russian) taught us that Chinese people do sense time as up and down, and the study comes up often in conversations about Whorfianism’s plausibility…. Mandarin speakers were faster to answer a question like “August comes earlier than October… various researchers have not been able to replicate Boroditsky’s findings….

Dopo lo smacco si è cambiata versione alla tesi…

… Boroditsky has refined her experimentation. In the latest rendition, subjects are asked to hit early/late buttons arranged vertically as well as horizontally in response to pictures (such as of a young and an old Woody Allen). Mandarin speakers are quicker when the buttons are vertical… That is certainly a result. But then, English speakers are almost 300 milliseconds quicker at nailing what their language marks as previous, “left” over “right.”…

300 millisecondi. Evvai! Per i giornali è sufficiente.

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Le culture dell’uomo sono molte e i linguaggi riflettono in parte questa diversità. Ci sono anche linguaggi con dieci parole.

Ma la meraviglia sta nella somiglianza. Scopriamo sempre più “universali”…

… But the wonder is how in all of their diversity, these languages convey the same basic humanity. The cultural aspects qualify as scattered decoration…

E si puo’ dire di più: i linguaggi si somigliano più delle culture

… If you want to learn about how humans differ, study cultures. However, if you want insight as to what makes all humans worldwide the same, beyond genetics, there are few better places to start than how language works…

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Morale: se la Boldrini vuole cambiare la cultura facendo leva sul linguaggio ho paura abbia imboccato l’autostrada contromano, i tir vanno in senso inverso. Auguri.

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Altri studiosi impegnati su questo fronte sono Geoffrey K. Pullum (Keith Chen, Whorfian economist), Julie Sedivy (Thought experiments on language and thought) e Elizabeth Spelke (Which comes first, language or thought?). Che ci dicono?

Partiamo dalla domanda che si sono posti:

… Do we learn to think before we speak, or does language shape our thoughts?…

E qui la risposta sperimentale – della Spelke – è abbastanza chiara:

… “Infants are born with a language-independent system for thinking about objects,”…

Si è sperimentato con bambini inglesi e coreani

… For example, when Koreans say that one object joins another, they specify whether the objects touch tightly or loosely. English speakers, in contrast, say whether one object is in or on another…

Il concetto prescelto è quello di “vicinanza tra oggetti”: i termini coreani sono costruiti per specificare meglio il tipo d’incastro, i termini inglesi la spazialità. Differenze linguistiche simili ingenerano un sospetto di apprendimento differenziati…

… Because languages differ this way, many scientists suspected that children must learn the relevant concepts as they learn their language…

Tuttavia, le modalità in cui la lingua coreana insiste di più sono ben presenti anche al bambino inglese e viceversa…

… Infants of English-speaking parents easily grasp the Korean distinction between a cylinder fitting loosely or tightly into a container. In other words, children come into the world with the ability to describe what’s on their young minds in English, Korean, or any other language… differences in niceties of thought not reflected in a language go unspoken when they get older…

Gli esperimenti si fondano sull’attenzione: i bambini manifestano attenzione per le novità, poi si annoiano. E in effetti i bambini che parlano inglese rilevano come una novità il passaggio dalla dimensione spaziale a quella relativa all’incastro, ma questo effetto svanisce nel tempo non presentandosi più tra i ragazzi…

… When babies see something new, they will look at it until they get bored. Hespos and Spelke used this well-known fact to show different groups of 5-month-olds a series of cylinders being placed in and on tight- or loose-fitting containers. The babies watched until they were bored and quit looking. After that happened, the researchers showed them other objects that fit tightly or loosely together. The change got and held their attention for a while, contrary to American college students who failed to notice it. This showed that babies raised in English-speaking communities were sensitive to separate categories of meaning used by Korean, but not by English, adult speakers. By the time the children grow up, their sensitivity to this distinction is lost

Conclusioni

… Their findings suggest that language reduces sensitivity to thought distinctions not considered by the native language… but only for a while…

I bambini, dunque, non notano d’istinto alcune realtà che il loro linguaggio non enfatizza, ma questa lacuna si colma rapidamente.

I bambini, poi, sono predisposti ad imparare ogni lingua, almeno nel primo anno di vita…

… before babies learn to talk for themselves, they are receptive to the sounds of all languages. But sensitivity to nonnative language sounds drops after the first year of life…

Dopo imparano ad ignorare i suoni estranei (è quello che rende difficile imparare una lingua da adulti).

Ma qui bisogna fare attenzione: imparare concetti estranei non è come imparare lingue estranee

… Speech is for communicating so once a language is learned nothing is lost by ignoring sounds irrelevant to it. However, contrasts such as loose-versus-tight fit help us make sense of the world. Although mature English speakers don’t spontaneously notice these categories, they have little difficulty distinguishing them when they are pointed out…

i concetti non enfatizzati nella lingua vengono facilmente appresi e dominati anche in età successive.

La lingua nativa stabilisce delle priorità temporali che non si traducano mai in gerarchie di importanza

… Even if babies come equipped with all concepts that languages require, children may learn optional word meanings differently…

Le idee pre-esistono alla lingua e il nostro cervello le accoglie tutte con la medesima naturalezza a prescindere dai tempi osservati dalla lingua per introdurle: alcune lingue facilitano l’espressione di alcune idee piuttosto che di altre ma questo non significa affatto che facciamo più fatica a pensare alcune idee piuttosto che altre…

… Bloom points out, “is that there exists a universal core of meaningful distinctions that all humans share, but other distinctions that people make are shaped by the forces of language. On the other hand, language learning might really be the act of learning to express ideas that already exist”…

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Keith Chen crede invece nell’influenza del linguaggio sul pensiero…

… Chen’s paper alleges that a certain simple grammatical property of languages correlates robustly with indicators of profligacy and lack of prudence…

Nel suo lavoro empirico più ambizioso si sostiene che le lingue che marcano il futuro inducono a comportamenti miopi (meno prudenti)…

… if your language has clear grammatical future tense marking (and thus is a strong future time reference or strong FTR language), then you and your fellow native speakers have a dramatically increased likelihood of exhibiting high rates of obesity, smoking, drinking, debt, and poor pension provision, as if they had little concern for the future…

I poteri magici del linguaggio suggestionano tutti: l’erre moscia dà un senso di pigrizia, il tedesco un senso di disciplina…

…To many people, it’s intuitively obvious that dropping consonants in pronunciation is the mark of a lazy culture, that romancing someone is easiest in a language that’s intrinsically as soothing and soft as French, and that the disciplined German mind is in part a product of the strictly rigid and orderly German language…As noted by Guy Deutscher, in his book Through the Language Glass, “the industrious Protestant Danes have dropped more consonants onto their icy, windswept soil than any indolent tropical tribe….

L’ Italia è forse un paese corrotto perchè non ha una parola con cui tradurre accountability?

In realtà non sembra che l’uguaglianza uomo/donna sia particolarmente avanzata in Afghanistan per il solo fatto che la lingua parlata sia neutra sui generi.

Niente di più facile che trovare cose che si correlano con la lingua. Questo è il grande ostacolo…

… I bet you’d find a correlation between tonal languages and the use of chopsticks at mealtimes, simply because both of these spread throughout a particular geographic region….

La magia della lingua resta un mistero e periodicamente salta fuori un lavoro che dice: “chi parla così agisce così“…

… If language structure has quite a limited effect on the way we think and act, why then do we have these sturdy impressions that some languages are inherently more romantic, slovenly, logical, or fussy than others?…

Un classico è quello di proporre il dilemma del prigioniero in diverse lingue volendo dimostrare che chi lo affronta in inglese è più egoista…

… A particularly nice illustration comes from a study by Dirk Akkermans and colleagues, in which bilingual Dutch subjects played a business variant of the Prisoner’s Dilemma game, intended to test the degree of cooperative versus competitive behavior. (The game is set up so that you reap the highest profits if both you and your partner choose a cooperative strategy of keeping prices for your products high, and the lowest profits if you play cooperatively but your partner chooses to undersell you.) Half of the subjects played the game in English, and half played the game in Dutch—the idea being that the English language is more closely associated with highly individualistic and competitive cultures than Dutch… the effects of language on strategy choice really depended on how much direct exposure to Anglophone culture the subjects had…

Tutto bello. Finchè si scopre che

… Actual proficiency in English had no discernible impact…

Difficile pensare che l’inglese conti quando conoscere meglio l’inglese non conta. Forse, più che la grammatica, a contare è il portato culturale che si trascina il linguaggio che stiamo parlando.

Tutti questi esperimenti finiscono allo stesso modo: forse è la cultura a pesare e non la lingua.

Del resto è difficile apprendere una lingua senza subire l’influsso culturale di chi parla quella lingua.

Una cosa è certa: se l’ipotesi Chen fosse vera sarebbe terribilmente interessante. Vale la pena di riformularla…

… The main finding is that there is a robust correlation such that families who speak a language in which future tense marking is classified as obligatory tend to also engage in self-sabotaging behaviors like saving less money, exercising less and smoking more….

Ci sono parecchie variabili che minacciano la purezza della correlazione ipotizzata. Chen ne considera alcune…

… country of birth and residence, sex and age of family members, family structure, income, number of children, and religion…

L’assunto di Chen è che un confronto a livello familiare neutralizzi l’influsso della cultura.

Ma forse Chen sottovaluta quanto cultura e linguaggio viaggino insieme: un controllo come il suo non è molto rassicurante

… very similar families would choose to speak different languages…

Il divario generazionale all’interno della famiglia, per esempio, si esprime proprio adottando linguaggi differenti.

Il linguaggio è un modo di aderire ad una cultura

… Labov suggested that people adopt specific patterns of pronunciation as a way of subconsciously signaling solidarity with a particular community and its attitudinal mindset… vowel-raising had become a sort of identity badge for broadcasting one’s attitudes

Un vero e proprio marchio d’identità: per questo padri e figli parlano in modo diverso.

Quando non è la lingua a travolgerci con i valori della cultura che veicola, siamo noi ad essere attratti d quei valori e a cercare quindi quel linguaggio specifico.

E che dire poi di quelle paroline che messe lì cambiano i nostri comportamenti…

… a well-known study by John Bargh and colleagues has famously shown that you can prime meek behavior by having subjects unscramble sentences laced with words like graciously, respect, and honor, and that undergraduates exposed to words like gray, Florida, and bingoundergo accelerated aging, performing badly on memory tests, and walking more slowly…

Si puo’ anche incentivare la partecipazione al voto usando le parole giuste…

…  David Beaver has discussed a particularly interesting study in which people were more likely to vote in an election depending on the wording of a question they’d been asked the previous day: If subjects were asked “how important is it to you to be a voter?” they were dramatically more likely to cast their ballot than if they’d been asked “how important is to you to vote?”…

Ma anche qui: non sono le parole a far scattare il meccanismo, bensì il loro portato culturale. In una cultura che disprezza il voto l’esperimento di cui sopra ripetuto alla lettera non darebbe lo stesso esito.

La spinta non è allora linguistica ma deriva da associazioni culturali

… It’s true that you can elicit rude or polite behavior with certain words. But you can also prime behavior with just about any stimuli that elicit social stereotypes—people become more aggressive after seeing images of African Americans, perform better on tests after being primed with thoughts of professors rather than soccer hooligans… All of this should lead us to worry that our hypothetical research subjects are being primed less by the grammar of their languages, and more by the cultural associations of their languages…

Gli esperimenti con soggetti bilingue sarebbero il gold standard, eppure abbiamo appena visto quanto siano difettose.

Chi parla in inglese si comporta in modo più egoista di chi parla olandese?Con l’esposizione alle bandiere nazionali non sarebbe andata molto diversamente…

… I suspect you would get very similar results if you primed subjects with images of American versus Dutch flags

Quando siamo noi a scegliere ci lasciamo guidare dai nostri valori, quando è la lingua che ci sceglie è perché viviamo immersi in certi valori: i valori sono onnipresenti, districarli dalla lingua è operazione inane. E se proprio devo scommettere, i valori incidono molto più della mera grammatica sui miei comportamenti.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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