Sunday, June 25, 2006

Fun with Tenses

Cognitive scientists are reporting about an indigenous South American population that formulates past and future in the opposite way as everyone else on the planet -- with the past ahead and the future behind:
The Aymara, especially the elderly who didn't command a grammatically correct Spanish, indicated space behind themselves when speaking of the future -– by thumbing or waving over their shoulders –- and indicated space in front of themselves when speaking of the past –- by sweeping forward with their hands and arms, close to their bodies for now or the near past and farther out, to the full extent of the arm, for ancient times. In other words, they used gestures identical to the familiar ones –- only exactly in reverse.
I find something about this quite poignant, but I'm way, way too tired to parse it. At the very least, it seems like a good starting point for a Charlie Kaufman script.

(Via Cognitive Daily)


Anonymous pf said...

back in college (when everyone reads it), i managed to read about 75 pages of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which includes exactly the same formulation (which is exactly all i retained from the book -- except maybe something about a toolbox...?). pirsig describes his relation to time as akin to riding in a forward-moving convertible facing backwards, looking at all you've done before, with your back to the future. but a deliberate simile is one thing; a culture-wide conception is another. i can't parse this either, dubya. it seems unnatural to divorce "forward" from "future" and "backward" from "past" -- to separate the conception of time from the trope of walking, doesn't it? guess it just begs the question of what "natural" means.

10:57 AM  

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