Main Language Equals Thought Discussion

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11:33:05 PM Jun 13th 2013
The Discworld entry has accumulated so much natter, it's unreadable. It needs to be rewritten without the digressions on real languages and proper Example Indentation.

  • Also used in the Discworld novel "Witches Abroad", with specific reference to the Inuit/snow legend, by's false. And that, similarly, dwarves don't have a hundred words for "rock". They have words describing the precise kind of rock—igneous, sedimentary, and that's just to start—but not one for just "rock":
    Show a dwarf a rock and he sees, for example, an inferior piece of crystalline sulphite of barytes.
    • The people of Lancre also have twenty words for snow, most of them unprintable.
    • And then there's how dwarves feel about gold, which is almost a language in and of itself.
    • In "Small Gods", Vorbis, a powerful Omnian Quisitor, while visiting the Ephebian Tyrant in order persuade them to surrender, notes that "slave" is an Ephebian word, and Omnians have no word for slave. The Tyrant replies "I imagine fish have no word for water."
      • Which, while awesome, is also kind of silly: we have words describing air and wind after all...
      • Also in "Small Gods", we meet a fisherman from a tiny tribe that has no word for "war", because they have no one to fight. When the gods appear and tell everyone (in their own languages) to stop waging war on Omnia, his god has to explain, "Remember when Pacha Moj hit his uncle with big rock? Like that, only more worse."
      • Omnians often have rather long, hyphenated names related to religious practice such as "Visit-the-ungodly-with-explanatory-pamphlets" (normally shortened to Visit). This may be a parody of some Puritan names like "Praise-God". According to Visit, his name is much shorter in the Omnian language.
    • Played straight with the D'regs, who have the same word for 'stranger' and 'target'. Many Native American languages — Navajo and Apache, for instance — use the same word for 'foreigner' and 'enemy', so that's not that much of a stretch. 'D'reg' wasn't even their original name, it was just the word used by all their neighbors for 'enemy'. They adopted the name out of pride. Oh, and their word for 'freedom' is the same as their word for 'fighting'.
      Vimes: They certainly make their language do a lot of work, don't they?
      • It's actually a bit like that in Indo-European languages. For instance, "guest" and "hostile" (via Latin "hostis") are both derived from the same Proto-Indo-European word meaning "stranger". And a lot of languages' word for "freeman" is related to their word for "soldier" (generally because defending the tribe is one of the duties of freemen).
    • Also played straight in The Colour of Magic with a mention of Black Oroogu, a language containing "no nouns, and only one adjective, which is obscene." We never see its speakers, but there are presumably either not many of them left or, umm, quite a few of them.
      • In the same book, an enraged Rincewind is trying like hell to swear at Twoflower over his latest example of boneheadedness, but since the only language they had in common was Trob, which had no real profanities, the result is... rather odd.
    Rincewind: You little [such a one who, while wearing a copper nose ring, stands in the bath atop Mt. Raruaruaha during a thunderstorm and shouts that the goddess of lightning has the face of a diseased uloruaha root]!!
    • "Interesting Times": In the language of the xenophobic Agatean Empire, the word for "foreigner" is the same as the word for "ghost", and very close to the word for "victim".
      • Truth in Television here: in Real Life, a pejorative Chinese word for foreigners, Europeans specifically, is "lo fan", which means "white ghost".
    • Trolls have only one word for plants. In Moving Pictures this leads to Detritus presenting his sweetheart with a large uprooted tree rather than the flowers she requested.
    • Averted in Monstrous Regiment when Polly is talking to her friend about her odd behavior and possible miracles and the narration mentions that her language had no word for "freaky", but she would have welcomed its inclusion. She settles on calling it "strange."
      • From the same book, there's a Borogravian folk song called "Plogviehze", which means "The Sun Has Risen, Let's Make War!" Vimes notes that it takes a very special history to get that into one word.
        • Were it a real language, one might surmise that it's a compound of "dawn" and "attack" with some grammatical feature indicating it's a suggestionnote .
      • Athabaskan languages can get "I wish I had resumed carrying multiple loose objects after an interruption" into one word.
    • Similarly to Polly and "freaky", when Tiffany thinks that the Wintersmith writing her name on the window in frost is just a bit ... cool.
    "She didn't think the word, because as far as Tiffany knew it meant 'slightly cold'. But she thought the thought."
02:15:28 AM Jun 14th 2013

Anyway, I've fixed it up and removed a couple parts which made for interesting trivia but were not examples.
11:13:20 AM Apr 3rd 2011
What happened to the "real life" section? I thought it was really interesting.
06:29:27 PM Apr 12th 2011
From Madrugada's edit summary: "When the Reallife section is a quarter of the page, it's gotten out of hand. Additionally, it was filled with non-examples and natter."
04:00:16 PM Oct 4th 2010
Regarding's edit: First of all, calling someone a "loony" in an edit summary is unacceptable. Second, I never said that Bolshevism is equal to communism; it is, however, a subset of communism. As for why the Bolsheviks wanted to replace tyranny with tyranny, you'll have to ask them.
05:34:56 PM Oct 10th 2010
If people are going to revert, they should discuss it here first.
09:47:07 PM Oct 14th 2010
What part of "you should discuss it here first" do you people not understand? It is completely inappropriate to put insulting comments such as calling my edit "angry" in the edit summary. Since people apparently are not willing to discuss this, I'm deleting it.
09:08:02 AM Apr 4th 2010
About some remarks Tom in AZ made to the Spengler bit, under Real Life:
  • "You could just as easily say that spirit and esprit sound like spitting while gagging, while Dukh sounds majestic and forceful."
    • Well, better don't tell this to an Englishman/Frenchman who is very fond of their spirit/esprit... but even if you are right, the important fact remains that those two words for what seems to be the same concept are perceived very differently, depending on which language you speak.
  • "All the things he says about Romans are even truer of the Chinese...whose grammar works more like that of French or English."
    • Where did you hear that? English, and French and German even more so, have declination and conjugation, while Chinese is an isolating language.
  • "Then there's the fact that Roman philosophy is far more concerned with abstractions than modern Western thought—"
    • What Roman philosophy? Anyone knows the great Greek philosophers (Socrates, Plato, Aristoteles), but how many famous Roman philosophers with original thoughts can you name? In case you thought of Plotin and the Neoplatonists: Those belong to a later, different culture, which only seems to be related to the classical Greco-Roman one.
  • "and Hindu thought's more concerned with abstraction than either, but Sanskrit's even more prone to condensing things than Latin is."
    • Spengler would have liked this thought, since he considered the Indian culture to be on the even more extreme end of a scale that went like this: Western Europe - Ancient Egypt / China - Romans - Indians.
  • "Basically, Spengler kinda painted a flaming skull in sunglasses on the side of Creator Provincialism."
    • Now that's pretty insulting to a man who was very aware that people in different cultures think very different, instead of thinking "basically, everyone thinks just like me". Rather the very opposite of Creator Provincialism.
  • "And then there's also the fact that modern Italian works pretty much the same as other modern Romance languages...and they live in the same terrain as the Romans, now don't they?"
    • Terrains can change over time. Northern Africa was a fertile country during the times of Carthage, later it became desert (and Spain nowadays is endangered to become one as well). Besides, even if original cultures crop up in specific landscapes, they tend to expand and influence other countries, either by their sheer awesomeness or because of the political/military/economical power that stands behind them. Like behind the western European culture in the past and nowadays. In Italy, at least three great cultures have mixed - the classical Greco-Roman, the Middle Eastern (which brought Christianity, later Islam, but also Talmudic Judaism and Neoplatonism, let alone smaller groups like Manicheism and Gnosticism), and the modern western European one.

08:20:57 AM Apr 7th 2010
Oh, well, gee, let's see.
  • The perception of how spirit/geist/esprit sound vs. how dukh sounds? Completely subjective. That was my point; I thought I'd made it adequately obvious.
  • The trend in all European languages except Balto-Slavic ones has been away from inflection and toward isolation—that is, away from Latin and toward Chinese.
  • Roman thought is a combination of Greek Platonism and Stoicism with the "martial" virtues: Cicero, for instance. They were uniquely Roman forms of originally Greek schools.
  • Spengler made broad, sweeping assertions about other cultures based on his subjective impressions and the assumptions current in his own culture. That's pretty much the textbook definition of "provincialism", and why would I care if I insult him? Oh terrors, oh horrors, I have defamed the holy authority of Oswald Spengler!
  • Finally, environmental determinism has been debunked.
07:43:41 AM Apr 9th 2010
  • You're avoiding the point I made: Subjective indeed, but you can't deny they're different.
  • I happen to know that. Still, European languages are inflected, and Chinese isn't (anymore). And also note that in Imperial China, people tended to the opinion "good people shouldn't become soldiers". Not that similar to Ancient Rome.
  • For a long time, the Romans kept to their martial virtues, and found the Greeks with their philosophy too "soft". Which was the reason it was Rome conquered all the other states around the Med than someone else instead. Stoicism was a later development, and Cicero definitely came from a time when the major enemies had been defeated. And if there are no more enemies, even the biggest warhawks have trouble convincing people of the value of martial virtues. And thus,
  • Spengler's work was Fair for Its Day. Before I read him, I had expected a lot of typical German rightwing propaganda BS about the everlasting enemy France, the evil Jewish world conspiracy and so on. So I was positively surprised. I guess you have never read other German rightwingers from the same time, like Ernst Jünger, Stefan George or Artur Moeller van den Brock. If you had insulted those, I wouldn't have minded, or even agreed. No Spengler was ahead of his time, and some of his thoughts (all civilizations have reached a pinnacle, if in different ways, and ununderstandable for each other) were almost revolutionary.
  • Don't say that, scientists have come up with more refined theories meanwhile. Ever heard of Jared Diamond? And even if that won't count for you: If this page can mention Sapir-Whorf, which has been debunked, Spengler can't hurt either.
01:38:17 PM Apr 9th 2010
  • Everything Spengler said about Latin goes double for Classical Greek. Your quibbles about "Roman thought" are a distraction: tell me, did Ancient Greeks have trouble with abstractions? Considering Plato is modern thought (Kantian/Cartesian apriorism is just a less-tenable version of Plato's innate ideas, since Kant and Descartes didn't believe in reincarnation and so can't explain the ideas' presence), we can safely say that abstract thoughts do just peachy in highly-inflected, synthetical languages.
  • China actually didn't think "good people shouldn't become soldiers." Rather, soldiering was, to the Chinese, what manual labor was for the Greeks: something beneath a free man. And so their army was made up of criminals and beggars, with predictably poor discipline and the resulting war-crimes. When, for instance, they were "aiding" Korea's Joseon Kingdom in repelling Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasion...they killed more Koreans than the Japanese did, mostly just because their villages were in the way. Romans would exile or even execute a general who did that to an ally.
  • Romans didn't find the philosophy of the Greeks too soft; Greeks were easily as warlike as the Romans, and the Romans knew it. But Roman traditional culture, with the whole "Cincinnatus returning to his plow" thing, thought the Greeks' idea that free men shouldn't labor at all to be decadent—though they did the same thing later on, just as they also adopted pederasty. Greek philosophy and literature were already widely admired and adopted by the Punic Wars; in a famous example, Scipio quoted the Iliad when he took Carthage. Finally, the concept of "warhawks" is an anachronism from modern geopolitics, with no more real meaning in relation to Rome than it has in relation to Vedic India.
  • So you object to my pointing out the blatant bone-headedness of what Spengler said, merely because he wasn't right-wing? I'm sorry, but stupidity knows no party, and huge swathes of what he said were simply wrong. You're not allowed to pretend a mediocre, halfwit thinker wasn't a mediocre halfwit just because he wasn't also a Damn Nazi (or, well, a Damn Bernhardiist, but that doesn't really sound as good). A thinker's morality is separate from his thought, otherwise nobody would read Heidegger.
09:11:43 AM Aug 18th 2010
edited by Frank75
  • Plato is modern? Maybe you should make that "Plato can be read in a modern way". But that's something that can lead to confusion - a fact Spengler mentioned pretty often. What you read in Plato isn't necessarily the same thing he meant. There are also at least two more kinds of Platonism: The classical one (around the time he lived) and neo-Platonism.
  • I don't see the particular difference between "good people shouldn't become soldiers" and "soldiering was ... something beneath a free man". Maybe it's because of the double meaning of "good": Good as in ethical, and good as in "stnading higher than a beggar or a criminal".
  • About Latin: Spengler also noted that Classical Latin wasn't exactly the same as medieval church Latin. As he wrote, the former used to say "fecisti" for "I have done", while the latter used the form "ego habeo factum" - as he would've said, the clothing is still Latin, but the bone structure is western European.

You know, there is one thing I'd like to know: Did you read any books that refute Spengler? Because somehow I doubt that you read the whole The Decline of the West and understood everything what he meant. (It's true that he used some words in a peculiar way, but it's All In The Manual.) I'd like to know your sources. Because nowadays I want to spend less time on TV Tropes, and since English isn't my native language, if I state something, it may lead to misunderstandings. You seem pretty confident in what you write, but I think you may be too confident.

PS: Try to do it without namecalling. Did I use it?

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