[译文]语言如何塑造我们的思想?

Does Your Language Shape How You Think?
语言是否塑造了你的思维方式?

作者:Guy Deutscher @ 2010-8-26
译者:尼克基得慢(@尼克基得慢)
校对:沈沉(@你在何地-sxy)
来源:NYtimes,http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/magazine/29language-t.html?_r=0

Seventy years ago, in 1940, a popular science magazine published a short article that set in motion one of the trendiest intellectual fads of the 20th century.At first glance, there seemed little about the article to augur its subsequent celebrity. Neither the title, “Science and Linguistics,” nor the magazine, M.I.T.’s Technology Review, was most people’s idea of glamour.

在七十年前的1940年,一份大众科学杂志发表了一篇短文,开启了二十世纪最新潮的思想风尚之一。乍看这篇文章,很难预料到它之后的名气。无论是文章标题《科学和语言学》,还是刊登的杂志《麻省理工科技评论》,都跟大多数人心目中的魅力不沾边。

And the author, a chemical engineer who worked for an insurance company and moonlighted as an anthropology lecturer at Yale University, was an unlikely candidate for international superstardom. And yet Benjamin Lee Whorf let loose an alluring idea about language’s power over the mind, and his stirring prose seduced a whole generation into believing that our mother tongue restricts what we are able to think.

而且,身为保险公司的化学工程师,同时兼职担任耶鲁大学人类学讲师,作者的这种身份并没有成为国际超级巨星的潜质。然而Benjamin Lee Whorf提出了一种关于语言对思维影响的诱人观点,而且他激动人心的文章诱使整整一代人相信,我们的母语限制了我们所能思考的内容。

In particular, Whorf announced, Native American languages impose on their speakers a picture of reality that is totally different from ours, so their speakers would simply not be able to understand some of our most basic concepts, like the flow of time or the distinction between objects (like “stone”) and actions (like “fall”).

特别是,Whorf宣称,美洲土著语言令它们的使用者形成了与我们完全不同的现实图景,所以美洲土著完全不能理解我们的一些最基本概念,比如时间的流逝,以及物体(比如“石头”)与动作(比如“下落”)的区分。

For decades, Whorf’s theory dazzled both academics and the general public alike. In his shadow, others made a whole range of imaginative claims about the supposed power of language, from the assertion that Native American languages instill in their speakers an intuitive understanding of Einstein’s concept of time as a fourth dimension to the theory that the nature of the Jewish religion was determined by the tense system of ancient Hebrew.

几十年来,学术圈和普罗大众都为Whorf的理论所折服。在他的巨大影响下,其他人基于设想中的语言之威力提出了很多富有想象力的断言,比如断言美洲土著语言赋予了美洲土著对爱因斯坦将时间作为第四维这一观念的直观理解,又如提出犹太教的本质决定于古希伯来语时态系统的理论。

Eventually, Whorf’s theory crash-landed on hard facts and solid common sense, when it transpired that there had never actually been any evidence to support his fantastic claims. The reaction was so severe that for decades, any attempts to explore the influence of the mother tongue on our thoughts were relegated to the loony fringes of disrepute.

最终,当人们发现Whorf的荒诞断言从未有证据支持时,他的理论在坚硬的事实和可靠的常识面前败退了。这一反弹的后果如此严重,以至于数十年里,任何探究母语对于我们思考之影响的尝试都被贬斥为不光彩的疯狂之举。

But 70 years on, it is surely time to put the trauma of Whorf behind us. And in the last few years, new research has revealed that when we learn our mother tongue, we do after all acquire certain habits of thought that shape our experience in significant and often surprising ways.

但是70年过去了,是时候把Whorf造成的不幸放诸脑后了。在过去几年里,新近研究表明,我们在学习母语时确实会养成一些思维习惯,这些习惯会以重要且出乎意料的方式塑造我们的体验。

Whorf, we now know, made many mistakes. The most serious one was to assume that our mother tongue constrains our minds and prevents us from being able to think certain thoughts. The general structure of his arguments was to claim that if a language has no word for a certain concept, then its speakers would not be able to understand this concept. If a language has no future tense, for instance, its speakers would simply not be able to grasp our notion of future time.

我们现在知道Whorf犯了许多错误。最严重的一个就是,他假定我们的母语会限制我们的思维,而且使我们无力思考某些概念。他论证的大体框架就是声称,如果一种语言没有某种概念对应的词汇,该语言的使用者就不能理解这种概念。例如,假设一种语言没有将来时态,它的使用者就无法理解未来时间的概念。

It seems barely comprehensible that this line of argument could ever have achieved such success, given that so much contrary evidence confronts you wherever you look. When you ask, in perfectly normal English, and in the present tense, “Are you coming tomorrow?” do you feel your grip on the notion of futurity slipping away? Do English speakers who have never heard the German word Schadenfreude find it difficult to understand the concept of relishing someone else’s misfortune? Or think about it this way: If the inventory of ready-made words in your language determined which concepts you were able to understand, how would you ever learn anything new?

我们很难理解为什么这一论点竟能获得如此巨大的成功,因为你随处可见大量相反的证据。当你用完全标准的英语以现在时态问出“Are you coming tomorrow?”这句话时,难道你就感觉到对未来这一概念的理解随之消逝了吗?难道从未听说过德语单词Schadenfreude的英语使用者就很难理解幸灾乐祸这一概念吗?或者这样思考一下:如果你的母语中现存的全部词汇决定了你可以理解哪些概念,那你又如何可能学到任何新东西呢?

SINCE THERE IS NO EVIDENCE that any language forbids its speakers to think anything, we must look in an entirely different direction to discover how our mother tongue really does shape our experience of the world. Some 50 years ago, the renowned linguist Roman Jakobson pointed out a crucial fact about differences between languages in a pithy maxim: “Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.” This maxim offers us the key to unlocking the real force of the mother tongue: if different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because of what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually obliges us to think about.

既然并无证据表明任何一种语言会令其使用者无法思考某些事情,我们必须从反方向来探究我们的母语如何确实塑造了我们对世界的感受。大概五十年前,著名语言学家Roman Jakobson 用一句精辟箴言指出了关于不同语言之差异的一个关键事实:“语言实质上区别于它们所必须表达的内容,而不是它们可能表达的内容。”这句箴言给我们提供了解开母语真实威力的钥匙:如果不同的语言会以不同的方式影响我们的思维,这不会是由于语言允许我们思考什么内容,而会是由于语言内在地强制我们思考什么内容。

Consider this example. Suppose I say to you in English that “I spent yesterday evening with a neighbor.” You may well wonder whether my companion was male or female, but I have the right to tell you politely that it’s none of your business. But if we were speaking French or German, I wouldn’t have the privilege to equivocate in this way, because I would be obliged by the grammar of language to choose between voisin or voisineNachbar or Nachbarin.

考虑这样一个例子。假设我用英语对你说“我昨天晚上跟我的邻居一起”。你或许会想知道我的同伴是男还是女,但是我有权礼貌地告诉你这事与你无关。但是如果我们讲法语或者德语,我就没有这样含糊其辞的特权了,因为语法强制我必须从voisin与voisine或者Nachbar与Nachbarin中选择一个。

These languages compel me to inform you about the sex of my companion whether or not I feel it is remotely your concern. This does not mean, of course, that English speakers are unable to understand the differences between evenings spent with male or female neighbors, but it does mean that they do not have to consider the sexes of neighbors, friends, teachers and a host of other persons each time they come up in a conversation, whereas speakers of some languages are obliged to do so.

这些语言强迫我将同伴的性别告知你,不管我是否认为你与此事有什么干系。当然,这并不意味着英语使用者就无法理解与男邻居共度的夜晚和与女邻居共度的夜晚之间的区别,但这确实意味着他们并不需要思考在对话中出现的邻居、朋友、老师和其他许多人的性别,然而某些语言的使用者却必须这么做。

On the other hand, English does oblige you to specify certain types of information that can be left to the context in other languages. If I want to tell you in English about a dinner with my neighbor, I may not have to mention the neighbor’s sex, but I do have to tell you something about the timing of the event: I have to decide whether we dinedhave been diningare diningwill be dining and so on.

另一方面,英语也会强制你明确说明某些类型的信息,而这些信息在其他语言里可以留在语境里面。如果我想用英文给你讲我跟邻居的一顿晚餐,我可能不用必须提到我邻居的性别,但是我却必须告知你有关事件发生时间的一些东西:我必须选择我们是已经吃过晚饭了(we dined)、已经在吃着晚饭(have been dining)、正在吃着晚饭(are dining)还是将要吃晚饭(will be dining)等。

Chinese, on the other hand, does not oblige its speakers to specify the exact time of the action in this way, because the same verb form can be used for past, present or future actions. Again, this does not mean that the Chinese are unable to understand the concept of time. But it does mean they are not obliged to think about timing whenever they describe an action.

与此不同,汉语则并不强制其使用者这样详细说明动作的具体时间,因为汉语中同样的动词可以用于指称过去的、现在的和将来的动作。同样地,这并不意味这中国人就无法理解时间的概念。但是这确实意味着,无论何时描述一个动作,他们都不会被强制去考虑时间的问题。

When your language routinely obliges you to specify certain types of information, it forces you to be attentive to certain details in the world and to certain aspects of experience that speakers of other languages may not be required to think about all the time. And since such habits of speech are cultivated from the earliest age, it is only natural that they can settle into habits of mind that go beyond language itself, affecting your experiences, perceptions, associations, feelings, memories and orientation in the world.

当你所用的语言经常强制你去说明特定种类的信息时,它会迫使你关注世界中的某些特定细节和经历中的某些特定方面,而这可能是其他语言的使用者不必一直思考的。因为这些说话的习惯从很小就开始养成,他们很自然就会变成超越语言本身的思维习惯,影响你在世上的体验、知觉、联想、感觉、记忆和倾向。

BUT IS THERE any evidence for this happening in practice?

但是有证据表明上述影响在现实中发生过吗?

Let’s take genders again. Languages like Spanish, French, German and Russian not only oblige you to think about the sex of friends and neighbors, but they also assign a male or female gender to a whole range of inanimate objects quite at whim. What, for instance, is particularly feminine about a Frenchman’s beard (la barbe)? Why is Russian water a she, and why does she become a he once you have dipped a tea bag into her?

我们再以性别为例。像西班牙语、法语、德语和俄语这样的语言不仅强制你思考朋友和邻居的性别,而且还心血来潮地赋予各种无生命的物体以性别。例如,法国人胡须怎么就成了阴性的?为何俄语中水是阴性的,但是把一个茶包放进她里面,她为何又会变成了他呢?

Mark Twain famously lamented such erratic genders as female turnips and neuter maidens in his rant “The Awful German Language.” But whereas he claimed that there was something particularly perverse about the German gender system, it is in fact English that is unusual, at least among European languages, in not treating turnips and tea cups as masculine or feminine.

众所周知,Mark Twain曾用“糟糕透顶的德语”一语来痛斥其稀奇古怪的词性,比如阴性的萝卜和中性的少女。尽管他声称德语的词性系统有些特别不合常理之处,但事实上,至少在欧洲各语言里,像英语这样不把萝卜和茶杯看作阴性或者阳性的,才真正是不同寻常。

Languages that treat an inanimate object as a he or a she force their speakers to talk about such an object as if it were a man or a woman. And as anyone whose mother tongue has a gender system will tell you, once the habit has taken hold, it is all but impossible to shake off. When I speak English, I may say about a bed that “it” is too soft, but as a native Hebrew speaker, I actually feel “she” is too soft. “She” stays feminine all the way from the lungs up to the glottis and is neutered only when she reaches the tip of the tongue.

那些把无生命物体当作他或她对待的语言,会迫使其使用者以它是一个男人或女人的方式来谈论该物体。而且,母语有性别系统的人会告诉你,一旦养成这种习惯,就不可能改掉了。当我说英语时,我可能会说一张床“它”太软了,但作为一个生来就讲希伯来语之人,我实际上是感觉到“她”太软了。从肺部上至声门,“她”一直都是阴性的,只有当她到达舌尖时才会变成中性。【编注:作者是犹太人,生于以色列特拉维夫市,在荷兰莱顿大学任教授

In recent years, various experiments have shown that grammatical genders can shape the feelings and associations of speakers toward objects around them. In the 1990s, for example, psychologists compared associations between speakers of German and Spanish. There are many inanimate nouns whose genders in the two languages are reversed. A German bridge is feminine (die Brücke), for instance, but el puente is masculine in Spanish; and the same goes for clocks, apartments, forks, newspapers, pockets, shoulders, stamps, tickets, violins, the sun, the world and love.

近几年,不同实验均表明,语法上的性别可以塑造说话人对周围物体的感觉和联想。比如1990年代,心理学家比较了德语使用者和西班牙语使用者的联想。两种语言中有很多无生命名词的性别是相反的。比如德语中的桥是阴性的(die Brücke),但是在西班牙语中桥(el puente)是阳性的。同样,时钟、公寓、叉子、报纸、口袋、肩膀、邮票、票、小提琴、太阳、世界和爱都是如此。

On the other hand, an apple is masculine for Germans but feminine in Spanish, and so are chairs, brooms, butterflies, keys, mountains, stars, tables, wars, rain and garbage. When speakers were asked to grade various objects on a range of characteristics, Spanish speakers deemed bridges, clocks and violins to have more “manly properties” like strength, but Germans tended to think of them as more slender or elegant. With objects like mountains or chairs, which are “he” in German but “she” in Spanish, the effect was reversed.

另一方面,对德国人来说,苹果是阳性的,但是在西班牙语中则是阴性的,椅子、扫帚、蝴蝶、钥匙、山岳、星星、桌子、战争、雨和垃圾也是如此。当说话者被要求对不同物体的一系列特征进行评分时,说西班牙语的人认为桥梁、时钟和小提琴拥有更多“男性特质”,比如力量;但是德国人则倾向于认为它们更加纤弱或雅致。对于像山岳或椅子这样德语中为阳性而在西班牙语为阴性的物品来说,效果正好相反。

In a different experiment, French and Spanish speakers were asked to assign human voices to various objects in a cartoon. When French speakers saw a picture of a fork (la fourchette), most of them wanted it to speak in a woman’s voice, but Spanish speakers, for whom el tenedor is masculine, preferred a gravelly male voice for it. More recently, psychologists have even shown that “gendered languages” imprint gender traits for objects so strongly in the mind that these associations obstruct speakers’ ability to commit information to memory.

在另一个实验中,说法语和西班牙语的人被要求为卡通中的不同物体配上人类发音。说法语的人看到一幅叉子(la fourchette)的图片时,大多数就想要为它配上女性声音,但在西班牙语中,叉子(el tenedor)是阳性的,其使用者就会更倾向于给它一个沙哑的男性声音。心理学家最近甚至揭示,“名词具有词性的语言”会将物体的性别特性在思维上留下极为深刻的印记,以致于这种联想甚至会阻碍语言使用者记忆信息的能力。

Of course, all this does not mean that speakers of Spanish or French or German fail to understand that inanimate objects do not really have biological sex — a German woman rarely mistakes her husband for a hat, and Spanish men are not known to confuse a bed with what might be lying in it. Nonetheless, once gender connotations have been imposed on impressionable young minds, they lead those with a gendered mother tongue to see the inanimate world through lenses tinted with associations and emotional responses that English speakers — stuck in their monochrome desert of “its” — are entirely oblivious to.

当然,所有这些并不意味着说西班牙语、法语或者德语的人不能理解无生命物体并没有真正的生物性别——一个德国女性很少会把她的丈夫错认为一顶帽子,西班牙男性也并不以混淆床和床上的东西而著称。然而,一旦性别涵义强加于易受影响的年轻头脑上,它们就会使得母语中名词具有词性的人通过联想和感性回应的滤镜来看待这无生命的世界,而这是困在单色的“its”沙漠中的英语使用者完全察觉不到的。

Did the opposite genders of “bridge” in German and Spanish, for example, have an effect on the design of bridges in Spain and Germany? Do the emotional maps imposed by a gender system have higher-level behavioral consequences for our everyday life? Do they shape tastes, fashions, habits and preferences in the societies concerned? At the current state of our knowledge about the brain, this is not something that can be easily measured in a psychology lab. But it would be surprising if they didn’t.

例如,“桥梁”在德语和西班牙语中相反的性别会对两国桥梁的设计有影响吗?词性系统所设置的情感地图对我们的日常生活会产生更高级别的行为后果吗?它们会影响相关社会的品味、时尚、习惯和倾向吗?在我们有关大脑的现有知识状态下,这并不是能在心理学实验室轻松测量出来的事情。但是如果它们没有影响,这会叫人意外。

The area where the most striking evidence for the influence of language on thought has come to light is the language of space — how we describe the orientation of the world around us. Suppose you want to give someone directions for getting to your house. You might say: “After the traffic lights, take the first left, then the second right, and then you’ll see a white house in front of you. Our door is on the right.” But in theory, you could also say: “After the traffic lights, drive north, and then on the second crossing drive east, and you’ll see a white house directly to the east. Ours is the southern door.”

我们在某个领域已经发现了有关语言影响思想的最引人注目的证据。这一领域就是有关空间的语言——我们如何描述我们周围世界的方向。假设你想给要去你家的某人指路。你可能会说:“过了红绿灯后,第一个路口左转,然后第二个路口右转,然后你会看到面前有一栋白房子。我家门在右边。”但是理论上,你也可以说:“过了红绿灯后,向北开,然后在第二个十字路口往东开,然后你会看到正东方向有栋白房子。我家门是南边那个。”

These two sets of directions may describe the same route, but they rely on different systems of coordinates. The first uses egocentric coordinates, which depend on our own bodies: a left-right axis and a front-back axis orthogonal to it. The second system uses fixed geographic directions, which do not rotate with us wherever we turn.

这两组指令描述的是同一路线,但是它们依赖不同的坐标系统。第一种使用了依赖自己身体的自我中心坐标:左右坐标轴和与之垂直的前后坐标轴。第二种系统使用固定的地理方向,不论我们转向何处都不会随我们旋转。

We find it useful to use geographic directions when hiking in the open countryside, for example, but the egocentric coordinates completely dominate our speech when we describe small-scale spaces. We don’t say: “When you get out of the elevator, walk south, and then take the second door to the east.” The reason the egocentric system is so dominant in our language is that it feels so much easier and more natural. After all, we always know where “behind” or “in front of” us is. We don’t need a map or a compass to work it out, we just feel it, because the egocentric coordinates are based directly on our own bodies and our immediate visual fields.

我们发现有时使用地理方向很有用,比如当我们在开阔的野外徒步时。但是当我们描述小型空间时,自我中心坐标在我们的言谈中占绝大多数。我们并不会这么说:“出电梯后,往南走,然后在第二个门往东走。”自我中心坐标在我们的语言中如此重要,原因是我们觉得用起来更容易、更自然。毕竟,我们总是会知道我们的“后面”或者“前面”在哪。我们不需要地图或者指南针来辨别前后,我们只需靠感觉,因为自我中心坐标直接基于我们的身体和当下的视野。

But then a remote Australian aboriginal tongue, Guugu Yimithirr, from north Queensland, turned up, and with it came the astounding realization that not all languages conform to what we have always taken as simply “natural.” In fact, Guugu Yimithirr doesn’t make any use of egocentric coordinates at all. The anthropologist John Haviland and later the linguist Stephen Levinson have shown that Guugu Yimithirr does not use words like “left” or “right,” “in front of” or “behind,” to describe the position of objects. Whenever we would use the egocentric system, the Guugu Yimithirr rely on cardinal directions.

可是且慢,一种生僻的澳洲土著语言——北昆士兰的Guugu Yimithirr语——冒了出来,它让人们震惊地意识到,并不是所有语言都符合我们理所当然认定的“自然”。事实上,Guugu Yimithir语根本不使用自我中心坐标。先是人类学家John Haviland,后来又有语言学家Stephen Levinson,都表示Guugu Yimithirr语并不使用诸如“左”或“右”、“前”或“后”这些词来描述物体的方位。在任何我们使用自我中心坐标的场合,Guugu Yimithirr语都依赖于东西南北这种基本方向。

If they want you to move over on the car seat to make room, they’ll say “move a bit to the east.” To tell you where exactly they left something in your house, they’ll say, “I left it on the southern edge of the western table.” Or they would warn you to “look out for that big ant just north of your foot.” Even when shown a film on television, they gave descriptions of it based on the orientation of the screen. If the television was facing north, and a man on the screen was approaching, they said that he was “coming northward.”

如果他们想让你在车座上挪出点空位来,他们会说“往东移一点。”为了告诉你他们忘在你家的东西的具体位置,他们会说,“我把它落在西边桌子的南边了。”他们还会警告你,“小心你脚北边的大蚂蚁。”甚至当电视上播放电影时,他们也会基于屏幕的朝向来描述电影。如果电视机朝北,屏幕上的男人正在靠近,他们会说他“正在往北走”。

When these peculiarities of Guugu Yimithirr were uncovered, they inspired a large-scale research project into the language of space. And as it happens, Guugu Yimithirr is not a freak occurrence; languages that rely primarily on geographical coordinates are scattered around the world, from Polynesia to Mexico, from Namibia to Bali.

Guugu Yimithirr语的这些怪异特性的发现,激发了对于空间语言的一项大规模研究项目。经过研究发现,Guugu Yimithirr语并不是不寻常的事情;主要依靠地理坐标的语言散落在世界各地,从波利尼西亚到墨西哥,从纳米比亚到巴厘岛。

For us, it might seem the height of absurdity for a dance teacher to say, “Now raise your north hand and move your south leg eastward.”But the joke would be lost on some: the Canadian-American musicologist Colin McPhee, who spent several years on Bali in the 1930s, recalls a young boy who showed great talent for dancing. As there was no instructor in the child’s village, McPhee arranged for him to stay with a teacher in a different village.

对于我们来说,如果一位舞蹈老师说“现在举起你北边的手,向东移动你的南腿”,可能听起来十分荒谬。但是某些情况下就不好笑了:曾于1930年代在巴厘岛生活过几年的美籍加拿大音乐学家Colin McPhee回忆说,他在那儿遇到过一个有着极佳舞蹈天赋的男孩。由于男孩的村子没有老师,McPhee就安排他跟着另一个村子的老师。

But when he came to check on the boy’s progress after a few days, he found the boy dejected and the teacher exasperated. It was impossible to teach the boy anything, because he simply did not understand any of the instructions. When told to take “three steps east” or “bend southwest,” he didn’t know what to do. The boy would not have had the least trouble with these directions in his own village, but because the landscape in the new village was entirely unfamiliar, he became disoriented and confused. Why didn’t the teacher use different instructions? He would probably have replied that saying “take three steps forward” or “bend backward” would be the height of absurdity.

但是几天后当他检查男孩的进展时,他发现男孩情绪低落而且老师充满怒气。因为男孩根本不能理解任何指令,所以没法教他任何事情。当被告知“向东三步”或者“往西南弯曲”时,他不知道该怎么做。男孩在他自己的村子就不会有这些方向上的麻烦,但是因为新村子的地貌完全不熟悉,他变得困惑,分不清方向。为什么老师不用不同的指令呢?他的回答大概是:说“往前三步”或者“向后弯曲”是极度荒谬的。

So different languages certainly make us speak about space in very different ways. But does this necessarily mean that we have to think about space differently? By now red lights should be flashing, because even if a language doesn’t have a word for “behind,” this doesn’t necessarily mean that its speakers wouldn’t be able to understand this concept. Instead, we should look for the possible consequences of what geographic languages oblige their speakers to convey. In particular, we should be on the lookout for what habits of mind might develop because of the necessity of specifying geographic directions all the time.

所以不同语言确实让我们对于空间的描述十分不同。但是这一定表明我们必须对空间有不同的思考吗?到此红灯应该闪起来了,因为即使一种语言没有“后面”这一个词,这不一定意味着说这种语言的人不能理解这个概念。相反,我们应该寻找地理语言强制它们的使用者传达某些内容所带来的后果。特别是我们应该留神观察,由于他们一直需要明确地理位置,他们的思维会形成什么样的习惯。

In order to speak a language like Guugu Yimithirr, you need to know where the cardinal directions are at each and every moment of your waking life. You need to have a compass in your mind that operates all the time, day and night, without lunch breaks or weekends off, since otherwise you would not be able to impart the most basic information or understand what people around you are saying. Indeed, speakers of geographic languages seem to have an almost-superhuman sense of orientation. Regardless of visibility conditions, regardless of whether they are in thick forest or on an open plain, whether outside or indoors or even in caves, whether stationary or moving, they have a spot-on sense of direction.

为了讲一种像Guugu Yimithirr这样的语言,你需要在你醒着的每一刻都知道基本方向在哪。你的脑中需要有一个一直运行的指南针,无论白天还是晚上,没有午休或者周末休息,否则你就无法表述最基本的信息,也无法理解周围人在说什么。确实,地理语言的使用者好像拥有近乎超人般的方向感。不管视线条件如何,不管他们在茂密的森林或是开阔的平原,不管在户外或是室内乃至洞穴中,不管静止还是移动,他们都有准确的方向感。

They don’t look at the sun and pause for a moment of calculation before they say, “There’s an ant just north of your foot.” They simply feel where north, south, west and east are, just as people with perfect pitch feel what each note is without having to calculate intervals.

他们不看太阳,也无需停下片刻计算一番,就能脱口而出“你脚的北边有一只蚂蚁。”他们凭感觉就能知道哪是北方、南方、西方和东方,就像有完美音调的人不用计算音程就能感觉出每个音调是什么。

There is a wealth of stories about what to us may seem like incredible feats of orientation but for speakers of geographic languages are just a matter of course. One report relates how a speaker of Tzeltal from southern Mexico was blindfolded and spun around more than 20 times in a darkened house. Still blindfolded and dizzy, he pointed without hesitation at the geographic directions.

在我们看来似乎不可思议的定位奇迹,对于使用地理语言的人来说是理所当然的事,关于此有太多故事可讲。一份报告描述了南墨西哥说Tzeltal语的人被蒙住眼睛在漆黑的屋子里转二十多圈的故事。转完后,虽然仍旧被蒙住双眼而且头昏,他还是毫不犹豫地指出了地理方向。

How does this work? The convention of communicating with geographic coordinates compels speakers from the youngest age to pay attention to the clues from the physical environment (the position of the sun, wind and so on) every second of their lives, and to develop an accurate memory of their own changing orientations at any given moment. So everyday communication in a geographic language provides the most intense imaginable drilling in geographic orientation (it has been estimated that as much as 1 word in 10 in a normal Guugu Yimithirr conversation is “north,” “south,” “west” or “east,” often accompanied by precise hand gestures).

这是怎么实现的呢?用地理坐标进行交流的习惯,使得说话者从很小开始就在生命中每一秒都去留意有关物理环境的线索(太阳的位置,风等等),培养出了在任何时刻都能记住自己方位变化的精确记忆力。所以在地理语言中,日常交流提供了对地理方位最大强度的想象训练(据估计,一次普通的Guugu Yimithirr语谈话中,每十个词就有一个是“北”“南”“西”或“东”,而且经常伴有准确的手部姿势)。

This habit of constant awareness to the geographic direction is inculcated almost from infancy: studies have shown that children in such societies start using geographic directions as early as age 2 and fully master the system by 7 or 8. With such an early and intense drilling, the habit soon becomes second nature, effortless and unconscious. When Guugu Yimithirr speakers were asked how they knew where north is, they couldn’t explain it any more than you can explain how you know where “behind” is.

这种恒常知晓地理方向的习惯从婴儿时期就开始得到灌输。研究表明,这种社会中的儿童最早在2岁就开始使用地理方向了,到了7、8岁就能完全掌握。有了这样早且高强度的训练,这种习惯很快就变成了毫不费力且不会察觉的第二本能。当Guugu Yimithirr语的使用者被问到他们如何知道哪是北方时,他们无法解释,就像你不能解释你怎么知道“后方”是哪一样。

But there is more to the effects of a geographic language, for the sense of orientation has to extend further in time than the immediate present. If you speak a Guugu Yimithirr-style language, your memories of anything that you might ever want to report will have to be stored with cardinal directions as part of the picture. One Guugu Yimithirr speaker was filmed telling his friends the story of how in his youth, he capsized in shark-infested waters.

但是地理语言的影响还不仅如此,因为方向感要求在当下时间的基础上有所延伸。如果你讲的是Guugu Yimithirr类型的语言,你对于自己想要说的任何东西的记忆都会将基本方向作为记忆画面的一部分来存储。一位讲Guugu Yimithirr的人曾被拍摄到向他的朋友讲述自己年轻时如何在遍布鲨鱼的水域里翻船的故事。

He and an older person were caught in a storm, and their boat tipped over. They both jumped into the water and managed to swim nearly three miles to the shore, only to discover that the missionary for whom they worked was far more concerned at the loss of the boat than relieved at their miraculous escape. Apart from the dramatic content, the remarkable thing about the story was that it was remembered throughout in cardinal directions: the speaker jumped into the water on the western side of the boat, his companion to the east of the boat, they saw a giant shark swimming north and so on.

他和一个年纪稍大的人被困在风暴中,他们的船翻了过来。他们都跳入水中,奋力游了3英里才到了海岸,却发现雇佣他们的传教士只关心船只损失,毫不庆幸他们奇迹般的死里逃生。除了这戏剧性的内容之外,值得注意的事情是整个故事都是通过基本方向来记忆的:说话者从船的西侧跳入水中,他的同伴在船的东侧跳下,他们看见了一条大鲨鱼从北面游来等等。

Perhaps the cardinal directions were just made up for the occasion? Well, quite by chance, the same person was filmed some years later telling the same story. The cardinal directions matched exactly in the two tellings. Even more remarkable were the spontaneous hand gestures that accompanied the story. For instance, the direction in which the boat rolled over was gestured in the correct geographic orientation, regardless of the direction the speaker was facing in the two films.

有没有可能,其中提到的基本方向只是临时想到的呢?很巧合的是,同一个人几年过后又被拍摄讲同样的故事。两次描述中的基本方向完全相符。更加引人注意的是伴随故事而出现的自发手势。例如,在讲述船往哪个方向摇晃时,他的手能够指向正确的地理方向,不管说话者在两段视频中面向哪个方向。

Psychological experiments have also shown that under certain circumstances, speakers of Guugu Yimithirr-style languages even remember “the same reality” differently from us. There has been heated debate about the interpretation of some of these experiments, but one conclusion that seems compelling is that while we are trained to ignore directional rotations when we commit information to memory, speakers of geographic languages are trained not to do so.

心理学实验也表明,在某些情况下,对于“同一个事实”,说Guugu Yimithirr型语言的人甚至会与我们有不同的记忆。关于如何解释部分此类实验,人们一直都有一些热烈的争议,但是有一个结论非常令人信服:尽管我们受到的思维训练是在记忆信息时忽略方向变化,但是说地理语言的人却被训练得不去这么做。

One way of understanding this is to imagine that you are traveling with a speaker of such a language and staying in a large chain-style hotel, with corridor upon corridor of identical-looking doors.Your friend is staying in the room opposite yours, and when you go into his room, you’ll see an exact replica of yours: the same bathroom door on the left, the same mirrored wardrobe on the right, the same main room with the same bed on the left, the same curtains drawn behind it, the same desk next to the wall on the right, the same television set on the left corner of the desk and the same telephone on the right. In short, you have seen the same room twice.

理解这种区别的一个方法是:想象你正与一个说这种语言的人一同旅行,住在一家各层走廊两边的门都一模一样的大型连锁酒店。你的朋友住在正对着你的房间,当你走进他的房间里时,你会看见跟你完全一样的房间:卫生间门一样在左侧,带镜衣柜一样在右侧,一样的主卧,床也一样在主卧的左边,后面一样是窗帘,靠右侧墙也一样摆着桌子,桌子的左边一样是电视,电话一样在右边。简言之,你两次看到的是相同的房间。

But when your friend comes into your room, he will see something quite different from this, because everything is reversed north-side-south. In his room the bed was in the north, while in yours it is in the south; the telephone that in his room was in the west is now in the east, and so on. So while you will see and remember the same room twice, a speaker of a geographic language will see and remember two different rooms.

但是当你的朋友进到你的房间时,他会看见相当不同的东西,因为所有事情都是南北颠倒的。在他的房间床是在北边,而在你的房间床是在南边;他房间里的电话是在西边,而你的在东边等等。所以尽管你两次看到并记住相同的房间,地理语言的使用者则看见和记住了两间不同的房间。

It is not easy for us to conceive how Guugu Yimithirr speakers experience the world, with a crisscrossing of cardinal directions imposed on any mental picture and any piece of graphic memory. Nor is it easy to speculate about how geographic languages affect areas of experience other than spatial orientation — whether they influence the speaker’s sense of identity, for instance, or bring about a less-egocentric outlook on life.

说Guugu Yimithirr的人把基本方向的十字瞄准器加诸于任何精神画面和图像记忆之上,我们很难想像他们是如何感受这个世界的。同时也很难猜测地理语言如何影响除了空间定向外的体验领域——比如它们是否会影响说话者对个体身份的理解或者是否会导致对于人生更少自我中心的看法。

But one piece of evidence is telling: if you saw a Guugu Yimithirr speaker pointing at himself, you would naturally assume he meant to draw attention to himself. In fact, he is pointing at a cardinal direction that happens to be behind his back. While we are always at the center of the world, and it would never occur to us that pointing in the direction of our chest could mean anything other than to draw attention to ourselves, a Guugu Yimithirr speaker points through himself, as if he were thin air and his own existence were irrelevant.

但是有个证据颇能说明问题:如果你看到一个说Guugu Yimithirr语的人指向他自己,你会自然地假设他有意引起对他自己的注意。事实上,他正在指向一个方向,刚好在他背后。尽管我们总是处于世界的中心,而且从来不会意识到,指向我们胸部方向的动作除了是想要引起对自己的注意之外,还能有什么别的意思,但是一个说Guugu Yimithirr语的人会指穿他自己,仿佛他是稀薄的空气,他自己的存在并不相关。

IN WHAT OTHER WAYS might the language we speak influence our experience of the world? Recently, it has been demonstrated in a series of ingenious experiments that we even perceive colors through the lens of our mother tongue. There are radical variations in the way languages carve up the spectrum of visible light; for example, green and blue are distinct colors in English but are considered shades of the same color in many languages.

我们所说的语言会在其他什么方面影响我们对世界的感受呢?最近,一系列别出心裁的实验表明,我们甚至是通过母语的滤镜来观察颜色的。在区分可见光光谱方面,各语言有很大的不同;例如,英语中绿色和蓝色是不同的颜色,但是在很多语言中它们却是同种颜色的不同色调。

And it turns out that the colors that our language routinely obliges us to treat as distinct can refine our purely visual sensitivity to certain color differences in reality, so that our brains are trained to exaggerate the distance between shades of color if these have different names in our language. 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.

我们还发现,我们的语言所经常性地强制我们加以区分的颜色,会修正我们对于现实中特定颜色区别的视觉敏感性,所以如果这些颜色在我们的语言中有不同的名字,我们的大脑就会被训练得夸大不同色度颜色的差距。虽然这听起来很奇怪,但是我们对于Chagall画作的感受某种程度其实依赖于我们语言中是否有蓝色这一单词。

In coming years, researchers may also be able to shed light on the impact of language on more subtle areas of perception. For instance, 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.

在未来几年,研究人员或许能发现语言对更细微的感知领域的影响。例如,一些语言,像秘鲁的Matses,会像最挑剔的律师一样强制其使用者详细说明他们如何知晓正在讲述的事实。你不能像在英语中那样简单地说,“一动物经过了此处。”你必须用不同动词形式详细说明,这是直接经历的(你看到了一动物正在经过)、还是你推断的(你看到了脚印)、还是你猜测的(动物一般都会在一天中的那个时间经过那里),还是你听说的,诸如此类。

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.

如果提出一份陈述时的“证据性质”不正确,该陈述就会被认为是谎言。所以,举例来说,如果你问一个Matses男性他有多少老婆,除非他在那时能看到他妻子,否则他必须用过去时回答,会说一些“上次核实时,我有两个老婆”这样的话。毕竟,鉴于他的老婆并不在场,他不能绝对确定自从他上次看到她们后,他们中的一个有无死亡或者跟其他男人跑掉,即使“上次核实”也就在5分钟之前。

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? When our experimental tools are less blunt, such questions will be amenable to empirical study.

所以他不能用现在时把这作为一个确定事实来说。这种如此小心复杂地思考认识论的需要,会影响说话者对人生的看法或者他们对真相和起因的理解吗?只有在我们的实验工具足够锐利时,这些问题才能经受实证研究的检验。

For many years, our mother tongue was claimed to be a “prison house” that constrained our capacity to reason. Once it turned out that there was no evidence for such claims, this was taken as proof that people of all cultures think in fundamentally the same way. But surely it is a mistake to overestimate the importance of abstract reasoning in our lives. After all, how many daily decisions do we make on the basis of deductive logic compared with those guided by gut feeling, intuition, emotions, impulse or practical skills?

很多年来,我们的母语被称为限制我们理性能力的“牢笼”。一旦证明这样的说法没有证据,人们就以为这证明了所有文化的人根本上都以相同的方式进行思考。但是,过分高估抽象推理在我们生命中的重要性,这显然是个错误。毕竟,与那些在感觉、直觉、情感、冲动或实用技能指导下做出的日常决定相比,我们有多少决定是在演绎逻辑的基础上做出的呢?

The habits of mind that our culture has instilled in us from infancy shape our orientation to the world and our emotional responses to the objects we encounter, and their consequences probably go far beyond what has been experimentally demonstrated so far; they may also have a marked impact on our beliefs, values and ideologies. We may not know as yet how to measure these consequences directly or how to assess their contribution to cultural or political misunderstandings. But as a first step toward understanding one another, we can do better than pretending we all think the same.

我们的文化从婴儿时期就灌输进我们大脑的习惯,会影响我们在世界中的定向,和对我们所遇到的东西的情感回应,它们的影响可能比目前实验所揭示的要更深远;它们可能对我们的信仰、价值观和思想体系也有显著影响。我们可能还不知道如何直接测量这些影响,或者如何评估它们对于文化或政治误解的作用。但是作为迈向理解彼此的第一步,我们还可以做的更好,不能假装所有人都以相同方式思考。

Guy Deutscher is an honorary research fellow at the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures at the University of Manchester. His new book, from which this article is adapted, is “Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages,” to be published this month by Metropolitan Books.

Guy Deutscher是曼彻斯特大学语言与文化学院的荣誉研究员。他的新书《透过语言之镜:为何其他语言中的世界看起来如此不同》这个月将由Metropolitan Books出版,本文即选摘自此书。

(编辑:辉格@whigzhou)

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Does Your Language Shape How You Think? 语言是否塑造了你的思维方式? 作者:Guy Deutscher @ 2010-8-26 译者:尼克基得慢(@尼克基得慢) 校对:沈沉(@你在何地-sxy) 来源:NYtimes,http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/magazine/29language-t.html?_r=0 Seventy years ago, in 1940, a popular science magazine published a short article that set in motion one of the trendiest intellectual fads of the 20th century.At first glance, there seemed little about the article to augur its subsequent celebrity. Neither the title, “Science and Linguistics,” nor the magazine, M.I.T.’s Technology Review, was most people’s idea of glamour. 在七十年前的1940年,一份大众科学杂志发表了一篇短文,开启了二十世纪最新潮的思想风尚之一。乍看这篇文章,很难预料到它之后的名气。无论是文章标题《科学和语言学》,还是刊登的杂志《麻省理工科技评论》,都跟大多数人心目中的魅力不沾边。 And the author, a chemical engineer who worked for an insurance company and moonlighted as an anthropology lecturer at Yale University, was an unlikely candidate for international superstardom. And yet Benjamin Lee Whorf let loose an alluring idea about language’s power over the mind, and his stirring prose seduced a whole generation into believing that our mother tongue restricts what we are able to think. 而且,身为保险公司的化学工程师,同时兼职担任耶鲁大学人类学讲师,作者的这种身份并没有成为国际超级巨星的潜质。然而Benjamin Lee Whorf提出了一种关于语言对思维影响的诱人观点,而且他激动人心的文章诱使整整一代人相信,我们的母语限制了我们所能思考的内容。 In particular, Whorf announced, Native American languages impose on their speakers a picture of reality that is totally different from ours, so their speakers would simply not be able to understand some of our most basic concepts, like the flow of time or the distinction between objects (like “stone”) and actions (like “fall”). 特别是,Whorf宣称,美洲土著语言令它们的使用者形成了与我们完全不同的现实图景,所以美洲土著完全不能理解我们的一些最基本概念,比如时间的流逝,以及物体(比如“石头”)与动作(比如“下落”)的区分。 For decades, Whorf’s theory dazzled both academics and the general public alike. In his shadow, others made a whole range of imaginative claims about the supposed power of language, from the assertion that Native American languages instill in their speakers an intuitive understanding of Einstein’s concept of time as a fourth dimension to the theory that the nature of the Jewish religion was determined by the tense system of ancient Hebrew. 几十年来,学术圈和普罗大众都为Whorf的理论所折服。在他的巨大影响下,其他人基于设想中的语言之威力提出了很多富有想象力的断言,比如断言美洲土著语言赋予了美洲土著对爱因斯坦将时间作为第四维这一观念的直观理解,又如提出犹太教的本质决定于古希伯来语时态系统的理论。 Eventually, Whorf’s theory crash-landed on hard facts and solid common sense, when it transpired that there had never actually been any evidence to support his fantastic claims. The reaction was so severe that for decades, any attempts to explore the influence of the mother tongue on our thoughts were relegated to the loony fringes of disrepute. 最终,当人们发现Whorf的荒诞断言从未有证据支持时,他的理论在坚硬的事实和可靠的常识面前败退了。这一反弹的后果如此严重,以至于数十年里,任何探究母语对于我们思考之影响的尝试都被贬斥为不光彩的疯狂之举。 But 70 years on, it is surely time to put the trauma of Whorf behind us. And in the last few years, new research has revealed that when we learn our mother tongue, we do after all acquire certain habits of thought that shape our experience in significant and often surprising ways. 但是70年过去了,是时候把Whorf造成的不幸放诸脑后了。在过去几年里,新近研究表明,我们在学习母语时确实会养成一些思维习惯,这些习惯会以重要且出乎意料的方式塑造我们的体验。 Whorf, we now know, made many mistakes. The most serious one was to assume that our mother tongue constrains our minds and prevents us from being able to think certain thoughts. The general structure of his arguments was to claim that if a language has no word for a certain concept, then its speakers would not be able to understand this concept. If a language has no future tense, for instance, its speakers would simply not be able to grasp our notion of future time. 我们现在知道Whorf犯了许多错误。最严重的一个就是,他假定我们的母语会限制我们的思维,而且使我们无力思考某些概念。他论证的大体框架就是声称,如果一种语言没有某种概念对应的词汇,该语言的使用者就不能理解这种概念。例如,假设一种语言没有将来时态,它的使用者就无法理解未来时间的概念。 It seems barely comprehensible that this line of argument could ever have achieved such success, given that so much contrary evidence confronts you wherever you look. When you ask, in perfectly normal English, and in the present tense, “Are you coming tomorrow?” do you feel your grip on the notion of futurity slipping away? Do English speakers who have never heard the German word Schadenfreude find it difficult to understand the concept of relishing someone else’s misfortune? Or think about it this way: If the inventory of ready-made words in your language determined which concepts you were able to understand, how would you ever learn anything new? 我们很难理解为什么这一论点竟能获得如此巨大的成功,因为你随处可见大量相反的证据。当你用完全标准的英语以现在时态问出“Are you coming tomorrow?”这句话时,难道你就感觉到对未来这一概念的理解随之消逝了吗?难道从未听说过德语单词Schadenfreude的英语使用者就很难理解幸灾乐祸这一概念吗?或者这样思考一下:如果你的母语中现存的全部词汇决定了你可以理解哪些概念,那你又如何可能学到任何新东西呢? SINCE THERE IS NO EVIDENCE that any language forbids its speakers to think anything, we must look in an entirely different direction to discover how our mother tongue really does shape our experience of the world. Some 50 years ago, the renowned linguist Roman Jakobson pointed out a crucial fact about differences between languages in a pithy maxim: “Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.” This maxim offers us the key to unlocking the real force of the mother tongue: if different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because of what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually obliges us to think about. 既然并无证据表明任何一种语言会令其使用者无法思考某些事情,我们必须从反方向来探究我们的母语如何确实塑造了我们对世界的感受。大概五十年前,著名语言学家Roman Jakobson 用一句精辟箴言指出了关于不同语言之差异的一个关键事实:“语言实质上区别于它们所必须表达的内容,而不是它们可能表达的内容。”这句箴言给我们提供了解开母语真实威力的钥匙:如果不同的语言会以不同的方式影响我们的思维,这不会是由于语言允许我们思考什么内容,而会是由于语言内在地强制我们思考什么内容。 Consider this example. Suppose I say to you in English that “I spent yesterday evening with a neighbor.” You may well wonder whether my companion was male or female, but I have the right to tell you politely that it’s none of your business. But if we were speaking French or German, I wouldn’t have the privilege to equivocate in this way, because I would be obliged by the grammar of language to choose between voisin or voisineNachbar or Nachbarin. 考虑这样一个例子。假设我用英语对你说“我昨天晚上跟我的邻居一起”。你或许会想知道我的同伴是男还是女,但是我有权礼貌地告诉你这事与你无关。但是如果我们讲法语或者德语,我就没有这样含糊其辞的特权了,因为语法强制我必须从voisin与voisine或者Nachbar与Nachbarin中选择一个。 These languages compel me to inform you about the sex of my companion whether or not I feel it is remotely your concern. This does not mean, of course, that English speakers are unable to understand the differences between evenings spent with male or female neighbors, but it does mean that they do not have to consider the sexes of neighbors, friends, teachers and a host of other persons each time they come up in a conversation, whereas speakers of some languages are obliged to do so. 这些语言强迫我将同伴的性别告知你,不管我是否认为你与此事有什么干系。当然,这并不意味着英语使用者就无法理解与男邻居共度的夜晚和与女邻居共度的夜晚之间的区别,但这确实意味着他们并不需要思考在对话中出现的邻居、朋友、老师和其他许多人的性别,然而某些语言的使用者却必须这么做。 On the other hand, English does oblige you to specify certain types of information that can be left to the context in other languages. If I want to tell you in English about a dinner with my neighbor, I may not have to mention the neighbor’s sex, but I do have to tell you something about the timing of the event: I have to decide whether we dinedhave been diningare diningwill be dining and so on. 另一方面,英语也会强制你明确说明某些类型的信息,而这些信息在其他语言里可以留在语境里面。如果我想用英文给你讲我跟邻居的一顿晚餐,我可能不用必须提到我邻居的性别,但是我却必须告知你有关事件发生时间的一些东西:我必须选择我们是已经吃过晚饭了(we dined)、已经在吃着晚饭(have been dining)、正在吃着晚饭(are dining)还是将要吃晚饭(will be dining)等。 Chinese, on the other hand, does not oblige its speakers to specify the exact time of the action in this way, because the same verb form can be used for past, present or future actions. Again, this does not mean that the Chinese are unable to understand the concept of time. But it does mean they are not obliged to think about timing whenever they describe an action. 与此不同,汉语则并不强制其使用者这样详细说明动作的具体时间,因为汉语中同样的动词可以用于指称过去的、现在的和将来的动作。同样地,这并不意味这中国人就无法理解时间的概念。但是这确实意味着,无论何时描述一个动作,他们都不会被强制去考虑时间的问题。 When your language routinely obliges you to specify certain types of information, it forces you to be attentive to certain details in the world and to certain aspects of experience that speakers of other languages may not be required to think about all the time. And since such habits of speech are cultivated from the earliest age, it is only natural that they can settle into habits of mind that go beyond language itself, affecting your experiences, perceptions, associations, feelings, memories and orientation in the world. 当你所用的语言经常强制你去说明特定种类的信息时,它会迫使你关注世界中的某些特定细节和经历中的某些特定方面,而这可能是其他语言的使用者不必一直思考的。因为这些说话的习惯从很小就开始养成,他们很自然就会变成超越语言本身的思维习惯,影响你在世上的体验、知觉、联想、感觉、记忆和倾向。 BUT IS THERE any evidence for this happening in practice? 但是有证据表明上述影响在现实中发生过吗? Let’s take genders again. Languages like Spanish, French, German and Russian not only oblige you to think about the sex of friends and neighbors, but they also assign a male or female gender to a whole range of inanimate objects quite at whim. What, for instance, is particularly feminine about a Frenchman’s beard (la barbe)? Why is Russian water a she, and why does she become a he once you have dipped a tea bag into her? 我们再以性别为例。像西班牙语、法语、德语和俄语这样的语言不仅强制你思考朋友和邻居的性别,而且还心血来潮地赋予各种无生命的物体以性别。例如,法国人胡须怎么就成了阴性的?为何俄语中水是阴性的,但是把一个茶包放进她里面,她为何又会变成了他呢? Mark Twain famously lamented such erratic genders as female turnips and neuter maidens in his rant “The Awful German Language.” But whereas he claimed that there was something particularly perverse about the German gender system, it is in fact English that is unusual, at least among European languages, in not treating turnips and tea cups as masculine or feminine. 众所周知,Mark Twain曾用“糟糕透顶的德语”一语来痛斥其稀奇古怪的词性,比如阴性的萝卜和中性的少女。尽管他声称德语的词性系统有些特别不合常理之处,但事实上,至少在欧洲各语言里,像英语这样不把萝卜和茶杯看作阴性或者阳性的,才真正是不同寻常。 Languages that treat an inanimate object as a he or a she force their speakers to talk about such an object as if it were a man or a woman. And as anyone whose mother tongue has a gender system will tell you, once the habit has taken hold, it is all but impossible to shake off. When I speak English, I may say about a bed that “it” is too soft, but as a native Hebrew speaker, I actually feel “she” is too soft. “She” stays feminine all the way from the lungs up to the glottis and is neutered only when she reaches the tip of the tongue. 那些把无生命物体当作他或她对待的语言,会迫使其使用者以它是一个男人或女人的方式来谈论该物体。而且,母语有性别系统的人会告诉你,一旦养成这种习惯,就不可能改掉了。当我说英语时,我可能会说一张床“它”太软了,但作为一个生来就讲希伯来语之人,我实际上是感觉到“她”太软了。从肺部上至声门,“她”一直都是阴性的,只有当她到达舌尖时才会变成中性。【编注:作者是犹太人,生于以色列特拉维夫市,在荷兰莱顿大学任教授】 In recent years, various experiments have shown that grammatical genders can shape the feelings and associations of speakers toward objects around them. In the 1990s, for example, psychologists compared associations between speakers of German and Spanish. There are many inanimate nouns whose genders in the two languages are reversed. A German bridge is feminine (die Brücke), for instance, but el puente is masculine in Spanish; and the same goes for clocks, apartments, forks, newspapers, pockets, shoulders, stamps, tickets, violins, the sun, the world and love. 近几年,不同实验均表明,语法上的性别可以塑造说话人对周围物体的感觉和联想。比如1990年代,心理学家比较了德语使用者和西班牙语使用者的联想。两种语言中有很多无生命名词的性别是相反的。比如德语中的桥是阴性的(die Brücke),但是在西班牙语中桥(el puente)是阳性的。同样,时钟、公寓、叉子、报纸、口袋、肩膀、邮票、票、小提琴、太阳、世界和爱都是如此。 On the other hand, an apple is masculine for Germans but feminine in Spanish, and so are chairs, brooms, butterflies, keys, mountains, stars, tables, wars, rain and garbage. When speakers were asked to grade various objects on a range of characteristics, Spanish speakers deemed bridges, clocks and violins to have more “manly properties” like strength, but Germans tended to think of them as more slender or elegant. With objects like mountains or chairs, which are “he” in German but “she” in Spanish, the effect was reversed. 另一方面,对德国人来说,苹果是阳性的,但是在西班牙语中则是阴性的,椅子、扫帚、蝴蝶、钥匙、山岳、星星、桌子、战争、雨和垃圾也是如此。当说话者被要求对不同物体的一系列特征进行评分时,说西班牙语的人认为桥梁、时钟和小提琴拥有更多“男性特质”,比如力量;但是德国人则倾向于认为它们更加纤弱或雅致。对于像山岳或椅子这样德语中为阳性而在西班牙语为阴性的物品来说,效果正好相反。 In a different experiment, French and Spanish speakers were asked to assign human voices to various objects in a cartoon. When French speakers saw a picture of a fork (la fourchette), most of them wanted it to speak in a woman’s voice, but Spanish speakers, for whom el tenedor is masculine, preferred a gravelly male voice for it. More recently, psychologists have even shown that “gendered languages” imprint gender traits for objects so strongly in the mind that these associations obstruct speakers’ ability to commit information to memory. 在另一个实验中,说法语和西班牙语的人被要求为卡通中的不同物体配上人类发音。说法语的人看到一幅叉子(la fourchette)的图片时,大多数就想要为它配上女性声音,但在西班牙语中,叉子(el tenedor)是阳性的,其使用者就会更倾向于给它一个沙哑的男性声音。心理学家最近甚至揭示,“名词具有词性的语言”会将物体的性别特性在思维上留下极为深刻的印记,以致于这种联想甚至会阻碍语言使用者记忆信息的能力。 Of course, all this does not mean that speakers of Spanish or French or German fail to understand that inanimate objects do not really have biological sex — a German woman rarely mistakes her husband for a hat, and Spanish men are not known to confuse a bed with what might be lying in it. Nonetheless, once gender connotations have been imposed on impressionable young minds, they lead those with a gendered mother tongue to see the inanimate world through lenses tinted with associations and emotional responses that English speakers — stuck in their monochrome desert of “its” — are entirely oblivious to. 当然,所有这些并不意味着说西班牙语、法语或者德语的人不能理解无生命物体并没有真正的生物性别——一个德国女性很少会把她的丈夫错认为一顶帽子,西班牙男性也并不以混淆床和床上的东西而著称。然而,一旦性别涵义强加于易受影响的年轻头脑上,它们就会使得母语中名词具有词性的人通过联想和感性回应的滤镜来看待这无生命的世界,而这是困在单色的“its”沙漠中的英语使用者完全察觉不到的。 Did the opposite genders of “bridge” in German and Spanish, for example, have an effect on the design of bridges in Spain and Germany? Do the emotional maps imposed by a gender system have higher-level behavioral consequences for our everyday life? Do they shape tastes, fashions, habits and preferences in the societies concerned? At the current state of our knowledge about the brain, this is not something that can be easily measured in a psychology lab. But it would be surprising if they didn’t. 例如,“桥梁”在德语和西班牙语中相反的性别会对两国桥梁的设计有影响吗?词性系统所设置的情感地图对我们的日常生活会产生更高级别的行为后果吗?它们会影响相关社会的品味、时尚、习惯和倾向吗?在我们有关大脑的现有知识状态下,这并不是能在心理学实验室轻松测量出来的事情。但是如果它们没有影响,这会叫人意外。 The area where the most striking evidence for the influence of language on thought has come to light is the language of space — how we describe the orientation of the world around us. Suppose you want to give someone directions for getting to your house. You might say: “After the traffic lights, take the first left, then the second right, and then you’ll see a white house in front of you. Our door is on the right.” But in theory, you could also say: “After the traffic lights, drive north, and then on the second crossing drive east, and you’ll see a white house directly to the east. Ours is the southern door.” 我们在某个领域已经发现了有关语言影响思想的最引人注目的证据。这一领域就是有关空间的语言——我们如何描述我们周围世界的方向。假设你想给要去你家的某人指路。你可能会说:“过了红绿灯后,第一个路口左转,然后第二个路口右转,然后你会看到面前有一栋白房子。我家门在右边。”但是理论上,你也可以说:“过了红绿灯后,向北开,然后在第二个十字路口往东开,然后你会看到正东方向有栋白房子。我家门是南边那个。” These two sets of directions may describe the same route, but they rely on different systems of coordinates. The first uses egocentric coordinates, which depend on our own bodies: a left-right axis and a front-back axis orthogonal to it. The second system uses fixed geographic directions, which do not rotate with us wherever we turn. 这两组指令描述的是同一路线,但是它们依赖不同的坐标系统。第一种使用了依赖自己身体的自我中心坐标:左右坐标轴和与之垂直的前后坐标轴。第二种系统使用固定的地理方向,不论我们转向何处都不会随我们旋转。 We find it useful to use geographic directions when hiking in the open countryside, for example, but the egocentric coordinates completely dominate our speech when we describe small-scale spaces. We don’t say: “When you get out of the elevator, walk south, and then take the second door to the east.” The reason the egocentric system is so dominant in our language is that it feels so much easier and more natural. After all, we always know where “behind” or “in front of” us is. We don’t need a map or a compass to work it out, we just feel it, because the egocentric coordinates are based directly on our own bodies and our immediate visual fields. 我们发现有时使用地理方向很有用,比如当我们在开阔的野外徒步时。但是当我们描述小型空间时,自我中心坐标在我们的言谈中占绝大多数。我们并不会这么说:“出电梯后,往南走,然后在第二个门往东走。”自我中心坐标在我们的语言中如此重要,原因是我们觉得用起来更容易、更自然。毕竟,我们总是会知道我们的“后面”或者“前面”在哪。我们不需要地图或者指南针来辨别前后,我们只需靠感觉,因为自我中心坐标直接基于我们的身体和当下的视野。 But then a remote Australian aboriginal tongue, Guugu Yimithirr, from north Queensland, turned up, and with it came the astounding realization that not all languages conform to what we have always taken as simply “natural.” In fact, Guugu Yimithirr doesn’t make any use of egocentric coordinates at all. The anthropologist John Haviland and later the linguist Stephen Levinson have shown that Guugu Yimithirr does not use words like “left” or “right,” “in front of” or “behind,” to describe the position of objects. Whenever we would use the egocentric system, the Guugu Yimithirr rely on cardinal directions. 可是且慢,一种生僻的澳洲土著语言——北昆士兰的Guugu Yimithirr语——冒了出来,它让人们震惊地意识到,并不是所有语言都符合我们理所当然认定的“自然”。事实上,Guugu Yimithir语根本不使用自我中心坐标。先是人类学家John Haviland,后来又有语言学家Stephen Levinson,都表示Guugu Yimithirr语并不使用诸如“左”或“右”、“前”或“后”这些词来描述物体的方位。在任何我们使用自我中心坐标的场合,Guugu Yimithirr语都依赖于东西南北这种基本方向。 If they want you to move over on the car seat to make room, they’ll say “move a bit to the east.” To tell you where exactly they left something in your house, they’ll say, “I left it on the southern edge of the western table.” Or they would warn you to “look out for that big ant just north of your foot.” Even when shown a film on television, they gave descriptions of it based on the orientation of the screen. If the television was facing north, and a man on the screen was approaching, they said that he was “coming northward.” 如果他们想让你在车座上挪出点空位来,他们会说“往东移一点。”为了告诉你他们忘在你家的东西的具体位置,他们会说,“我把它落在西边桌子的南边了。”他们还会警告你,“小心你脚北边的大蚂蚁。”甚至当电视上播放电影时,他们也会基于屏幕的朝向来描述电影。如果电视机朝北,屏幕上的男人正在靠近,他们会说他“正在往北走”。 When these peculiarities of Guugu Yimithirr were uncovered, they inspired a large-scale research project into the language of space. And as it happens, Guugu Yimithirr is not a freak occurrence; languages that rely primarily on geographical coordinates are scattered around the world, from Polynesia to Mexico, from Namibia to Bali. Guugu Yimithirr语的这些怪异特性的发现,激发了对于空间语言的一项大规模研究项目。经过研究发现,Guugu Yimithirr语并不是不寻常的事情;主要依靠地理坐标的语言散落在世界各地,从波利尼西亚到墨西哥,从纳米比亚到巴厘岛。 For us, it might seem the height of absurdity for a dance teacher to say, “Now raise your north hand and move your south leg eastward.”But the joke would be lost on some: the Canadian-American musicologist Colin McPhee, who spent several years on Bali in the 1930s, recalls a young boy who showed great talent for dancing. As there was no instructor in the child’s village, McPhee arranged for him to stay with a teacher in a different village. 对于我们来说,如果一位舞蹈老师说“现在举起你北边的手,向东移动你的南腿”,可能听起来十分荒谬。但是某些情况下就不好笑了:曾于1930年代在巴厘岛生活过几年的美籍加拿大音乐学家Colin McPhee回忆说,他在那儿遇到过一个有着极佳舞蹈天赋的男孩。由于男孩的村子没有老师,McPhee就安排他跟着另一个村子的老师。 But when he came to check on the boy’s progress after a few days, he found the boy dejected and the teacher exasperated. It was impossible to teach the boy anything, because he simply did not understand any of the instructions. When told to take “three steps east” or “bend southwest,” he didn’t know what to do. The boy would not have had the least trouble with these directions in his own village, but because the landscape in the new village was entirely unfamiliar, he became disoriented and confused. Why didn’t the teacher use different instructions? He would probably have replied that saying “take three steps forward” or “bend backward” would be the height of absurdity. 但是几天后当他检查男孩的进展时,他发现男孩情绪低落而且老师充满怒气。因为男孩根本不能理解任何指令,所以没法教他任何事情。当被告知“向东三步”或者“往西南弯曲”时,他不知道该怎么做。男孩在他自己的村子就不会有这些方向上的麻烦,但是因为新村子的地貌完全不熟悉,他变得困惑,分不清方向。为什么老师不用不同的指令呢?他的回答大概是:说“往前三步”或者“向后弯曲”是极度荒谬的。 So different languages certainly make us speak about space in very different ways. But does this necessarily mean that we have to think about space differently? By now red lights should be flashing, because even if a language doesn’t have a word for “behind,” this doesn’t necessarily mean that its speakers wouldn’t be able to understand this concept. Instead, we should look for the possible consequences of what geographic languages oblige their speakers to convey. In particular, we should be on the lookout for what habits of mind might develop because of the necessity of specifying geographic directions all the time. 所以不同语言确实让我们对于空间的描述十分不同。但是这一定表明我们必须对空间有不同的思考吗?到此红灯应该闪起来了,因为即使一种语言没有“后面”这一个词,这不一定意味着说这种语言的人不能理解这个概念。相反,我们应该寻找地理语言强制它们的使用者传达某些内容所带来的后果。特别是我们应该留神观察,由于他们一直需要明确地理位置,他们的思维会形成什么样的习惯。 In order to speak a language like Guugu Yimithirr, you need to know where the cardinal directions are at each and every moment of your waking life. You need to have a compass in your mind that operates all the time, day and night, without lunch breaks or weekends off, since otherwise you would not be able to impart the most basic information or understand what people around you are saying. Indeed, speakers of geographic languages seem to have an almost-superhuman sense of orientation. Regardless of visibility conditions, regardless of whether they are in thick forest or on an open plain, whether outside or indoors or even in caves, whether stationary or moving, they have a spot-on sense of direction. 为了讲一种像Guugu Yimithirr这样的语言,你需要在你醒着的每一刻都知道基本方向在哪。你的脑中需要有一个一直运行的指南针,无论白天还是晚上,没有午休或者周末休息,否则你就无法表述最基本的信息,也无法理解周围人在说什么。确实,地理语言的使用者好像拥有近乎超人般的方向感。不管视线条件如何,不管他们在茂密的森林或是开阔的平原,不管在户外或是室内乃至洞穴中,不管静止还是移动,他们都有准确的方向感。 They don’t look at the sun and pause for a moment of calculation before they say, “There’s an ant just north of your foot.” They simply feel where north, south, west and east are, just as people with perfect pitch feel what each note is without having to calculate intervals. 他们不看太阳,也无需停下片刻计算一番,就能脱口而出“你脚的北边有一只蚂蚁。”他们凭感觉就能知道哪是北方、南方、西方和东方,就像有完美音调的人不用计算音程就能感觉出每个音调是什么。 There is a wealth of stories about what to us may seem like incredible feats of orientation but for speakers of geographic languages are just a matter of course. One report relates how a speaker of Tzeltal from southern Mexico was blindfolded and spun around more than 20 times in a darkened house. Still blindfolded and dizzy, he pointed without hesitation at the geographic directions. 在我们看来似乎不可思议的定位奇迹,对于使用地理语言的人来说是理所当然的事,关于此有太多故事可讲。一份报告描述了南墨西哥说Tzeltal语的人被蒙住眼睛在漆黑的屋子里转二十多圈的故事。转完后,虽然仍旧被蒙住双眼而且头昏,他还是毫不犹豫地指出了地理方向。 How does this work? The convention of communicating with geographic coordinates compels speakers from the youngest age to pay attention to the clues from the physical environment (the position of the sun, wind and so on) every second of their lives, and to develop an accurate memory of their own changing orientations at any given moment. So everyday communication in a geographic language provides the most intense imaginable drilling in geographic orientation (it has been estimated that as much as 1 word in 10 in a normal Guugu Yimithirr conversation is “north,” “south,” “west” or “east,” often accompanied by precise hand gestures). 这是怎么实现的呢?用地理坐标进行交流的习惯,使得说话者从很小开始就在生命中每一秒都去留意有关物理环境的线索(太阳的位置,风等等),培养出了在任何时刻都能记住自己方位变化的精确记忆力。所以在地理语言中,日常交流提供了对地理方位最大强度的想象训练(据估计,一次普通的Guugu Yimithirr语谈话中,每十个词就有一个是“北”“南”“西”或“东”,而且经常伴有准确的手部姿势)。 This habit of constant awareness to the geographic direction is inculcated almost from infancy: studies have shown that children in such societies start using geographic directions as early as age 2 and fully master the system by 7 or 8. With such an early and intense drilling, the habit soon becomes second nature, effortless and unconscious. When Guugu Yimithirr speakers were asked how they knew where north is, they couldn’t explain it any more than you can explain how you know where “behind” is. 这种恒常知晓地理方向的习惯从婴儿时期就开始得到灌输。研究表明,这种社会中的儿童最早在2岁就开始使用地理方向了,到了7、8岁就能完全掌握。有了这样早且高强度的训练,这种习惯很快就变成了毫不费力且不会察觉的第二本能。当Guugu Yimithirr语的使用者被问到他们如何知道哪是北方时,他们无法解释,就像你不能解释你怎么知道“后方”是哪一样。 But there is more to the effects of a geographic language, for the sense of orientation has to extend further in time than the immediate present. If you speak a Guugu Yimithirr-style language, your memories of anything that you might ever want to report will have to be stored with cardinal directions as part of the picture. One Guugu Yimithirr speaker was filmed telling his friends the story of how in his youth, he capsized in shark-infested waters. 但是地理语言的影响还不仅如此,因为方向感要求在当下时间的基础上有所延伸。如果你讲的是Guugu Yimithirr类型的语言,你对于自己想要说的任何东西的记忆都会将基本方向作为记忆画面的一部分来存储。一位讲Guugu Yimithirr的人曾被拍摄到向他的朋友讲述自己年轻时如何在遍布鲨鱼的水域里翻船的故事。 He and an older person were caught in a storm, and their boat tipped over. They both jumped into the water and managed to swim nearly three miles to the shore, only to discover that the missionary for whom they worked was far more concerned at the loss of the boat than relieved at their miraculous escape. Apart from the dramatic content, the remarkable thing about the story was that it was remembered throughout in cardinal directions: the speaker jumped into the water on the western side of the boat, his companion to the east of the boat, they saw a giant shark swimming north and so on. 他和一个年纪稍大的人被困在风暴中,他们的船翻了过来。他们都跳入水中,奋力游了3英里才到了海岸,却发现雇佣他们的传教士只关心船只损失,毫不庆幸他们奇迹般的死里逃生。除了这戏剧性的内容之外,值得注意的事情是整个故事都是通过基本方向来记忆的:说话者从船的西侧跳入水中,他的同伴在船的东侧跳下,他们看见了一条大鲨鱼从北面游来等等。 Perhaps the cardinal directions were just made up for the occasion? Well, quite by chance, the same person was filmed some years later telling the same story. The cardinal directions matched exactly in the two tellings. Even more remarkable were the spontaneous hand gestures that accompanied the story. For instance, the direction in which the boat rolled over was gestured in the correct geographic orientation, regardless of the direction the speaker was facing in the two films. 有没有可能,其中提到的基本方向只是临时想到的呢?很巧合的是,同一个人几年过后又被拍摄讲同样的故事。两次描述中的基本方向完全相符。更加引人注意的是伴随故事而出现的自发手势。例如,在讲述船往哪个方向摇晃时,他的手能够指向正确的地理方向,不管说话者在两段视频中面向哪个方向。 Psychological experiments have also shown that under certain circumstances, speakers of Guugu Yimithirr-style languages even remember “the same reality” differently from us. There has been heated debate about the interpretation of some of these experiments, but one conclusion that seems compelling is that while we are trained to ignore directional rotations when we commit information to memory, speakers of geographic languages are trained not to do so. 心理学实验也表明,在某些情况下,对于“同一个事实”,说Guugu Yimithirr型语言的人甚至会与我们有不同的记忆。关于如何解释部分此类实验,人们一直都有一些热烈的争议,但是有一个结论非常令人信服:尽管我们受到的思维训练是在记忆信息时忽略方向变化,但是说地理语言的人却被训练得不去这么做。 One way of understanding this is to imagine that you are traveling with a speaker of such a language and staying in a large chain-style hotel, with corridor upon corridor of identical-looking doors.Your friend is staying in the room opposite yours, and when you go into his room, you’ll see an exact replica of yours: the same bathroom door on the left, the same mirrored wardrobe on the right, the same main room with the same bed on the left, the same curtains drawn behind it, the same desk next to the wall on the right, the same television set on the left corner of the desk and the same telephone on the right. In short, you have seen the same room twice. 理解这种区别的一个方法是:想象你正与一个说这种语言的人一同旅行,住在一家各层走廊两边的门都一模一样的大型连锁酒店。你的朋友住在正对着你的房间,当你走进他的房间里时,你会看见跟你完全一样的房间:卫生间门一样在左侧,带镜衣柜一样在右侧,一样的主卧,床也一样在主卧的左边,后面一样是窗帘,靠右侧墙也一样摆着桌子,桌子的左边一样是电视,电话一样在右边。简言之,你两次看到的是相同的房间。 But when your friend comes into your room, he will see something quite different from this, because everything is reversed north-side-south. In his room the bed was in the north, while in yours it is in the south; the telephone that in his room was in the west is now in the east, and so on. So while you will see and remember the same room twice, a speaker of a geographic language will see and remember two different rooms. 但是当你的朋友进到你的房间时,他会看见相当不同的东西,因为所有事情都是南北颠倒的。在他的房间床是在北边,而在你的房间床是在南边;他房间里的电话是在西边,而你的在东边等等。所以尽管你两次看到并记住相同的房间,地理语言的使用者则看见和记住了两间不同的房间。 It is not easy for us to conceive how Guugu Yimithirr speakers experience the world, with a crisscrossing of cardinal directions imposed on any mental picture and any piece of graphic memory. Nor is it easy to speculate about how geographic languages affect areas of experience other than spatial orientation — whether they influence the speaker’s sense of identity, for instance, or bring about a less-egocentric outlook on life. 说Guugu Yimithirr的人把基本方向的十字瞄准器加诸于任何精神画面和图像记忆之上,我们很难想像他们是如何感受这个世界的。同时也很难猜测地理语言如何影响除了空间定向外的体验领域——比如它们是否会影响说话者对个体身份的理解或者是否会导致对于人生更少自我中心的看法。 But one piece of evidence is telling: if you saw a Guugu Yimithirr speaker pointing at himself, you would naturally assume he meant to draw attention to himself. In fact, he is pointing at a cardinal direction that happens to be behind his back. While we are always at the center of the world, and it would never occur to us that pointing in the direction of our chest could mean anything other than to draw attention to ourselves, a Guugu Yimithirr speaker points through himself, as if he were thin air and his own existence were irrelevant. 但是有个证据颇能说明问题:如果你看到一个说Guugu Yimithirr语的人指向他自己,你会自然地假设他有意引起对他自己的注意。事实上,他正在指向一个方向,刚好在他背后。尽管我们总是处于世界的中心,而且从来不会意识到,指向我们胸部方向的动作除了是想要引起对自己的注意之外,还能有什么别的意思,但是一个说Guugu Yimithirr语的人会指穿他自己,仿佛他是稀薄的空气,他自己的存在并不相关。 IN WHAT OTHER WAYS might the language we speak influence our experience of the world? Recently, it has been demonstrated in a series of ingenious experiments that we even perceive colors through the lens of our mother tongue. There are radical variations in the way languages carve up the spectrum of visible light; for example, green and blue are distinct colors in English but are considered shades of the same color in many languages. 我们所说的语言会在其他什么方面影响我们对世界的感受呢?最近,一系列别出心裁的实验表明,我们甚至是通过母语的滤镜来观察颜色的。在区分可见光光谱方面,各语言有很大的不同;例如,英语中绿色和蓝色是不同的颜色,但是在很多语言中它们却是同种颜色的不同色调。 And it turns out that the colors that our language routinely obliges us to treat as distinct can refine our purely visual sensitivity to certain color differences in reality, so that our brains are trained to exaggerate the distance between shades of color if these have different names in our language. 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. 我们还发现,我们的语言所经常性地强制我们加以区分的颜色,会修正我们对于现实中特定颜色区别的视觉敏感性,所以如果这些颜色在我们的语言中有不同的名字,我们的大脑就会被训练得夸大不同色度颜色的差距。虽然这听起来很奇怪,但是我们对于Chagall画作的感受某种程度其实依赖于我们语言中是否有蓝色这一单词。 In coming years, researchers may also be able to shed light on the impact of language on more subtle areas of perception. For instance, 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. 在未来几年,研究人员或许能发现语言对更细微的感知领域的影响。例如,一些语言,像秘鲁的Matses,会像最挑剔的律师一样强制其使用者详细说明他们如何知晓正在讲述的事实。你不能像在英语中那样简单地说,“一动物经过了此处。”你必须用不同动词形式详细说明,这是直接经历的(你看到了一动物正在经过)、还是你推断的(你看到了脚印)、还是你猜测的(动物一般都会在一天中的那个时间经过那里),还是你听说的,诸如此类。 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. 如果提出一份陈述时的“证据性质”不正确,该陈述就会被认为是谎言。所以,举例来说,如果你问一个Matses男性他有多少老婆,除非他在那时能看到他妻子,否则他必须用过去时回答,会说一些“上次核实时,我有两个老婆”这样的话。毕竟,鉴于他的老婆并不在场,他不能绝对确定自从他上次看到她们后,他们中的一个有无死亡或者跟其他男人跑掉,即使“上次核实”也就在5分钟之前。 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? When our experimental tools are less blunt, such questions will be amenable to empirical study. 所以他不能用现在时把这作为一个确定事实来说。这种如此小心复杂地思考认识论的需要,会影响说话者对人生的看法或者他们对真相和起因的理解吗?只有在我们的实验工具足够锐利时,这些问题才能经受实证研究的检验。 For many years, our mother tongue was claimed to be a “prison house” that constrained our capacity to reason. Once it turned out that there was no evidence for such claims, this was taken as proof that people of all cultures think in fundamentally the same way. But surely it is a mistake to overestimate the importance of abstract reasoning in our lives. After all, how many daily decisions do we make on the basis of deductive logic compared with those guided by gut feeling, intuition, emotions, impulse or practical skills? 很多年来,我们的母语被称为限制我们理性能力的“牢笼”。一旦证明这样的说法没有证据,人们就以为这证明了所有文化的人根本上都以相同的方式进行思考。但是,过分高估抽象推理在我们生命中的重要性,这显然是个错误。毕竟,与那些在感觉、直觉、情感、冲动或实用技能指导下做出的日常决定相比,我们有多少决定是在演绎逻辑的基础上做出的呢? The habits of mind that our culture has instilled in us from infancy shape our orientation to the world and our emotional responses to the objects we encounter, and their consequences probably go far beyond what has been experimentally demonstrated so far; they may also have a marked impact on our beliefs, values and ideologies. We may not know as yet how to measure these consequences directly or how to assess their contribution to cultural or political misunderstandings. But as a first step toward understanding one another, we can do better than pretending we all think the same. 我们的文化从婴儿时期就灌输进我们大脑的习惯,会影响我们在世界中的定向,和对我们所遇到的东西的情感回应,它们的影响可能比目前实验所揭示的要更深远;它们可能对我们的信仰、价值观和思想体系也有显著影响。我们可能还不知道如何直接测量这些影响,或者如何评估它们对于文化或政治误解的作用。但是作为迈向理解彼此的第一步,我们还可以做的更好,不能假装所有人都以相同方式思考。 Guy Deutscher is an honorary research fellow at the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures at the University of Manchester. His new book, from which this article is adapted, is “Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages,” to be published this month by Metropolitan Books. Guy Deutscher是曼彻斯特大学语言与文化学院的荣誉研究员。他的新书《透过语言之镜:为何其他语言中的世界看起来如此不同》这个月将由Metropolitan Books出版,本文即选摘自此书。 (编辑:辉格@whigzhou) *注:本译文未经原作者授权,本站对原文不持有也不主张任何权利,如果你恰好对原文拥有权益并希望我们移除相关内容,请私信联系,我们会立即作出响应。

——海德沙龙·翻译组,致力于将英文世界的好文章搬进中文世界——



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  1. lxannai @ 2017-03-29, 15:45

    想要看整本书的内容… 找不到译版… 想起来前一阵上映的《降临》,不同的语言确实会界定一些固定的思维。

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