ANTH 120 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Oksapmin Language, Germanic Languages, Numeracy
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Anth. 120 Week Five Lecture Notes
● Language and cognition research: time orientation
○ The influence of writing direction, for instance as english speakers we present a
written timeline going from left to right, past to future, because we right from left
■ Hebrew and Arabic speakers switch this around thinking of time going
from right to left due to the orientation of their writing
■ Those who describe cardinal directions focus more on the way the sun
moves in regards to time
● Language and cognition: number
○ English: ten base
○ Oksapmin: base 27
○ Tzotzil: base 20
○ French: mix base 10 and 20
○ 1, 2, few, many
○ No numbers?
■ Base ten and base twenty are very common likely due to having ten
fingers and ten toes but there are cultures that use the body as a
resource for counting but in a different manner resulting in a different
base such as the Oksapmin with base 27.
■ Other cultures don’t even increase past ten not conceptualizing beyond
many of something, these societies as a result don’t have algebra or large
■ Only one known case of a language without numeracy.
● Languages also see colors differently contrary to popular belief and is an example of
linguistic relativity, english has separate words for red and pink for instance but many
other languages don’t. Distinguishing colors from one another in different ways.
● Also possible links between how a culture treats money and the way we talk about it
within a language. Can see this in how we talk about family relations in different
languages, as well as how we talk about time especially in regards to when events have
occurred/will occur. For instance english definitively distinguishes between time whereas
other languages don’t do this even amongst most other Germanic languages.
○ Idea here is that the future in english feels more disconnected because it’s
distinguished thus affecting the way we plan for the future as it feels less
immediate thus leading to not as much saving of money etc. whereas languages
where the future isn’t really distinguished from the present has the people view
the future with more immediacy and thus leading to planning for it more
definitively and saving more money.
○ Apparently futureless language speakers 30% more likely to save money in any
given year which does have a cumulative effect over time. Additionally these
same language speakers are 20-24% less likely to smoke and there are similar
statistics for obesity, condom usage, etc.