Sometimes you can learn 2 new things in a day

June 14, 2006 at 11:05 pm (trivia)

Look what these male birds do for their female birds!

Check out this video! These birds have amazing mimicry abilities.  They should call it a
tape recorder bird, but it’s really called a lyrebird.

“Reversed” sense of time

We typically think of the future as being in the front and the past as being behind us. This also is reflected in our language (many verbal languages as far as I know and American Sign Language) and how we gesture. According to some linguists (link here), there is a group of people in the Andes who have a reverse sense of time: the future is behind and the past is in front:

The linguistic evidence seems, on the surface, clear: The Aymara language recruits “nayra,” the basic word for “eye,” “front” or “sight,” to mean “past” and recruits “qhipa,” the basic word for “back” or “behind,” to mean “future.” So, for example, the expression “nayra mara” – which translates in meaning to “last year” – can be literally glossed as “front year…”
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.

“These findings suggest that cognition of such everyday abstractions as time is at least partly a cultural phenomenon,” (University of California, San Diego professor Rafael) Nunez said. “That we construe time on a front-back axis, treating future and past as though they were locations ahead and behind, is strongly influenced by the way we move, by our dorsoventral morphology, by our frontal binocular vision, etc. Ultimately, had we been blob-ish amoeba-like creatures, we wouldn’t have had the means to create and bring forth these concepts.

“But the Aymara counter-example makes plain that there is room for cultural variation. With the same bodies – the same neuroanatomy, neurotransmitters and all – here we have a basic concept that is utterly different,” he said.


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