Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Day 21: The Language Beat

If you write based on the rhythms inherent in the language you speak, dream or learned as a second or third means to communicate, you understand how I feel about words and the way they shape us.

Lera Borodistky tells the story of a 5-year-old girl who can point north without thinking it through, while academics across the world cannot do the same. In her 2011 Scientific American article, at http://psych.stanford.edu/~lera/papers/sci-am-2011.pdf, Ms. Borodistky notes that this girl's facility for finding true north lies in the language she uses and how it relates to space and time.
"Studies have shown that changing how people talk changes how they think. Teaching people new color words, for instance, changes their ability to discriminate colors. And teaching people a new way of talking about time gives them a new way of thinking about it."
Languages with their shapes, such as Japanese and Chinese writing, their accents and, as with English, a confusing multiplicity of meanings, provide more than enough ways to communicate. But on the page, most words are just chicken scratch without a writer making them mean something more.

Early language development depended on our ancestors turning their oral stories and their wisdom into a visual, understandable, representation: a written language.  But consider the quote above about how changing the way people talk changes the way they think.

As writers, we have this power. We take four-dimensional ideas and create third dimensional images that take root in a person's imagination. It's something we can only guide, not control. Yet, it's the beat that goes on in our unique form of language as art.

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