The Arabs have 6000 words for “camel”

29 Mar

Time and Language

We have suggested earlier that speech is a tool which helps us in our thinking because it is easier to remember and manipulate the image of things represented by words in our vocabulary.  There is some experimental evidence to support this proposition.  Brown and Lennenberg (1954), for example, found that English-speaking persons were able to recognize more readily those colors represented by simple names. Colors represented in their vocabulary by more complicated names such as “bluish-green,” were harder to remember. The investigators also found that although the Zuni (southwestern United States) used a very different vocabulary for colors, the same principles applied.  It seems fairly clear that we can in some ways think more clearly about things or concepts that we have words for.  Probably it is partly because we develop words for those things that we need to think clearly about (the Arabs have 6,000 words for “camel”) while at the same time not bothering to name unimportant things ( the primitive * Sirlono of South America have a counting system consisting of the words, “one,” “two,” three,” and “many”).

*  As applied to contemporary people the term “primitive” is meant to suggest only a society with a relatively simple technological base. It is not meant to suggest anything about the biology, psychology, or whole culture of the society. The “primitive” groups of central Australia, for example have staggeringly complex kinship systems.

The Future of Time Man’s Temporal Environment

Edited By Henry Yaker, Humphry Osmond AND Frances Cheek(Anchor Books Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, New York, 1972) pp. 43-44

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