Makri wrote:English present tense sentences where it's unclear whether the statement is generic (that's presumably what you mean by time-free, and it's not actually time-free: you can have past generics) or properly present. I don't even have that problem in German, where there is no obligatory distinction between simple present and present progressive. I suspect the tense system is actually an exceptionally poor example of different modes of thought facilitated by different languages. (Also, the presence of morphological tense should not be confused with the presence of semantic tense!)
A better example might be the perception/categorization of spatial events, particularly movement events, since there are known differences between languages in what they encode: some obligatorily encode manner of movement, others don't.
Yes, by time-free, I meant generic, however, in most natural languages generic statements still have at least some hint of tense, whereas in Loglan it's easy to make generic statements that contain no trace of such temporal qualification.
From a Whorfian point of view, there are no purely morphological structures: they still have some semantic impact. If the morphology of your language makes it hard to avoid mentioning the time frame of some action, then you're unlikely to go through the circumlocution necessary to make a time-free statement, and your listener will regard such circumlocution as unnatural, unless you have some really good reason to avoid mentioning time. So the very act of "fighting" the morphology gives connotations to your utterances that you may have no desire to give them.
Sure, it doesn't seem like a big deal that a language makes it hard to avoid mentioning tense, but a hard-core Whorfian would argue that our perception has been molded by our language structure so that mentioning tense seems very natural to us and that someone who grew up speaking a language with a voluntary tense mechanism would find it odd to speak a language that required you to use tense even when you didn't particularly want to give any kind of temporal qualification to your utterance.
FWIW, in Loglan spatial qualification works just like the tense system, in fact, it's possible to form compound little words that simultaneously qualify the space and time of a predicate.
At this point, I feel obliged to quote JCB.
James Cooke Brown wrote:[...] with the great savings which are achieved in Loglan by regarding each predicate word as a potential sentence--and this is the idea of the propositional function which is the great achievement of modern logic--we can now elaborate the logical functions of the language far beyond their natural limits. In effect, we have simplified the content-handling machinery of language in order to elaborate its machinery for handling thought. But to do this we have paid a price, or rather we have arranged for you to pay one.
For if you learn the language you will find that while the mechanics of the predicate grammar are very simple for your tongue to master, its metaphysics are not easy for the mind. For your mind, gentle reader, has almost certainly been shaped by an Indo-European language. It is therefore admirably equipped to deal with a world of enduring objects (nouns), of actions and processes (verbs), of permanent qualities (adjectives), of transitory qualities (one kind of adverb), and of qualities of qualities (another kind of adverb); and it is just this partition of the world you will miss in speaking Loglan.
Your world is a time-bound world; it makes its fundamental distinctions on the basis of permanence or change. The world you will gradually come to see in speaking Loglan is time-free; for its fundamental notions contain no hint of time. Your world has hard, categorical boundaries between one thing-class and another; in the Loglan world the classifying qualities of things are more softly viewed. Your world is a world of separate objects; the things of the Loglan world are caught up in a web of relations.
In short, the world of Loglan is just that time-free world of continuous qualities and things-in-relation that science has taught us to expect to find under the appearances we see. Perhaps if it helps us see that world a little more directly, it will have been worth the price of these wrenches to our minds.
eSOANEM wrote:PM 2Ring wrote:As has been mentioned earlier in this thread, concepts that are expressible in a given language are expressible in any other language. However, some concepts are going to be easier to express in some languages than in others, what may seem natural and straight-forward in one language may seem artificial and convoluted in another. Thus a language has an influence on the manner and structure of verbalized thought of its users, but that's a far call from claiming that the language forces its users to think in a particular way or prevents them from having certain thoughts.
Even with your caveat about ease of expression, this is not the case; at least, not in its absolute form.
Piraha has no mechanism with which to express numbers, a concept present in all of the world's most spoken languages.
Now a weakened form of this statement, that a concept expressible in a given language almost certainly expressible in almost all other languages is reasonable however using the absolute form of it is demonstrably not.
Sure, Pirahã sucks when it comes to number words, but they do have ways to say "more" or "fewer", so it's possible to have discussions in Pirahã about exact quantities without importing new words: all you need is a bunch of pebbles, or some other mechanism to facilitate counting. Now, if Pirahã speakers just can't get the concept of abstract quantity, so they can't fathom what we mean when we say that a set of 6 pebbles and a set of 6 people contain the same amount, then there'd be problems, but from the little I know about the Pirahã people I do not believe that to be the case.
Still, I'd hate to try to have a discussion about number theory with them.