JA (iohanne) wrote in linguaphiles,

A popular podcast makes reference to this article...

What do you all think of this article? Whether you're a linguist by profession, by background, a student or not involved in linguistics at all, I'm interested in your opinion. =)


No, this is not homework. I'm just interested in gaining more accurate perspectives from people with experience in this field as opposed to those who, despite having scientific background, have almost no knowledge of linguistics and whose judgement on this article is not valid.

1) The podcast that mentioned this article has a panel of "sceptics" who comment on certain news items that they find. While this article makes no mention or even implication of this universal-hand-gesturing-order being something that could potentially support Noam Chomsky's theory of a Universal Grammar, the panel of sceptics does make mention to Universal Grammar. What is the relation of word order to Universal Grammar? Is there a relation?

2) Are most sign languages SOV? One example cited by this article is not enough for a generalization to be made.

3) What is your opinion on picking 40 speakers, ten speakers from a different language group: Chinese, English, Spanish and Turkish. For your information, the first three are all generally SOV and Turkish is SVO whereas it seems, according to the article, every single informant applied an SVO structure in hand gesturing. That is, they picked informants speaking a language belonging to the two dominant most word orders: SVO and SOV. How similar are the syntactic transformations in SVO and SOV? Do you think SVO hand-gesturing would still occur among speakers of Gaelic (VSO), Fijian (VOS), Xavante (OSV) and Hixkaryana (OVS)?

4) The article makes a bold statement and says that this research challenges the idea that the languages we speak shape the way we think when we are not speaking, with respect to word order. Is this significant in your opinion? Is a similar word-order significant in deciding whether the languages we speak in dictate how we think and perceive the world? I remember reading an article posted onto linguaphiles about a language whose speakers never spoke with a past tense nor of a future tense and whose speakers counted no more than 10 (maybe even less, my memory is shaky). Isn't something like this more significant in our perception being shaped by our language?

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