very interesting article. As someone who knows English and also languages that do use gender to describe inanimate objects I never really thought about it - I guess it may add some anthropomorphization to objects, however it’s not really noticed to any great extent (at least not by me). perhaps a study should be done between monolingual English speakers, and, say, monolingual Russian/Ukrainian/French speakers to see if there is any great difference in the emotional attachment/anthropomorphization of inanimate objects (of course people would be attached to sentimental objects/valuable comodities, so it should be more in the realm of “table” and “potatoes”.
I read an article in a Dutch magazine about that! It was about a little more than just genders though, I don’t think genders mean that much. It was about how in English, when someone breaks a vase, even if it’s accidentally, you say ‘he broke the vase’. In Spanish, you would say something like ‘the vase broke itself’ (I think. I learn Spanish but I don’t even know how to say that…). So, they had an experiment, they showed English and Spanish people videos of 2 people, and in every video one person would do something like break a vase, pop a balloon, etc, sometimes on purpose and sometimes accidentally. Then they asked which person broke the vase/popped the balloon/etc, and in the cases where it happened accidentally the English people were A LOT better at remembering who did it.
I think in English all the time, my English isn’t perfect so that’s weird, and I pretty much talk to myself in my head which is even weirder haha… but anyway! Sometimes people ask me something, in Dutch, but then I’m thinking in English and think of the answer in English, and then I find it really hard to answer in Dutch. Because I think in a completely different way in English, and I think of things that I wouldn’t think of in Dutch, and vice versa.
This is a very thought-provoking topic indeed. There’s a school of linguistics which says just that: there isn’t only one reality, but rather several ones created by different languages.(If I recall correctly that theory was called linguistic relativity.) If you think about it, sometimes our perceptions can be influenced by the language we use. Take colours for example, certain languages classify colours differently, so we have ‘‘green’’ and ‘‘blue’’ in English, whereas there’s only ‘‘aoi’’ in Japanese. This may lead Japanese speakers to pay less attention to the differences between colours than their English speaking counterpart.
As regards gender, I think we tend to personify inanimate objects even in languages like English, where the gender-neutral pronoun ‘‘it’’ is used to refer to such objects. For example, in literary contexts the personal pronoun ‘‘she’’ is conventionally used to refer to ships. I’m not a native English speaker myself, so I don’t know if this is also common in everyday use( I would appreciate it if someone could tell me if it is or not).
Psychedelica, the experiment you describe seems quite interesting. I also noticed that difference between English and Spanish; it seems that in English you always have to blame someone directly when they break something. Btw, In Spanish, apart from being able to say ‘‘se rompió el jarrón’’ [the vase broke itself] (which is very useful lol), you can also say ‘‘se me rompió el jarrón’’ [it literally means ‘‘the vase broke itself to me’’].I also find myself thinking more often in English than in my mother tongue and the things I think of change depending on the language I’m using. Some things are better said in one language and some in the other.
What an interesting thread this is!
so we have ‘‘green’’ and ‘‘blue’’ in English, whereas there’s only ‘‘aoi’’ in Japanese. This may lead Japanese speakers to pay less attention to the differences between colours than their English speaking counterpart.
In Japanese we have a word both for green 緑 and blue青, respectively. However, strangely enough, we sometimes use these two colors interchangeably.
The most typical example of the interchangeability between the two is a traffic right. We usually say like this: " Don not cross the road until the traffic signal turns BLUE". In fact, in Japan ( or around the world? ) the color of the traffic signal for “walk” is GREEN. I’ve heard that Japanese people in old times didn’t distinguish these two colors.
Don not→Do not
I’d go one step further and say that each and every one of us has their own unique reality in their heads, which is molded by the languages we know, our life experience, politics, religion (or lack there of), tastes in music, etc - the world/reality according to, say, a muslim and an atheist is very different.
Sometimes I wonder the color “red” in my mind could possibly be different from the color “red” in any other’s mind. ( my red could be redder than that of somebody’s, or the color I regard as red could be blue in somebody’s mind and etc. ) On the other hand I do believe that there exist a few universal things, and we share them without any linguistic or cultural backgrounds.
Sorry for being off the topic as always.
Cherry6120- Thanks for correcting my misunderstanding. ^^
yuriythebest, that’s so true! Also, everyone has their own language in a way, no one uses exactly the same words to describe something, not everyone knows the same words… and some things will be funny, or sad, or just carry memories to some people, while they mean nothing to others.
My pleasure. ^^