which came first?

how we think or how we speak?

from boingboing:

“In English, we use ‘I am’ statements to describe our current biological state, things that are happening to us, or events that we are experiencing. We say, ‘I am hungry.’ We say, ‘I am dying.’

“But that’s not how it works in Irish. Yesterday, during a panel called There’s Perception, and Then There’s Reality, Irish storyteller Clare Murphy talked briefly about how the language you speak alters the way that you perceive the world. The Irish equivalents of ‘I am hungry’ and ‘I am dying’, for example, would literally translate into English as, ‘Hunger is upon me’ and ‘Death is beside me.'”

“how the language you speak alters the way that you perceive the world.” ooooooooooooorrrr, maybe the way a people perceives the world (i.e. how their braiiiiiiinz work) affects the sort-of language they come up with?

i mean, after all, where does language come from? unless you adopt someone else’s language (like how almost everyone in central and south america now speaks a language they got from the spanish … who got their language from the romans), doesn’t language come from your brain? languages (to paraphrase jared taylor) don’t just drop down out of the sky … they come from different peoples. and maybe different languages are different because different peoples are different.

from newsweek:

“[W]hile English says ‘she broke the bowl’ even if it smashed accidentally (she dropped something on it, say), Spanish and Japanese describe the same event more like ‘the bowl broke itself.’ ‘When we show people video of the same event,’ says Boroditsky [language researcher @standford], ‘English speakers remember who was to blame even in an accident, but Spanish and Japanese speakers remember it less well than they do intentional actions. It raises questions about whether language affects even something as basic as how we construct our ideas of causality.'”

or maybe it raises the question: are the spanish and japanese more fatalistic than the english?

also from that newsweek article:

“Language even shapes what we see. People have a better memory for colors if different shades have distinct names—not English’s light blue and dark blue, for instance, but Russian’s goluboy and sinly. Skeptics of the language-shapes-thought claim have argued that that’s a trivial finding, showing only that people remember what they saw in both a visual form and a verbal one, but not proving that they actually see the hues differently. In an ingenious experiment, however, Boroditsky and colleagues showed volunteers three color swatches and asked them which of the bottom two was the same as the top one. Native Russian speakers were faster than English speakers when the colors had distinct names, suggesting that having a name for something allows you to perceive it more sharply.”

what i’d like to know is, were all the native russian speakers actually russian|slavic (as opposed to say some indigenous siberian groups or something)? ’cause perhaps slavs actually see blues differently|better than other peoples, and that is just reflected in their language. there is, after all, some evidence for physical differences in color perception in some humans. (not to mention color blindness.)

i’m sure language prolly affects how we think. it seems likely. but i also think it seems likely that how we think (differently) must affect our languages.

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whatever happened to european tribes?

europe used to have tribes, just like arab and african societies today, migrating hither and thither, fighting over territories and regularly going to war with one another.

there were german tribes

gallic tribes

iberian tribes

british tribes

irish tribes

… etc., etc.

but by the high middle ages, most of these were gone. what happened?

i got five words for ya: the holy roman catholic church (and, later, many protestant churches).

the church BANNED cousin marriage — and fiddled with a lot of other mating regulations like divorce and such. no more polygamy, either!

lookie here from avner greif (“Family structure, institutions, and growth – the origin and implications of Western corporatism”):

“The conquest of the Western Roman Empire by Germanic tribes during the medieval period probably strengthen the importance of kinship groups in Europe. Yet, the actions of the Church caused the nuclear family — constituting of husband and wife, children, and sometimes a handful of close relatives — to dominate Europe by the late medieval period.

“The medieval church instituted marriage laws and practices that undermined large kinship groups. From as early as the fourth century, it discouraged practices that enlarged the family, such as adoption, polygamy, concubinage, divorce, and remarriage. It severely prohibited marriages among individuals of the same blood (consanguineous marriages), which had constituted a means to create and maintain kinship groups throughout history. The church also curtailed parents’ abilities to retain kinship ties through arranged marriages by prohibiting unions in which the bride didn’t explicitly agree to the union.

“European family structures did not evolve monotonically toward the nuclear family nor was their evolution geographically and socially uniform. However, by the late medieval period the nuclear family was dominate. Even among the Germanic tribes, by the eighth century the term family denoted one’s immediate family, and shortly afterwards tribes were no longer institutionally relevant. Thirteenth-century English court rolls reflect that even cousins were as likely to be in the presence of non-kin as with each other.

“The practices the church advocated, such as monogamy, are still the norm in Europe. Consanguineous marriages in contemporary Europe account for less than one percent of the total number of marriages. In contrast, the percentage of such marriages in Muslim, Middle Eastern countries, where we also have particularly good data, is much higher – between twenty to fifty percent. Among the anthropologically defined 356 contemporary societies of Euro-Asia and Africa, there is a large and significant negative correlation between Christianization (for at least 500 years) and the absence of clans and lineages; the level of commercialization, class stratification, and state formation are insignificant.”

the leaders of the church probably instituted these reproductive reforms for their own gain — get rid of extended families and you reduce the number of family members likely to demand a share of someone’s legacy. in other words, the church might get the loot before some distant kin that the dead guy never met does. (same with not allowing widows to remarry. if a widow remarries, her new husband would inherit whatever wealth she had. h*ck. she might even have some kids with her new husband! but, leave her a widow and, if she has no children, it’s more likely she’ll leave more of her wealth to the church.)

but, inadvertently, they also seem to have laid the groundwork for the civilized western world. by banning cousin marriage, tribes disappeared. extended familial ties disappeared. all of the genetic bonds in european society were loosened. society became more “corporate” (which is greif’s main point).

from wikipedia:

“[T]he Catholic Church has gone through several phases in kinship prohibitions. At the dawn of Christianity in Roman times, marriages between first cousins were allowed. For example, Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, married his children to the children of his half-brother. First and second cousin marriages were then banned at the Council of Agde in AD 506, though dispensations sometimes continued to be granted. By the 11th century, with the adoption of the so-called canon-law method of computing consanguinity, these proscriptions had been extended even to sixth cousins, including by marriage. But due to the many resulting difficulties in reckoning who was related who, they were relaxed back to third cousins at the Fourth Lateran Council in AD 1215. Pope Benedict XV reduced this to second cousins in 1917, and finally, the current law was enacted in 1983. In Catholicism, close relatives who have married unwittingly without a dispensation can receive an annulment.”

imagine in the days before the bicycle or motor-car how awkward it would’ve been to have to travel several villages over to find someone beyond your sixth-cousin to marry! imagine how difficult it was to figure out who that might be! no wonder the genetic ties within western european society became so loose! (i dunno about eastern europe.)

and, note the time-frame greif mentioned: out-marrying “for at least 500 years.”

no WAY modern democracy is going to flourish in arab or african societies any time soon!

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: cousin marriage conundrum addendum and we’re doomed

update 06/22: see also inbreeding amongst germanic tribes

update 06/29: see also more on inbreeding in germanic tribes

update 10/19: if you’re new to the blog, check out the recap post. for more on the biologically-based changes to european society in the middle ages (and since then), see the “Inbreeding in Europe” series down there (↓) in the left-hand column.

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inexplicable rifts in libyan rebel forces

(it just never seems to play out like it did in star wars….)

Libyan rebels struggle to explain rift

“BENGHAZI, Libya — Libya’s rebel military struggled Saturday to explain an apparent rift within its highest ranks….

“[A] day after the strike, the interim government sought to distance itself from a popular army commander it had earlier embraced.

Khalifa Haftar, a former army colonel who recently returned to Libya after living for many years in Falls Church, was initially hailed by the Transitional National Council as a leader who could help discipline the new army and train its largely volunteer ranks.

“But Saturday, Ghoga said Haftar had no leadership role in the army.

“‘We defined the military leadership before the arrival of Haftar from the United States,’ he said, referring to the appointment of Abdul Fattah Younis [al-Obaidi] as commander of the armed forces and Omar al-Hariri as the council’s senior defense official. ‘We told Mr. Haftar that if he wants, he can work within the structure that we have laid out.’

“However, a source within the military who is close to Haftar said Haftar is still commanding the army, and that Ghoga’s announcement had upset the public.

“‘Because of that, today Benghazi is upside down,’ the source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. ‘They are saying Ghoga has to go. The people, they want Haftar. No one can take him away from the army, or from our hearts.’

“Haftar and Younis are known to have had tensions since Haftar joined Younis in early March in Benghazi and was announced as the commanding officer under Younis….”

libyan rebels struggle to explain rift? how about that these two guys come from TWO DIFFERENT TRIBES and, therefore, prolly have different supporters? khalifa haftar is from the firjian tribe, an arab tribe having “large populations in the sirte, ajdabiya and benghazi districts.” the other guy is from the al-obaidi tribe, which is also big in the east, but is obviously a different tribe from the firjian:

“Gen. Abdel Fattah Younis, Libya’s former interior minister who was also one of the original members of the Revolutionary Command Council that staged the 1969 coup. Younis was one of the highest-profile defectors in the early days of the Libyan revolt, having joined the opposition after being dispatched to Benghazi to quell the uprising. Though he continues to be reported as a council member by some, there is no confirmation as to the status of Younis, who still commands a significant degree of loyalty among certain swathes of the eastern Libyan population, where his tribe — the Obeidat — resides. [source]

btw — that woman who accused government troops of holding her captive and raping her — the one they dragged off right before our very eyes — she’s also an al-obaidi.

previously: libya – land o’ tribes

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liberté! égalité! ivoirité!

minus the liberté and égalité, of course.

i’m talking about the civil war in the ivory coast. i don’t suppose i have to explain to anyone stopping by here that this war is not about democracy or freeing the slaves or any such nonsense. no, this is a good, old fashioned ethnic war (like pretty much all of them, come to think of it…).

and how could it not be when, in a “nation” where the borders were drawn by european statesmen far away on another continent, the country is made up of 60+ ethnic groups! here’s a map of the major tribal divisions:

everything was going along swimmingly while félix the cat houphouët-boigny was benevolent-ish dictator of the place. at least there was a fairly decent economy (based mostly on the growing of cocoa) and people could earn an ok living, compared to many places in africa that is. he was in charge for 30-something years, and then he went and died on everybody, after which the country just went to h*ll in a handbasket.

from what i gather, the basic dispute (over resources, as always) is between southern, christian peoples — like houphouët-boigny’s baoulés, one of several akan tribes — and northern, muslim peoples — like the sénoufo people, some of whom live in countries north of the ivory coast, like mali and burkina-faso. (sounds kinda like nigeria. i presume a similar sitch exists all over west africa…?)

but, there are also disputes between southerners, like the baoulés and the bétés to the west. apparently, lots of baoulés have moved west and set up successful cocoa farms in bété territory, which the bété resent. additionally, many of the immigrants from burkina faso didn’t stay up north in the territories of their fellow tribesmen, but also moved to western areas of the country to work as cheap laborers on the cocoa farms.

at the same time, other cheap laborers from guinea and liberia to the west also came to work on the cocoa farms in the western part of the ivory coast. many of them are from the same tribes as the peoples from western ivory coast (tribes don’t follow these artificial, national boundaries). so, now that there’s fighting between the baoulés vs. the bétés+other western tribes, the guinean and liberian immigrants join in in support of their fellow tribesmen in the west. meanwhile, everyone beats up on the burkinabés (people from burkina faso).

what a mess.

which brings us to another major point of this civil war. not only is it a war between different ethnic groups|tribes within the ivory coast, it’s also a war over who should be considered a citizen of the ivory coast. in other words, who should have access to the resources of the ivory coast. for, you see, houphouët-boigny apparently practiced some of the ol’ “elect a new people“** stuff by doling out citizenship to immigrants from burkina-faso (many of whom, like we saw in the case of the sénoufo people above, would be related to already existing tribes in northern ivory coast). no doubt he did this to court their, and their fellow tribemen’s, favor — but needless to say, it has p*ssed off many of the other groups in the ivory coast.

which brings us back to ivoirité. i know it sounds like i made that up, but it’s an actual term in usage in the ivory coast! it was originally coined as a sort-of politically correct, we-should-all-love-ivory-coast-multiculturalism word — i.e. “we’re all ivorians!” but it didn’t take, and was quickly co-opted and turned on its head to mean some of us are real ivorians — the rest of you have just arrived recently from burkina faso (or wherever) and don’t belong.

there was actually a law for a while saying that you couldn’t be president of the ivory coast unless both your parents were born in the country. (not a bad law, afaics.) that law was passed to block this guy from the north (a guy with familial connections to burkina faso) from becoming president, but at some point the law was overturned (don’t ask me when or how). and now it seems he has been elected president (at least that’s what the u.n. says). and, so, of course, all h*ll has broken loose.

the lesson? yeah, well, multiculturalism doesn’t work (but you already knew that). especially in a place where there are many different ethnic groups. i’d love to tell you about how inbred the ivorians are, but i don’t have any data at hand for them, and it’s too late on a sunday night for me to start looking now. suffice it to say that, no doubt, most of the tribes are endogamous — otherwise there wouldn’t be any tribes in ivory coast! also, some people in neighboring guinea have a consanguinity rate of 25.9%, while to the north in burkina faso, the fulani have a consanguinity rate of 65.8%, so inbreeding is definitely not unheard of in the region. i’m sure it must occur in the ivory coast.

the war nerd sums it all up well:

“In Ivory Coast, this latest flare-up came when the Coastal/Christian presidential candidate, Laurent Gbagbo, wouldn’t admit he lost the 2010 election. Most of the Jimmy-Carter types who like to sniff around other countries’ ballot boxes agree that Gbagbo lost to the Muslim Northerner Alassane Ouattara beat Gbagbo 54% to 46%….

“There are a lot of similarities, us and them. Ivory Coast used to be the rich country in West Africa, just like we used to be the rich country in North America. And just like us, they had tons of illegal immigrants from poorer places, landlocked sweatboxes like Burkina Fasso, with a GDP measured in scorpions and diseases. And a huge number of those illegal immigrants voted. The Burnkina Fasso immigrants were all Muslim and they voted for Ouattara. How would you feel if the US election was decided by illegal Muslim immigrants? [or, how about mexican immigrants?! – hbdchk] Well, that’s how Gbagbo and his coastal Christians felt. I mean, it’s got to be frustrating; you see that the French are the big new power and you let your own African identity get Frenchified for generations and then out of the blue the power shifts and you’re losing out to Muslim hillbillies who don’t even have citizenship. Everything you’ve built up for generations, all the stuff you’ve paid for in shame for generations getting ordered around by the whites, and now it’s for nothing?”

yup. s*cks.

**this “electing a new people” practice must be found right on page three of the standard, how-to manual given out to all aspiring leaders|politicians: “how to win friends and maintain power once you’ve got it.” electing a new people seems to be — and to have been — done EVERYWHERE!

update –

The next Rwanda? ‘In all districts of Abidjan there is gunfire’

“Early reports suggested that more than 800 people, largely from the Gbagbo-supporting Gueré tribe, were killed in a single day at the sprawling Salesian Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus mission in Duekoue, 300 miles west of Abidjan towards the Liberian border. The attackers seem to have been largely soldiers descended from Burkina Faso immigrant Muslim families loyal to Ouattara….

“The inter-ethnic violence around Duekoue that has driven the Gueré tribal people into the mission station mirrors the kind of ethnic tensions that prevail throughout most of Ivory Coast. The Gueré ancestors had possessed the land for centuries before people from the arid north and from neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali began settling there 40 years ago, seeking work as cocoa prices boomed on world markets. Ivory Coast historically has produced more than 40% of the world’s supply of beans for production of the developed world’s chocolate products.

“Ethnic tensions and xenophobic killings began when the world price of cocoa nosedived in the 1990s and some five million immigrant workers were suddenly perceived as a burden. The southern-dominated Government introduced a new xenophobic concept of ‘Ivorité’, or Ivorianess. Vigilantes began killing ‘foreigners’ – the majority of them Muslims and many of them third-generation immigrants – on plantations and in shanties on the edges of the towns as the country, once the richest in West Africa, descended into civil war.”

another update – from al jazeera:

‘African politics at a crossroads’

Q. How do these ‘fragile countries’ break out of these cycles?

“There is also a responsibility from the population to be far more educated to understand that during an election do not vote purely on tribal lines. As is ever so apparent across Africa where most vote for the man or woman that belongs to their tribe and cultural affiliation rather that the person who has the best policies. There is a need for the populace to become more educated and to choose wisely with their vote and understand the ramification of the choices they make and how best to use their vote.

“Finally the electoral process of choosing a president or a leader for a country should be organised and controlled by ECOWAS. They should work closely with the electoral commission and the decision should be final. This way disputes will be minimal and there will not be a risk that the process ha been compromised or sabotaged by tribalism or cultural affiliation.”

heh. yeah. good luck with that. where there are tribes, there will be tribalistic behaviors. a functioning, modern, democratic society will NOT happen in a tribal society.

some good comments on that article on the al jazeera website:

mandefu – “Africa is not at a crossroads, it is in a phase of phoney independence between the old colonialism of Europe and the new colonolialism of China. The only thing the average African has going for them is the safety net provided by extended family, i.e. the tribe. The state does nothing for the ordinary citizen except shake them down. In other words, tribalism is about the only positive feature of the African socio-political mess. This article spouts the usual ‘politically correct’ condemnation of tribalism. That is pernicious and would only come from the mindset of non-Africans or westernised African ‘Intellectuals’….”

nadreck – “The Nation State is an essentially Chinese and European social structure and, although it is an excellent one, it is all too often thought of as the *only* acceptable organisation. ‘One size fits all’? Bah! This is especially true in Africa where most of the borders were simply sketched out with a straight-edge ruler by some 19th century European Ruler and make no sense at all. Still what to do instead? Various alternatives such as Pakistan’s Tribal Zones have been tried and all have been miserable failures….”

update 05/11 – Lessons from the Ivory Coast

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the lady of andalusia

the dama de baza (google translation), fourth century b.c., likely a version of tanit | astarte, fertility goddess …

… and she’s still being worshipped in andalusia today …

“The principal characteristic of the local popular form of Catholicism is devotion to the Virgin Mary; Andalusia is sometimes known as la tierra de María Santísima (‘the land of Most Holy Mary’).” [wikipedia]

(~_^)

previously: lovesick in south dakota

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lovesick in south dakota

“These maps contain 20,262 unique words, based on the analysis of online dating profiles from 19,095,414 single Americans.

“Each word appears in the place it’s used more frequenlty than anywhere else in the country.

“Singles data taken from:

“match.com | lavalife.com | plentyoffish.com | chemistry.com | okcupid.com | nerve.com | eharmony.com | singlesnet.com | perfectmatch.com | friendfinder.com | great-expectations.com | americansingles.com | date.com | christianmingle.com | gay.com | blacksingles.com | jdate.com | amor.com | asiafriendfinder.com
alt.com | collarme.com”
[source]

oh, the poor folks in south dakota (click on images for LARGER versions):

compare the singles in alaska“outdoorsy, flirt, awestruck, eskimo, moose, (ego?)”

… with the ones in san francisco — “compulsive, masochistic, obsess, wackiness”:

myself? i’m movin’ to nebraska! any state where the people are interested in “meat” and “steaks” is alright by me! (altho, i’m a bit dubious about the word “teetotaler” there in nebraska. in that regard, wisconsin is obviously the state for me!):

previously: der bollenhut!

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