Tag Archives: language

The Stars Above Us

Share

This past weekend I went skiing for the first time, and for some reason it made me start thinking a lot about how language works and how it shapes our general understanding of the world around us. What really got me was the general idea of how you slow down while skiing – by digging the metal sides of the skies into the ground, making sure it catches against the snow and ice beneath you.

Language at work

Of course, a more scientific explanation for why turning your skis sideways – ‘snowplowing’ or ‘pizzaing’ – and digging them into the ground slows you down would probably take into account things like how you increase the surface area of the skis against the ground, increasing friction, drag, etc, thus slowing you down. And, while this is all a very good explanation, I want to know, how did people describe these phenomenons before concepts like friction and drag were ‘discovered’ and explained.

Skiing, for example, as an activity is believed to date all the way back to 5,000 BC in Scandinavia. How then, in that case, did they explain how the concept of snowplowing would slow you down while skiing? Surely, they could describe casually that doing this one movement would slow you down greatly, but could they describe why that happened? Would those early people have the necessary language and knowledge to even discuss matters like drag, or friction?

Likely, this matter goes beyond skiing to all manners of thought. Before humans learned how fast speed travels, could we ever really imagine going the speed of light? Or intergalactic travel? Or time travel? If not, then it is amazing to think how much more we can now discuss and think about due to linguistic evolution due to scientific discovery.

Following, imagine how much more people will be able to discuss in even just fifty years, at the current pace of human discovery. Languages very rarely create new words, so old words will be re-purposed at incredible speeds and given meanings that before would have been baffling. It’s amazing how much knowledge can change language, which in turn influences what we can truly imagine and think of.

Langauge and the firmament

I remember taking a philosophy class – that I hated. One point from that class always stood with me, though. The professor mentioned how some philosophers believe that new knowledge fundamentally changes the way we see and understand the world before us. So, these philosophers believe, thousands of years ago when people knew that the stars above them were gods, they actually did see gods above them.

Their language, and knowledge of the world, wouldn’t allow otherwise.

Turkish Sayings (Part 3)

Share

Adages, sayings, idioms and proverbs really offer an insight into another language and culture. In some languages – possible in English, for example – sayings don’t really play that large a role. In Turkish, however, there seems to be a saying for essentially every minor interaction you might encounter. Some of the more common ones have already been discussed in Parts 1 and 2.

So, without further ado, here is the next installment of some of my favorite Turkish sayings:

Ayran içtik ayrı düştük

Continue reading Turkish Sayings (Part 3)

Birth of a Dialect

Share

The recent, and as of yet still unexplained, cancellation of internet to my apartment has left me, Danielle and Fabio all connecting wirelessly to the router of a friend living above me. Since the connection in my apartment is strongest, our living situation has taken on a dorm-like feeling as we all huddle around the hot spot with our electronics trying to check our email and be productive; or, as is the case with Danielle and myself, be helplessly distracted by Facebook.

“Do you know her?” Danielle asked me, having just received yet another friend request from an unknown Turk.

“Nah, I don’t. Maybe she’s one of your students?”

Continue reading Birth of a Dialect

Turkish Proverbs and Idioms (Part 2)

Share

Back by (my own) popular demand, here is part two of my series of posts about Turkish proverbs and idioms – exciting!

Sonuna düşünen kahraman olamaz. 

“The one thinking about the end can not be a hero.” I’m not really sure when you would hear this said. I don’t even really remember how I learned this, but I had it conveniently saved in my phone so here it is. I can just imagine some Turkish martial arts movie, though, where the old wise sensei encourages the young student with this droplet of wisdom.

Damlaya damlaya göl olur.

“Drop by drop it becomes a lake.” According to my student this is only ever used in the context of saving money. It is straightforward enough – save enough, and you’ll end up with a huge amount of money.

Hanım köylü.

“From the wife’s village.” This is just the Turkish way of saying that the husband is whipped. Whipped to such a degree, in fact, that he picked up and moved to her hometown.

Hayal kırıklığına uğratmak. 

“To arrive at broken dreams.” This is the idiomatic way of saying that you are frustrated with something. I love the imagery of how being frustrated is associated with a broken dream.

____ senin köpeğin olsun.

“May ____ be your dog.” Dogs are not very highly regarded in Turkey, or actually in Muslim society in general. As such, saying “may ____ be your dog” means that the thing is valueless to you. For example, if someone asks if they can use your car you can respond in this way. It essentially means “of course!” or “what’s it to me?” Apparently this phrase should never be used for food or money, though, as then it becomes offensive as they are necessary for survival.

Turkish Proverbs

Share

Proverbs and idioms are something that fascinate me to no end. The sayings of a language contain much more information than a cursory glance would suggest, and really provide a handle in which to explore the underlying culture and beliefs of a society. In English proverbs and idioms seem almost regulated to a back burner of as a novelty or cliche; in Turkish, however, idioms are a major part of every day conversation and carry significant weight and wisdom.

So, without further ado, here is a quick list of some great Turkish proverbs I have tried my best to remember over the last three months:

Memleketin doğduğun yer değil, doyduğun yerdir.
“Your home isn’t where you are born, but where you eat to satisfaction.” A coworkers wife told me this last night and said it should become my slogan (which could be easy enough judging by how much I eat in Turkey). Originally being from Ankara, she said, it has already become hers too.
Continue reading Turkish Proverbs

Musings On Turkish

Share

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently – especially this weekend, as I’ve been recovering from food poisoning or stomach flu or something – trying to improve my Turkish. Along the way, I’ve noticed a few really cool things socio-linguistically that I’d like to share.

  • Turkey was created as a staunchly secular country, although slowly religion has been finding its way into the open more and more – either a good thing, or something terrible, depending on who you ask. This extreme separation of religion and society though has lead to a division in language, enabling someone to “speak like a Muslim.” Continue reading Musings On Turkish