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Friday, March 03, 2006

Native Languages and Quantum Physics 

Quantum Linguistics Roundtable
In English, when we say "the man rides the horse," our language forces us to think in terms of a subject, the man, and a verb phrase, "rides the horse." We get a clear visual image, but we pay a price. In Blackfoot language, the emphasis is on the physical feeling. It's a kinesthetic language, mostly verbs. So, in Blackfoot, to convey the same meaning, what's said is something like this: The way your body talks to you as you feel the movement of the horse beneath you -- that's the verb. The verb conveys the kinesthetic feeling of the horse under you. And then comes a bunch of verb modifiers which tell about the rest of the information in the sentence, such as details about the man, the speed of the horse, how long he's been riding, and, other things. The primary thing is the feel of the moving horse underneath you.

A second example is about the Blackfoot language itself. This comes from Leroy Little Bear. Leroy says there is no Blackfoot language -- it's just 800 variations on "to be." He makes it up out of root words as the experience flows through him.

The third example is again from Amethyst. She says there are no metaphors in Native languages. It only sounds that way when translated into English. In English, the meaning of the word is generally not connected to the way the word sounds -- mostly arbitrary assignments. Not so in the Algonquin language, of which the Blackfoot language is a member. Can you imagine a language in which the names of trees are assigned by the sounds that the leaves make in the fall of the year, when a gentle breeze is blowing?

. . .

Natives seemed to be describing a way of being, or a way of consciousnessing, or a way of knowing, which doesn't reduce, so to speak, or collapse a wave function. I know I've just made a big metaphor there, but [some light laughter].... but just to describe my experiences, it seemed as though you were describing a way of interacting or of being in life which doesn't create separation. And my understanding of quantum physics is that all of classical physics is about separation', quantum physics is about non-separation, and our effort to understand the link between the two comes to naught because we're trying to understand quantum physics from a point of view of separation. And so we're using separatist or a separating language to understand something which is essentially not separate.

Topics: Meaning | Language | Quantum


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