But then a remote Australian aboriginal tongue, Guugu Yimithirr, from north Queensland, turned up, and with it came the astounding realization that not all languages conform to what we have always taken as simply “natural.” In fact, Guugu Yimithirr doesn’t make any use of egocentric coordinates at all. The anthropologist John Haviland and later the linguist Stephen Levinson have shown that Guugu Yimithirr does not use words like “left” or “right,” “in front of” or “behind,” to describe the position of objects. Whenever we would use the egocentric system, the Guugu Yimithirr rely on cardinal directions. If they want you to move over on the car seat to make room, they’ll say “move a bit to the east.” To tell you where exactly they left something in your house, they’ll say, “I left it on the southern edge of the western table.” Or they would warn you to “look out for that big ant just north of your foot.” Even when shown a film on television, they gave descriptions of it based on the orientation of the screen. If the television was facing north, and a man on the screen was approaching, they said that he was “coming northward.”

Very compelling, thought-provoking and unsettling. Guy Deutscher (the author of The Unfolding of Language) strikes again, with a new book Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages.

I liked very much his previous book; I hope this new one will prove as good and interesting…

nyt (via rthr)

For me, it’s Mahler 2, these days

The New York Times’ health and exercise section has a piece called Phys Ed: Does Music Make You Exercise Harder? by Gretchen Reynolds. The title says all: people seem to “know” there is a connection between the sort of music you listen to while exercising, and the exercise itself (heart rate, pace, etc.).

For me, these days, Mahler 2 (or Mahler 5, or Rach 3, or Rameau) does the trick. I simply cannot stand the usual gym music, and (these days) I like going to exercise at a gym in Bogotá (this was not always the case – while I was doing judo, I somehow despised gym-goers; judo is more “serious”). But at this point, spending roughly one hour at the gym, with an ipod playing one of those pieces (loud enough and with earpieces that block the ambient gym music), is great for leaving aside worries (all kinds). I just concentrate on the pace and the music. No math. No nothing. For an hour. First cardio, then weights. Whatever – but always music – strong pieces.

When I forget the ipod at home, exercise is never the same. I cannot relate to the kind of music they blast in those places. Thankfully, ipods (and Sennheiser earphones) exist.

Of course, running is also an option. However, my hip is hurt at this point – still recovering from a bad fall in judo. So, I am “reduced” to the gym. Which is fine by me, at this point.

[Esta gripa de hoy, que me impidió ir a hablar con dos estudiantes y oír a Goodrick, me tiene un poco desesperado.]