Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Language as Culture Part 2

TENSES
English
examples:
eat -> ate -> will eat
write -> wrote -> will write

Filipino
examples:
kumakain -> kumain -> kakain
(kain is the root form, but not the present tense)
sumusulat -> sumulat -> susulat

Japanese
examples:
taberu -> tabeta -> taberu
kaku -> kaita -> kaku

Tenses show how a society perceives its chronological placement. In English, the future form is present form with an extra word before it. This indicates the society's view that the future will eventually become the present. Yes, I know, it sounds like I'm stating such an obvious thing and you're probably saying, "duh!" by now. But bear with me.

In Filipino, if you notice, all three forms are changed words, which doesn't indicate future becoming present, or even present becoming past. But notice that our present tense is also our present progressive tense. This shows that the Filipino society is one that lives in the moment. We are not overly concerned about the future. We forget the past quickly. We live in the now.

Notice, now, that In Japanese, the present and future form of the verb is the same. Tells where they see themselves living in, doesn't it?

In Rian, I've decided to make the past and present the same, indicating that these people live in the past. They are a backward people with not much technological advancements. And it is in their mindset that what they do will eventually be forgotten.
Rian
example: gaom -> gaom -> agaom



POLITE FORMS
English
example: I will write. -> I will write.

Filipino
example: Magsusulat ako. -> Magsusulat po ako.

Japanese
example: Kaku -> Kakimasu.
 -> Okaki shimasu
 -> Okaki itashimasu
 -> Okaki ni narimasu.

How a people view hierarchies can be seen in how many forms of polite language they have. English speakers may add "Sir" or "Maam" to their sentences, but the sentences basically remain the same. Which shows us that, while hierarchy exists, it's not that big a deal. For a culture that allows people to call their bosses and stepmothers by their first name, that's probably true. For Filipinos, the word "po" is added to the sentence, and plural form of the pronoun is used when referring to the respected person. The structure changes. So, classes or rankings do play a significant role in this society.

For the Japanese language, as you can see, the polite form doesn't stop with one. There's the polite, then the more polite, then the even more polite, then the exalted. And if their language is hot on hierarchy, then you can assume their culture most probably is, too.

Now, in my Rian langauge, there will be hierarchy, but only two: the normal form, which Rian people use when talking amongst themselves, and the exalted form, which they use when talking to others.
Rian
example: Apareg laken. (normal)
 Maparegan la. (exalted)
 (I will return)

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