Saturday, January 5, 2008

Is there a language problem with quantum physics? - physics-math - 05 January 2008 - New Scientist

Is there a language problem with quantum physics? - physics-math - 05 January 2008 - New Scientist: "Bohm pointed out that quantum effects are much more process-based, so to describe them accurately requires a process-based language rich in verbs, and in which nouns play only a secondary role. In the last year of his life, Bohm and some like-minded physicists, including myself, met a number of native American elders of the Blackfoot, Micmac and Ojibwa tribes - all speakers of the Algonquian family of languages. These languages have a wide variety of verb forms, while they lack the notion of dividing the world into categories of objects, such as "fish", "trees" or "birds".

Take, for example, the phrase in the Montagnais language, Hipiskapigoka iagusit. In a 1729 dictionary, this was translated as "the magician/sorceror sings a sick man". According to Alan Ford, an expert in the Algonquian languages at the University of Montreal, Canada, this deeply distorts the nature of the thinking processes of the Montagnais people, for the translator had tried to transform a verb-based concept into a European language dominated by nouns and object categories. Rather than there being a medicine person who is doing something to a sick patient, there is an activity of singing, a process. In this world view, songs are alive, singing is going on, and within the process is a medicine person and a sick man.

The world view of Algonquian speakers is of flux and change, of objects emerging and folding back into the flux of the world. There is not the same sense of fixed identity - even a person's name will change during their life. They believe that objects will vanish into this flux unless renewed by periodic rituals or the pipe smoked at sunrise in the sun dance ceremony of the Lakota and Blackfoot."

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