autism · cognition · language · psychology · youtube

Power of communication: "In My Language"

This video, which I found on the blog neuroanthropology, was created by a woman who is severely autistic. The first three minutes show the woman interacting with her environment, and then the woman, through typing on the computer, provides a translation of what she describes as her native language. She is severely critical of people who do not understand and appreciate how she views the world and who call her non-communicative.

This video is fascinating to me on so many levels (warning: possible spoilers). Watching her behavior from a psychologists’ standpoint is interesting with observing her self-stimulating behavior and how her mind is processing all this. But it also from a visual anthropology perspective. She chose to include these specific examples of her language in the movie, and even though she explicitly says they do not symbolize anything in particular, I wonder why these were chosen. Why did she choose to use a visual format to explain herself? Was this video made originally for Youtube, or some other audience? There is obvious editing, and not so much a storyline but definite parts to the movie. How did she decide on this structure, and who helped her, if anyone? Did anyone else film her (from what I can tell I don’t think so). How was she aided in this project? She gives credits at the end of her film, but they’re all thanks as opposed to assigned jobs.

From a communication studies and linguistics perspective, she’s challenging the definition of language. She argues that she has a discourse (several, actually) with her environment, with the objects in her house; they even get a credit at the end of the film. She also uses the “dominant language,” as she describes it, to explain herself and language and berate those who do not appreciate hers for what it is.

She also points out that most of us would probably not look at her on the street, or deliberately look away, which is absolutely correct, which makes a great statement about humans’ fear of the different, “disabled,” and unknown.
(end spoilers)

So a really interesting video on many levels, and I’m sorry my visual anthropology class is essentially over this quarter because I think it’d be great to show to the class and have them discuss it.

language

Old is the new new

Older articles, but still interesting.

This is an older post (like a week) on how the internet is changing how people listen to, watch, and more specifically tell stories. I was a bit disappointed he focused solely on YouTube essentially, but still worth reading.

This came out awhile ago as well; a couple of scientists have found new evidence to indicate that there were red-headed Neanderthals.

language · play

RIP Washoe

Washoe, “the first non-human to learn American Sign Language,” passed away last night, October 30 2007, at the age of 42. A long life for chimpanzees, and an interesting one for sure.
I just recently read Roger Fouts’s book Next of Kin, the primatologist who worked with Washoe from the time she was a year old, and it is amazing what Washoe and Fouts accomplished together. It is always also sad to discover someone so inspiring only to have them die shortly afterward, or to learn that they just died.
I hope Washoe’s family is doing okay with the loss of their matriarch. This only inspires me more to make the drive out to Ellensburg and visit the rest of the chimpanzees before they all pass away. I’m fascinated to see how much of their play is verbal vs. signing vs. physical. Maybe for my birthday (they just closed for the season). Rest in Peace, Washoe.

language

We all talk good

Okay, this took me forever to get to posting, but I still thought it was interesting. A collective study done showed that men and women actually use approximately the same amount of words:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/07/06/TALKING.TMP&tsp=1

language

Deep thoughts on language and culture

Happy Halloween/Samhain!
Just reading an interesting article from a man in India saying that because the lower castes are not taught English, they are therefore prohibited from getting high paying jobs: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/15658.html
He writes in the article “A Middle-eastern friend was lamenting that they have been driven into an intellectual blind alley because they are stuck with medieval Arabic, which determines their mindset. (Incidentally, their plight is really bad. More books are translated into Spanish in one year than into Arabic in a couple of hundred years!). They are literally trapped in the language of real and imagined pasts. The very idea of progress becomes impossible.”
Assuming the statement above is correct, I think it brings up an interesting argument (and an entire field of anthropology): how much does language influence how we think and view the world? I don’t just mean derogatory terms like calling someone a faggot (which is bad enough in itself). I mean like everyday things. For example, in Spanish, a spoon is feminine but a knife is masculine. A road is masculine but a mountain is feminine. How does that effect how they see the world? I know in some south pacific language (maybe papua new guinea?) the word for girl translates as “little mother,” or something like that. Just a moment of anthropological introspection.
I’d be interested to hear from someone who actually knows another language (you have seen the extent of my Spanish in the above paragraph: El camino va a la montana. My madre tiene una cuchara. Tengo un cuchillo).