Can you imagine a language without any word for "one" or any other numbers? Aren't numbers so important that life would be nearly impossible if you don't have words to express them?
Apparently not, as scientists found one such number-less language:
The team, led by MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences Edward Gibson, found that members of the Piraha tribe in remote northwestern Brazil use language to express relative quantities such as "some" and "more," but not precise numbers.
It is often assumed that counting is an innate part of human cognition, said Gibson, "but here is a group that does not count. They could learn, but it's not useful in their culture, so they've never picked it up."
The study, which appeared in the June 10 online edition of the journal Cognition, offers evidence that number words are a concept invented by human cultures as they are needed, and not an inherent part of language, Gibson said.
(Photo: Edward Gibson)
"Honey, how many of them are coming over for dinner because I need to know how much chicken to bake?"
"I hate you..."
"Two! Not more than two!"
I've spent the last few minutes thinking of all the math that can be done without numbers. You can certainly have a set without numbers, you can partition it. You could have an equivalence relation without numbers. I think there's quite a bit.
Note that I'm not saying these people did or even could invent math without inventing words for numbers first, but isn't it an intriguing idea?
As a side note, if you ask the Aymara of central America to point to the future, the point behind themselves. We would point straight ahead.
I reckon there is some crucial knowledge out there that shows us our true relationship with the universe but we are yet to develop the language or the scientific measuring instruments (categorisation systems) to understand it.
Interesting stuff indeed.
"As a side note, if you ask the Aymara of central America to point to the future, the point behind themselves. We would point straight ahead."
You would point ahead? I would point up.
In fact, all human have this potential. We did as babies. And look at Hellen Keller - before she learned language she certialy was able to think as much as any human (just not communicate her thoughts to others). And she stands as one example of any number of humans who didn't learn any language but can still think, concieve, experience, and understand.
Language can *shape* how people think, certianly, but it's not perfect barrier of understanding.