Does time work differently in different languages? – Hopi Time


Time ticks forward in English, but did you
know in Mandarin earlier is up and later is down? Or that the Yucatec Maya have no word for
before or after? These sound like the kind of fun facts you
share with a friend and move on. But for linguists, time is at the center of
a major debate: are there languages where time just doesn’t work like we think it does? There’s a linguist who’s spent his entire
career documenting and trying to understand one language: Hopi. After four years of fieldwork in Arizona,
on the Third Mesa, surely he has real insights to share about every aspect of the language. And yet in this long book he focuses on just
one: Hopi Time. Over 600 pages of Hopi Time, with example
after example of how, just like English, Hopi has words for time, like “later” or “temporarily”. The Hopi count days. They use terms like “over there” as spatial
metaphors for time. And their verbs have tenses: they can mark
the future with -ni. Time, time, everywhere time! Ok, so the Hopi can tell time. What’s the big deal? Well, it must’ve mattered to someone, because
linguists and psychologists and people who’d never heard a word of Hopi in their lives
grabbed the book and held it high as proof that time was universal for humans. And then they cursed the name of Whorf. Whorf was wrong! Whorf was a charlatan! Whorf was a con man! Hold on, what’s the fuss? Who ever said that Hopi doesn’t think about
the past, present and future? Plus who’s this Whorf and why is he getting
picked on so much? Whorf was a fire inspector. But one with a unique hobby: Uto-Aztecan languages. This curiosity led him Sapir, who took Whorf
under his wing. Psst, hey, I’ve got some literature that’ll
blow your mind. See, Humboldt and Boas taught us how different
cultures subconsciously categorize the world based on language. But I think there’s more. I think people are at the mercy of language. We’re not living in the objective world, man,
we’re living through our language. Hah, what an odd idea. But as Whorf turned to another Uto-Aztecan
language, he started to see it. Hopi seemed so un-European to him in the way
it handled time. There was no substance called “time”. No timeline that could be cut and counted. No space as a metaphor for time, as if you
could move through time. Not even a past, a present or a future tense. The more Whorf studied Hopi, the more he concluded
that the arrow of time isn’t something that exists in our objective world. Instead, we think about time this way because
we speak Standard Average European. The Hopi don’t share our concept of time because
they speak Hopi. How do the Hopi live without tense? Well, for Whorf, Hopi time is about cycles,
rituals, mental preparation for key events. Above all, they have no objective time. Sapir died at age 55 and Whorf joined him
a couple years later, aged 44. But his ideas were captivating: do people
think about time differently in different languages? Does your language shape your concept of time? Does the language you speak determine whether
or not time even exists for you? These claims, from weak to strong, got the
nickname “Sapir-Whorf”, which I often hear pronounced “SA-pir Whorf”. Hopi Time became its poster child. And an ever-growing big fish tale. Hopi is innocent of a category for time. No, worse, our concept of time would be incomprehensible
to them. Better yet, the reason you have clocks and
watches is because you aren’t Hopi. Hah, and my favorite, Hopi time makes for
better family therapy than the Aristotelian reality Western parents are stuck in. So now do you see the power of these 600 pages
spent vanquishing Whorf and mainstreaming Hopi? Linguists had had enough. Many of them wanted to focus on what made
language universal and innate to all of us. Stop parading Hopi around as an exotic oddity. We all think the same way, we just express
ourselves with a little linguistic flair. So then, time is time is time. It’s settled. Not quite. Dot-dot-dot. Years after Hopi Time, researchers claimed
they’d found new evidence showing Whorf was right about time all along. Like this set of experiments playing on the
difference between how English and Mandarin speakers use space to talk about time. “Earlier” is to your left and “later” to your
right in English, but in Mandarin things get vertical: “earlier” is up and “later” down. Even though these experiments were conducted
entirely in English, native Mandarin speakers were quicker to answer simple questions about
earlier or later after being primed with vertical cues, while native English speakers were faster
after horizontal cues. Thinking about time, it seemed, was shaped
by language. The masses were intrigued, myself included. Someone passed me a link to it in my work inbox years ago, and I wasn’t even with linguists. But in the comments of my old video about
Whorf, a researcher did mention having trouble replicating these results. From what I’ve read since then, that commenter
isn’t alone. Still, it was just one of the many Whorf-like
effects that kept making the news, some from scientific tests in the lab, others from fieldwork
on the ground. So in the Central Andes, there’s a language
spoken by millions called Aymara. In Aymara, your nayra, your “eye” is in front
of you, and your qhipa, your “back” is behind you. That’s normal, but this isn’t. When talking about time, the Aymara speak
as if they face the past, but they have their backs to the future. They even point behind their backs to gesture
into the future. So their eyes are exactly where your eyes
are, but their past is not where your past is. Rare. Unique. But there’s something else about Aymara…
and Hopi. At second glance, some linguists tell us both of them are best viewed as tenseless. Wait, there are timeless languages out there? Well, kind of. Tenseless. It’s not as odd as it first sounds. We already know of languages that are uncontroversially
tenseless. Take Yucatec Maya. Not only are they missing a past, present
and future tense, they even lack words like “before”, “until” and “after”. How in the world do they talk about time? Well, strategies. Complex strategies like context and aspect. It could make a fun followup to dig into the mechanics of how tenseless languages talk about time. But good luck proving any of this makes them experience time in a fundamentally different way. Yucatec speakers do fine in experiments about
linear time, and any effects are subtle. See, if you read the research and not the
breaking headlines, “strong” ideas of language determining time, those are out. Any ongoing debates are about subtler influences. In the end, languages do talk about time differently,
but it’s harder to get speakers to behave differently based on their language. But I’ll level with you. I get the sense that trivia about time and
tenses was never the point. Hopi time became a mascot for a grander idea:
linguistic relativity. Or as Sapir put it, different societies live
in distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached. That’s an idea I suspect we’ll run into again
in the future. Until then, stick around and subscribe for
language!

100 Replies to “Does time work differently in different languages? – Hopi Time

  1. Well, nice video. Just one correction, guaraní, at least the standard (which is widely speak in Paraguay ant taught in the schools) do have tenses, future tense with the postfix "ta" o past tenses with the postfix " 'akue" or "va'ekue"

  2. I know for a FACT that the economics that is taught in business school is fake and does not reflect how real world works, but rather it is taught to reflect what is best for bankers. In business school students never learn about Classical Economics with Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Thorstein Veblem and they don't even really study Adam Smith Wealth of Nations — they pick pieces of this book to teach about capitalism. WHY??? Because if they taught real capitalism we would not all be debt slaves to mortgages and we would live in a world which lends into industry and not asset inflation. First one makes people that produce rich, second one makes bankers rich. Okay, so this is how I come to believing Whorf over say Steven Pinkerton. The banking class and propagandist use language to control us – in order to think the way they want. Pinkerton is payed by the establishment for his shit, as is Chomsky and that is why they put it out. I believe Whorf.

  3. Holy shit. Until you pointed it out to me, I never realised that we reference time using up/down directions (e.g. 上个星期五, last Friday vs. 下个星期五, next Friday) I just say it in everyday conversation without a second thought.

    But when you showed the timeline experiment, I think of time on a left to right spectrum, even though Chinese is my mother tongue. I'm thoroughly baffled.

  4. Aymara system is more comprehensive to me .. past already happen, you can see it with you're "eyes". The Future is not yet know, is not in you're sight of what you can see, however, you can still imagine what can happen based of the past and what you can see around you at the "present".

  5. but this doesn't define how time really works, it's more of how people from different countries on planet earth verbally and linguistically express about language regardless of how time itself actually works, right?

  6. Something that would've been cool to mention is how Maya calendars were circular, and Yucatec was one of the most widely spoken languages while these calendars were being used. The classical Mayan concept of time was as something that didnt move forward endlessly (this is actually seldom found in many classical cultures, but became very widespread a notion after Rome & Greece), but rather moved around in a circle.

  7. what is said about mandarin is basically wrong. Earlier is 早一点 and later is 晚一点 (Early is 早; late is 晚;一点 is the comparative). When a time reference is used, before is 以前 and after is 以后 (前 =in front;后= behind). the only case that comes to my mind where 上 and 下 are used in time expressions is 早上or 上午(morning) and 下午(afternoon).

  8. 🤦🏽‍♂️🤦🏽‍♂️🤦🏽‍♂️. You don’t understand n8v time…. we do not all think the same way.

  9. I'm so high…honestly, i've watched this video 3 times, and I have no effin idea what the hell he was talking about. Looks like it's time for another hit of the bong, and a McDonalds run. Class is tomorrow, so im sure i'll figure it out before then.

  10. This concept gets spread around so much from time to time because it reaffirms a radical social constructionist world view, and the left is fucking obsessed with that.

  11. The whole idea of facing the past actually makes a lot of sense when you break it down.
    You can always see what happened in the past, but you can never predict the future.
    In a sense, it's like walking backwards, always able to see where you've been, but not where you're going.

  12. Well, I always thought about direction of script and time concept being connected to right or left handedness. At least if you are using ink.
    Imagine using you right hand to write. If you have to wait until every letter dries on paper, so you don't destroy your writing right away, given you have to rest your hand on the same peace of paper, it is really inefficient. So after each letter you just move your hand in the direction of unused paper space and your writing can safely dry. That direction for right handed person is either to the right or down. But for left handed person it's opposite.
    I imagined that left handed people have a terrible time learning unnatural way of writing and thinking of direction of time. It was and still is a major mystery for me, why didn't everyone switched to top-down mode of writing. Dare I say…. writing down…

  13. Hola, te escribo en español, pues sé que lo manejas bien. Hace un tiempo hice una presentación en Berlín sobre la traducción y el pensamiento, en relación con la convivencia social. Usé algunas imágenes de este video, por supuesto, indicando la fuente. Por si te interesa, el texto está en este link: http://eldescansoenlaescalera.blogspot.com/2019/02/identidades-en-dialogo-la-traduccion.html

  14. I don’t get it… the Aymara know the difference between 5 minutes ago and 5 minutes from now. What is this different reality they live in?

  15. But you didn't explain how Hopi people talk about time exactly. Not at all? How did they mention something happened yesterday then?

  16. The future being behind you makes a lot more sense you cant see into the future but you can look back on the past just like how you can see what's in front of you but it's hard to tell what's behind you

  17. Japanese works the same way as Aymara! 前 not only means front but also previous, meaning the previous time was at the front of them!

  18. The Mandarin "up" "down" thing is pure bullcrap. In reality it is 前 or 之前 for "before", which also means "in front of" and 后 or 之后 for "after", which also means "behind", and unless refering to 上次 "last time" and 下次 "next time" it is utter nonsense.

  19. I read some study a long time ago about how other concepts can be experienced differently based on the metaphors that different languages use to describe them. The big example was that the experience of lost love seemed to be substantially different to a person who's language uses the phrase "broken-hearted" compared to the experience of someone who's language's metaphor is more like "heart-bruised". Does anybody else remember that and know if its conclusions have held up?

  20. 0:09 Well, as a Mandarin speaker, I never know that earlier is up and later is down. I spent quite a while thinking about it, but still no clue, how?

  21. But isn't English also treating the past as being ahead of a person, and the future as being behind? We do this whenever we refer to relative points in time rather than vague senses of the future or past. For example, we use the words "before" and "after" – based on fore and aft. We also use the prefix ante- to refer to the past and the prefix post- to refer to the future, but when applied to space, anterior is the front of something, where posterior is the rear. However, English also refers to the future as being ahead and the past behind, but only in the present – as I understand now, relative to a person rather than to a point in time. If we refer to something that happened ahead of an event , we're certainly talking about something further in the past. Likewise, we use the term "following" to refer to something coming in the future relative to an event. This really confused me as a child developing my understanding of language. As a native English speaker I was very familiar with the concept of the future being ahead and the past being behind, but because of the usage of the word following in temporal situations, I understood it to refer to leading, not lagging. It was similarly confusing to think of "later" and "younger" as being synonymous; same with earlier and older. To be even more confusing, "the night is young" means it's early in the night. Now I understand that the direction of time is relative to the subject. In English, events flow past the speaker, facing the speaker when in the speaker's future, and facing away from the speaker when in the speaker's past. This was not the spatial intuition of time I started with. As a child, I don't think I considered the order of events relative to my own direction of time, but rather thought of all time as being in a specific direction, one in which what is "ahead" of me is also ahead of any events that might take place between me and those events, and what is behind me must also be behind any event in my past. That is, I thought of time in reference to events, not in reference to a person traveling through the events. It took me until I was about 10 to fully understand that "before" referred spatially to my front and "after" referred spatially to what's behind me. I wonder if other languages are more consistent in relating the direction of time to the direction of events in one's life rather than inverting them, considering the person to be flowing opposite events. As you might imagine, my concepts around communicating time as a spatial metaphor didn't do me any favors in 6th grade Latin class.

  22. Regardless if the concept is humanly Universal, Time as a phenomenon is a proven "fact" and therefore universal

  23. Isn't the fact English is written horizontally while mandarin is written vertically the reason why native Chinese speakers have an easier time with vertical time?

  24. Imagine life on a rogue planet. There is no year day or hour, since they don't rotate or go around a sun. I can't even imagine what the concept of time would be to them. What would that be like?

  25. I didn't know that you read mangas from the back of the book to the beginning. I thought universally, like everyone reads books like the English way. Where you start from the cover, very beginning of the book, by the prologue. And then, you read all of the pages until you reach the epilogue or the end of the book. usually where you would have the words "This page was intentionally left blank" on the final page before the back cover

  26. I mean, in chinese people used to write up-down it's not quite hard to believe they would see time that way. I've always found more curious how in English you speak of time in length but in Spanish you do it with volume.

  27. Michel Foucault's idea of "episteme" is very similar to the ideas about how language affects our very perceptions.

  28. Deep .. food for thought … since I start learning Chinese,I have been thinking on concept of linguistic relativity .. thanks for the video

  29. In northern Quechua ñawpa pacha when spacial it means front when temporal it means past. Hipa for us means later but I speak the modern Quechua not precolumbian Quechua

  30. The Māori language works a bit like Aymara: "mua" means the past and also "in front of", while "muri" means the future and also "behind". We have a saying, "ka mua, ka muri", which describes watching the past while walking backwards into the future: you can't see the future, but you can still look at the past to guide you.

  31. Maybe the past is in front of you in Aymara and the future is behind you, because of the idea that you can see the past, but you can't see the future.

  32. You: "Not timeless, tenseless".
    Me, native from a language where there's one one word for "time" and "tense": frowns

  33. These aren’t my thoughts so don’t get worked up, just a hypothesis I found interesting. “Muslims are more devout than Christians because the language of their faith Arabic is often not their first language” from what we’ve seen it is easier to convince a Muslim to die for his faith than a Christian or a Jew. They speak Arabic from the context of the Quran where things are not necessarily grounded in reality so Islam takes on a more mystical quality because they don’t use the language they grew up describing the physical world with. Sort of a cognitive disconnect where the native tongue is used for concrete and tangible topics but Arabic is used for all things religious. It’s not a huge leap in logic that it would be easier to manipulate someone into a dangerous or suicidal action when they already have a thought process that can be seen as outside the realm of conventional logic.

    Like I said, these are not my thoughts and I’d prefer any discussion on this comment to be impartial and civil. Sorry if this struck a nerve with anyone but I thought it was too interesting not to share.

  34. I wonder if the directionality of time has changed in languages like Chinese. Nowadays, the language isn't exclusively written in a vertical style; reading the sentences from top to bottom (t-b) and right to left (r-l). Depending on what you're reading, you could be reading something more formal like a newspaper where the old t-b/r-l still exists, but an office memo might be written in western style l-r/t-b. Factor in the need to collaborate with the outside world that requires minimizing cultural differences and therefore standardizing language, like science, I wonder if the younger generation has flipped the direction or even split the difference and went diagonal.

  35. No,…it works the same.

    It might be perceived differently and it might be described differently, but it works the same.

  36. the verb "go" in chinese is 去, when you wanna say you are going, you 'll say 要去, and when you want say you went (to some place) you say 去过。

  37. Let me proffer this possibility; those who see the future ahead of them imagine themselves waking forward in time: those who see the future behind them imagine time moving forward and themselves stationary. Just a thought.

  38. Hebrew, Hopi & other ancient tongues agree that past is in front of us (in our memory) and future is behind us (out of our sight) as Paleo-Hebrew scholar, author and Vlogger Jeff A. Benner [ancient.hebrew(dot)org], explains in this short video "A History of Hebrew: Introduction" > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nR5GQ–YNpI&t=18s

  39. I think the idea that language shapes our thoughts and perceptions is a very valid one, honestly.
    If you take the time and effort to learn another language, you can see how differently those speakers see the world based on the words they prioritize and the imagery they use. Maybe the difference isn't as big as a whole culture having no concept of time, but there's no denying that there are subtle ones. Some languages assign genders and personalities to objects while others see them as inanimate things. Some languages are more centered around nature or time or humanity as a driving force. Some have a hundred specific words for emotions while others only have a few dozen.
    And while those differences don't necessarily mean that the people who speak those languages are living in an entire other reality from you or me, it does mean that the way they think and speak about the world is that little bit different. The way they perceive objects or emotions or the driving force of the world isn't the same as the way you perceive it.
    It's all deeply fascinating.

  40. Time is a tool you can put on the wall or wear it on your wrist
    The past is far behind us, the future doesn't exist

    Oh.

    Whats the time?

    Its a quarter to nine, time to have a bath

    What do you mean, we're already clean

    Scrub scrub scrub til the water's brown
    Time is a ruler to measure the day, it doesn't go backwards, only one way
    Watch it go round like a merry go round, going so fast like a merry go round.

    Lets go on a journey, a journey through time.
    Time is changing all the time, its time to go to time.

    But we don't really want to
    we're going to miss our show

    DON'T BE STUPID FRIENDS
    C'mon its time to go.

    Time is old like the Victorian times.

    With cobbles and plague and speaking in rhymes
    With cobbles and chimneys a simpler time
    With cobbles and sawdust and batteries and slime.

    This tree that is old has circles inside

    The tree that is older has shriveled and died

    The apple that is fresh is ripe to the core

    and I rot over time and I'm not anymore

    Time can be told by the moon or the sun but time flies fast when you're having fun
    There's a time and a place for mucking around

    Like birthdays

    and camping

    I'm friends with my dad

    and then what happened after the olden days?

    Time went new and got old like history.
    Stuff from the past went into a mystery

    an old man died

    but look a computer
    Everything's cool, IT'S THE FUTURE

    Time is now, the future anew, and look at all of the wonderful things you can do
    With gadgets and gizmos and email addresses

    My dad is a computer

    Look at the time

    Its quarter to eight, there's fish on my plate

    Its twenty past day, there's fish on my tray

    Its eleven to twelve, there's fish in the bath

    Its nine thirty, there's fish everywhere… fish everywhere.

    Now you can see the importance of time.
    It helps us make pizza, it keeps things in line.

    But when did it start?
    and when will it stop?

    Time is important and I am a clock.

    If we run out of time, where does it go?

    Is time even real?
    Does anyone know?

    Maybe time's just a construct of human perception. An illusion created by-

    Meh, meh, meh, meh,
    Meh, meh, meh, meh,
    Meh, meh, MEH! MEH!
    MEH! MEH! MEH! MEH!

    Sunrise, sunset
    night and day
    The changing seasons the smell of hay.
    Look at your hair grow, isn't it strange?
    How time makes your appearance change.

    Make it stop!

    Its out of my hands, I'm only a clock
    Don't worry, I'm sure you'll be fine,
    but eventually everyone runs out of
    time.

  41. The most primitive religions seemed to be all about time but perhaps not about months, hours and minutes. Many researchers now suggest circular megaliths like Stonehenge were actually clocks or calendars. Humanity in temperate regions has always needed to know the changing of the seasons, to predict when to plant if they were agriculturalists or when to follow the herds if hunters. As long, dark winters wore on, the people needed to know the sun would return.

    In simple biology, there has to be an understanding of time. Human gestation is about 9 months. However a people may calculate time, there certainly must be a concept that a pregnant woman will give birth within a certain time. Even in primitive cultures, many things must take place in the future whether or not the future is considered "behind". For instance, people get married, probably after some planning and the planning period becomes past while the marriage remains future. To suggest otherwise is to return to the old idea of the caveman whacking over the head, the woman of his choice and dragging her to his cave for a breeding session.

    I think unless a people is as basic as the stereotypical caveman mentioned above, time MUST be part of culture whether or not it is part of the language. Time elapses when food is cooked, skins are tanned, objects are made. Animal life may be timeless such as for herbivores who graze continuously. See it, eat it, eat some more, find some more…. Even so, all creatures have biological clocks, biorhythms that are keepers of primeval time. In subtle ways I would bet biorhythms make the concept of time unavoidable and the rest is the psychological orientation of a people and their language to explain the nearly un-explainable.

  42. The Aymara system is of special interest to me. I have been a nurse and I took care of a man who had had several strokes. He was the only patient I ever had who could not sit down without a great fight. Even with the toilet, he tried to put his head in the hole and his backside against the wall. After a few years of the struggle I accidentally found out what was going on. We had gone to run my dog and the dog was put into the back seat of the car. My patient criticised me for the rest of the trip because I had left my dog at the park.

    Finally he said, "I can't see her."

    "If you can't see her, she doesn't exist" I asked? He said that was correct.

    Whatever part of the brain the strokes had affected had taken away the concept of behind. Thus, for him, sitting down was the same as falling or being pushed backward over a great cliff. He had no concept that a chair could exist if he could not see it. Sitting was a matter of eyes on the seat, backside going down in empty space. My patient's concept of time was also destroyed and this was agony for him as he had NO concept of day or night, despite light or dark. Time simply made no sense. So, language aside, is there a part of the brain that handles time. past, future, forward, behind? Of course, if there is, language would need to express the emotional effects.

  43. its actually a plot of a movie where there is this linguitic lady who meets an alien race and the more she learns their language the more her perception of time gets distupted and a at the end she realises that her memories of her daughter dying is actually her future

  44. Which is it? Why did one researcher came to the conclusion that there is no literal or metaphorical concept of time in Hopi language, while another came to the conclusion that it has ALL of the time related concepts?
    Because it really sounds like one of them is either incredibly incompetent, or lying.

  45. If you know what 'fore' and 'aft' mean you'll realize English does the before / after thing in the same orientation as Aymara. The question is do other languages mix this metaphor up as much as English?

  46. Could the way that English and Mandarin understand time be linked to the way that they write? English: left to right. Mandarin: top to bottom.

  47. I don't understand how time is not an integral part of any language. Even measuring things or thinking in cycles or how these Hopi people did is in fact measuring time, rather you call it that or not.

  48. In albanian time is like the word for future is like the equivalent of a farther place as in over then, or in some cases back over earlier in the case of the past.

  49. The Aymara have an interesting metaphysical metaphor. You a see the past, but you can't see the future. So why shouldn't it be sneaking up behind you while you're busy watching the past.

  50. Would have been more interesting to delve into things like hours and minutes. Years and months are related to astronomy, so those are pretty much universal, and seconds are extremely intuitive (a moment, breath, blink of an eye), so those are universal. BUT what about minutes and hours? How did we decide we should divide time into units of 60 'moments'? Wouldn't it be more intuitive to use the base 10 system so that a minute would be 100 moments, and an hour 100 minutes? Do other languages divide time into other units than hours and minutes?

  51. the native people lived by nature, Light or Sun = morning,, Dusk = prepare for the night. Darkness = sleep. They lived by seasons , they planted by seasons,,, grew by seasons,,, and harvested by seasons. they watched the sun and the moon to know when to plant, when to hunt,, when to gather berries. they lived by the legends and teachings of the elders,, they have a belief that every action should be considered for the next 7 generations,,, i think there would have been numbers or a way of counting. Listening to nature , they made a fine life,, imo.

  52. Keep in mind the publication bias: studies, even though they are incorrect, that capture the human imagination are likely to be published. But hundreds of studies debunking them are uninteresting for researchers to publish, because it does not show any "disovery". This problem is huge across all sciences, and even more so in anything psychology and health – related. (That's my field).

  53. So English-speakers answer questions about time more quickly if they are primed with the idea of left and right. Couldn't this just have to do with cognitive skill, and picturing prior moments where they saw time visually represented left to right like on a calendar? Does this need to have anything to do with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis?

  54. Aymara : pourquoi chercher si loin ? Le LATIN, si proche de nous, a les mêmes propriétés :
    devant = ante = avant
    derrière = post = après.
    Parce que le passé est connu (on le voit) tandis que le futur est inconnu… Pour les Latins, c'était réellement leur vision de la marche du temps. Pour nous, cela a disparu de nos images mentales, mais reste visible dans le vocabulaire de la plupart des langues européennes.

  55. 0:06 Not a Mandarin speaker, but for me personally, I've grown up thinking the months progress downwards (due to the calendar pages progressing as such), the years progress up (since the numbers increase as time goes on), and the hours either up or down depending if it's before or after 12 PM (due to the apparent position of the Sun in the sky).

  56. I believe the reason the Aymara speak of past and future is because they "see" the past they've lived it but can not see the future. It's like waking backwards through life. You seen where you've been but not where you're going.

  57. ummm… English speaks of time exactly as the Aymara do. The word "before" literally means "in front" and the word "after" literally means "behind". We still use the words "fore" and "aft" in shipping terminology. Indeed, the word "behind" can also be used of time ("I'm behind schedule": i.e. you're lingering on an activity after you should have moved on according to your schedule). It literally refers to the back side of your body, "hind quarters" is a polite way of referring to an animal's butt. We think of time as flowing from right to left because that's the direction we write in. But in a non-literate society, it would be natural to speak of facing the past with your back to the future. Our words for time developed long before anyone was writing anything in English: you can still pick them out of Beowulf.

    The odd one out is Classical Greek: which speaks of the future as "before" and the past as "after". The ancient Greeks saw themselves as facing a predestined future, but recognized the faultiness of memory and recorded history. The past was subject to interpretation, and was ultimately lost. It could not be recaptured or recreated. The future however could be predicted from observing trends in the present. A careful enough observer could see almost anything coming. They interpreted this phenomenon as meaning that there was indeed some kind of fate or destiny (embodied by the Moirai: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos).

  58. Our present european concept of time didn't exist before Renaissance.Before that, there weren't clear barriers between past,present and future, it was like one turned into the other : future becomes present, which becomes past .Renaissance started in Italy when people realised that it was time to acknowledge that the roman empire was no more and that they weren't romans and didn't speak latin, but italian.The Roman Empire became the past and Italy the present , with clear delimitations.

  59. There's an important factor missing from all these studies… the difference between a language to speak and a language to write. Tenseless language seems too hard to imagine when we imagine it written, while when spoken the language is more than sounds coming from the mouth, and a simple word can have its meaning simply by how its spoken (the body language and the tone).
    It's like when we write in Arabic "ya salam يا سلام" but when we say it it can mean many things (literally it means "o peace" in a vocative way).

  60. Am I crazy or does that mandarin-english study seem like it relates to reading direction rather than physical conception of time and space?

  61. Japanese sees the past as “in front,” at least to some extent. To say “ten years ago,” you say 十年前、literally “ten years in front.” For “ten years ahead,” it is 十年後, “ten years behind.”

  62. Where would I start to get an understanding of cyclical time and how it works? ( does the book on Hopi time give examples and how it works?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *