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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Object vs Context

Richard Nisbett's The Geography of Thought is a very interesting read. Asians and Westerners are so different in so many ways, and they live in literally a very different world.

He discussed the language effects which I find really intriguing.
Western languages force a preoccupation with focal objects as opposed to context. English is a "subject-prominent" language. There must be a subject even in the sentence "It is raining." Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, in contrast, are "topic-prominent" languages.

I don't know Japanese or Korean, but I do know "It is raining" in Chinese is "xia yu le!"

It's indeed very different. It shows that to learn Chinese, at least for English speaking people, it's much better to learn through context than to memorize a dictionary. And be prepared, learning Chinese can change your world, literally!!