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Which came first, the language or the culture? - Tactical Ninja

Feb. 9th, 2011

09:37 am - Which came first, the language or the culture?

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You know how there's a belief that pounamu absorbs the wairua of its wearer? Apparently this belief isn't just limited to Maori in New Zealand. According to the book I am reading (fictional but written by a Chinese person) this belief is shared by the Chinese about jade. Traditionally they also have the belief that it has to like you for you to be able to wear it, and apparently it really does change colour over time. To which I go "Hmm.."

And in other things Chinese I started attempting to learn the radicals yesterday. There are a lot of them. I have learned the first five, what they mean and where you might find them in a Chinese character. While my native English-speaking brain is going OMGOMGOMG*POP* at the way in which this language works*, I keep telling myself I'm good at codes and patterns and this is just a bigger, more complex one with the potential to really upset people if I stuff it up. What could possibly go wrong, right?

* For example, the character for 'good' is a combination of the radical for 'woman' and the one for 'child'. Woman and child together = good. Now while I do understand the logic behind this, it's not a leap my brain would make on its own and I've seen enough literal translations Chinese --> English to know there's quite a lot of this metaphorical association stuff going on in there, and some of it may be even more unlikely-seeming to me.


Mostly because it was frustrating for me not to be able to communicate with people in Hong Kong. Also because if I'm serious about working there I should at least get myself to the "Me Wendy you is..?" stage before I go there. Because in my line of work reading is probably more important than speaking. Because Mandarin and Cantonese are the same when written and that saves me having to make a choice. And not in a small part, because Hong Kong is full of signs in both Chinese and English and I started to see some pattern in it, began to decode it in a very tiny way, and now I want to be able to do that more and develop understanding.

And, you know, I don't have enough to do already.

Yesterday I also memorised the steps in the Waitangi claims process. Here they are for your edification.

1. Group registers a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal. This is free.
2. The claim is checked to ensure it complies with the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 and if it is, it's then grouped with other claims relating to the same district or issue.
3. The Crown Forestry Rental Trust and professional researchers explore the background and issues associated with the claim, and creates casebooks about the claim.
4. A hearing date is set and conferences are held to ensure everyone involved knows what's happening and what the boundaries of their claim are, where they might overlap with other claims, what the points of similarity/difference are, etc.
5. At the hearing, the claimants speak first with evidence and submissions. Other interested parties speak next. Then the Crown speaks.
6. The Tribunal reports with findings and recommendations. This report is used in negotiations between claimants and the Crown, while the Tribunal steps back.

The Tribunal is investigative not adversorial, and has no legal jurisdiction to settle claims, merely to recommend. Also, did you know that in 2008 the government passed legislation preventing Maori from pursuing claims for occurrences prior to 1992? I didn't.

Yes, I'm using you all as my study board. Thanks!


I have been cooking. I blame this on the three weeks of eating out every night and the desire for more vegetables in my life. Also on my skintness. Anyway, my cooking show will be entitled "Fun things to make with an onion and half a courgette" and The Kid keeps looking at me sideways, perhaps wondering if his real Mum has been abducted by aliens. And so far nobody's died.

Gosh. If I develop a healthy habit every 6 months, by the time I retire I'll be Virtuous As Fuck and probably a bit smug. Clearly I need to pick up some more vices to balance it all out. *nods*

Comments:

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From:pombagira
Date:February 8th, 2011 08:48 pm (UTC)
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nom nom lunch!! *skips*
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From:tatjna
Date:February 8th, 2011 08:59 pm (UTC)
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Hey lady, you should go look here. There's someone who might want to pick your brainz0rs.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 8th, 2011 09:08 pm (UTC)
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My vice needs to have long handles for maximum leverage.

I would also like a foldable one that I can keep in my bag.

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From:rivet
Date:February 8th, 2011 09:24 pm (UTC)

a recommendation

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I'm a firm believer is language giving you a lot of insight into culture. There are going to be a lot of things that will make your feminist go 'gnnng'. Keep an anthropologist hat in your pocket for when you need distance--it allows you to say 'this is fascinating and says a lot about the centrality of family in this culture'.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 8th, 2011 09:28 pm (UTC)

Re: a recommendation

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Yeah, that's kind of how I was looking at the 'woman + child' thing - especially having read some other stuff that clarifies cultural feelings about family.

I'm glad that over the last few years I've done a lot of learning about history/colonialism/social issues, because it helps me to take that step back and think about how the norms of my own culture might be affecting my view of others. And that just makes it more interesting.
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From:rivet
Date:February 8th, 2011 09:35 pm (UTC)

Re: a recommendation

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I assume I've probably explained at some point that the conjugation for asking about marriage and/or children in Thai is 'have you already or not yet?' It's simply not a question that you answer with a difinitive 'no'. Even if you're gay, it's assumed that you will eventually marry and have kids because you're not a complete person without a family.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 8th, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC)

Re: a recommendation

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Does this apply to people (of whom there are many in our circle) who have reached an almost-beyond-childbearing age, or is there a point at which the question discreetly stops being asked?

I'm curious because while it's not so blatant, I can see parallels in our culture as well.
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From:rivet
Date:February 8th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)

Re: a recommendation

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People are often referred to by family terms relative to the speaker. I am 'sister' or 'auntie', and eventually become 'granny'. I suspect something similar happens in Chinese
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From:tatjna
Date:February 8th, 2011 09:48 pm (UTC)

Re: a recommendation

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In the book I'm currently reading, it seems that an older female to whom you're not sure of your relationship is referred to as 'older sister' and a young one as 'little sister'. It seems the equivalent for men is 'uncle' and I haven't learned the one for young boys - although this is gleaned from context rather than specified so it could be wrong.
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From:caycos
Date:February 9th, 2011 12:29 am (UTC)

Re: a recommendation

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Actually that happens a bit in Maori culture as well - all older women who are 'friends of the family' are referred to as auntie..
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From:caycos
Date:February 9th, 2011 12:29 am (UTC)

Re: a recommendation

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(purely my personal observation)
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From:rivet
Date:February 8th, 2011 09:46 pm (UTC)

Re: a recommendation

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what happens in Japanese?
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From:rivet
Date:February 8th, 2011 10:48 pm (UTC)

Re: a recommendation

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All work and no play when you could be hobnobbing with the potential spinsters and/or liberated women of your neighborhood? pffft. Live a little!

Edited at 2011-02-08 10:49 pm (UTC)
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From:rivet
Date:February 8th, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)

Re: a recommendation

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Those people are looked on with suspicion or pitied, and suggestions are made about adoption. Of course if you're a guy it's never too late!
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From:morbid_curious
Date:February 8th, 2011 11:51 pm (UTC)

Re: a recommendation

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Interesting parallels there with Japanese society, where homosexual behaviour isn't frowned upon as much as in the West, but you're still expected to settle down and have a family regardless.
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From:richdrich
Date:February 8th, 2011 09:47 pm (UTC)
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I think Babelshades (TM) are but a few years away. These will use AR to replace text in another language with English. Well, sort of English.

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From:tatjna
Date:February 8th, 2011 09:49 pm (UTC)
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Excellent! I speak Sort-of English really well!
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From:morbid_curious
Date:February 8th, 2011 11:48 pm (UTC)
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Learning other languages is interesting in a number of ways, I think. It gives you cultural insights, and helps you to understand better how speakers of that language will attempt to communicate in English (and how to simplify for their understanding, if necessary). To the example, since years I have been making conversations online with the non-fluent Germans, who can break English with the very distinctive mannerisms.

I found myself wanting to express a concept that didn't exist as a word in English, the other day, though it's two syllables in Russian. It's an interesting feeling.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 8th, 2011 11:51 pm (UTC)
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Closer to home, this course I've been doing has highlighted a number of Maori words that don't have an English equivalent - mana and tapu for example - and a number of concepts that can't really be explained in English. Tino rangatiratanga vs sovereignty vs kawanatanga vs governorship (Articles 1 and 2 of the Treaty) are probably the most glaring examples.
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From:morbid_curious
Date:February 8th, 2011 11:58 pm (UTC)
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Oh, definitely. It's kind of funny1 that our word "taboo" comes from Polynesian roots, but that it's not adequate to translate the full implications of the original term.

[1] Funny in the non-"ha ha" sense, of course. In German, this would be komisch, which carries implications of "curious" or "strange", as opposed to something like witzig which is the more comical kind of funny.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:February 9th, 2011 12:51 am (UTC)
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You'll be learning faster than me! (particular because I was inadvertently learning Mandarin pronunciation on my flash cards ;-)

Also, while watching Weeds I've found it cool to be able to understand (rudimentally) some of the non-subtitled Spanish bits.
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From:tatjna
Date:February 9th, 2011 12:54 am (UTC)
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I feel this way when I occasionally catch the news in Maori.

Also, I have learned 5 radicals. All the ones that have only one stroke. Except on another site I looked at where they include a sixth and I don't know which is right. And the one that means 'ice'.

Sadly, this doesn't help me decipher the meaning of anything really... maybe when I've learned 10? Or if I come across the character for 'one ice'?
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From:anna_en_route
Date:February 9th, 2011 02:39 am (UTC)
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Spanish is also useful for Dexter (and for more and more incidentals on American tv)
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From:geeknz
Date:February 9th, 2011 10:41 pm (UTC)
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Traditionally they also have the belief that it has to like you for you to be able to wear it, and apparently it really does change colour over time. To which I go "Hmm.."
And also temperature, independent of the room temperature, or the temperature of the person wearing it. It's a very odd feeling when it does it.

Also, did you know that in 2008 the government passed legislation preventing Maori from pursuing claims for occurrences prior to 1992? I didn't.
My understanding was only new claims. All existing filed claims were to still be processed.

Also closer to home for me, is that if one set of descendants have already filed a claim for a given occurrence which has been processed and finished, no other descendants of the same person/people can also file for that occurrence.
By the time my father worked out who he was, and what he was entitled to, the claims for that land had already been filed and processed by another branch of the family.
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