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21 May 2011


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This is Chris Sinha here, one of the Amondawa "When Time is not Space" researchers. Nothing in our research suggests that the Amondawa "truly lack the capacity to map temporal events into spatial relations", in fact everything points to their having this capacity, but not employing it in lingusitically conceptualizing temporal relations.

And there is no doubt tthat Amondawa time interval "categories themselves actualize [intensive] properties of their social-environmental relations", we discuss this at length in our article using the Bourdieu-ian notion of habitus. Thanks for all the interest!

Jeff Bell

Thanks so much for the clarification Christopher. As I noted in my post I didn't buy the line that the Amondawa truly lack the capacity to map temporal events but it's great to get confirmation from one of the authors of the study that this was not your conclusion either. This will teach me not to rely on a BBC story rather than reading the article first (which I'll do). When Dr. Pica is cited in the BBC story saying that the mapping hypothesis is not refuted by your study I read more into that claim than I should have, so your clarification is much appreciated. It's also nice to read that you discuss the Bourdian notion of habitus, which gives me even more reason to read your study.

John Protevi

I thought I would just add, for those new to Deleuzean terminology, that an "extensive" property for him means that which can be measured using a transcendent grid of measurement within which an object can be placed. The grid is "transcendent" in the sense that it is independent of the system being measured and can be objectively applied to other systems in such a way that measurements of the two systems can be compared. To use the classic example, the length of a table and a bench can both be measured by the same yardstick.

"Intensive" properties, on the other hand, are immanent to the system being investigated. Deleuze's formula is that intensive systems "cannot be divided without change of quality." A classic example in Deleuze literature (I think De Landa and Massumi both use this) is water temperature. A pot of water at X degree can be divided in the sense of half poured into another container, but then all you get is two pots with the same temperature (as opposed to dividing a bench in half; then you get two benches with different length from the original). But if you take "division" in the sense of establishing a difference in temperature from top to bottom of the pot, then at the right threshold you get convection currents (a change in the qualitative behavior of the system).

What Jeff is pointing to is the ability of people in our culture to map temporal relations onto transcendent "spatialized" / "extensive" grids (dates) AND to see them as containing intensive thresholds (e.g., you get a new name when you hit puberty). Christopher Sinha clarifies that the people he studied also have the same two capacities, though not deploying the former in the everyday use of their native language. (Please correct me if I'm wrong here.)

Jeff Bell

Well said John. Thanks.

Catarina Dutilh Novaes

Not having read the article myself either :), let me mention that there seems to be an interesting contrast with the case of number words. As the work of Pica and others suggests, people who speak languages with few number words (Piraha, Mundukuru) still don't seem to be able to get the 'hang' of simple arithmetic when they learn a language which does have words for all numbers (e.g. Portuguese) as adults. This has been disputed by some people, but to me the evidence seems solid, which makes me (and other people) think that there might be a critical age for learning to count and then doing arithmetic. By contrast, here it seems that either the Amondawa already have the capacity to map temporal events into spatial relations, even if that's not expressed in their linguistic practices, or they don't have this ability but develop it when learning a different language at a later stage in life. Both hypotheses offer an interesting contrast with what has been observed for word numbers and numerical cognition.

Hank Messinger

In reply to Jon Protevi, thanks for the clarification. I am somewhat new to Deleuzean terminology. I had tried a few entries but your work, a slight look at Political Physics, but more your recent Theory & Event piece have provided the opening I needed, and the hint to start at A Thousand Plateaus.


JB,on habitus, have you read the book The Social Theory of Practices: Tradition, Tacit Knowledge, and Presuppositions, by Stephen Turner?

Kevin Gabbard

This is a fascinating study - thank you to all involved in getting it here. I am looking forward to reading the L&C article! I have two questions - a content question and a meta question
1) How does this work fit in with previous studies that that claim that there are Amazonian languages that syntactically encode a temporal "exigence" bifurcation (ie languages that have two main aspectual categories a:here-and-now and b:other)? I am remembering some of the work that Everett has done with Piraha peoples. Is there any possible connection or is this work orthogonal?
2) I recently finished a BA in Ling and I am(and have been) flummoxed as to why the general linguistics academic community seems so reticent to engage in serious field-research when there is so much still out there in the linguistic wilds - can anyone here speak to this? Please send me an email!

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