Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: Weird little color system

From:Philippe Caquant <herodote92@...>
Date:Saturday, August 7, 2004, 6:52
--- Roger Mills <rfmilly@...> wrote:

> Trebor wrote: > > > Paul wrote: "I think the point was that in the > languages everyone is > > familiar with, if one is derived from the other, > it'll be "left" derived > > from "right", rather than dublex-wise." > > > > Why would it be more likely one way or the other? > > > In many traditional cultures, right is good, left is > bad-- the left hand is > tabooed for many activities-- eating in particular, > touching, handling etc. > etc. > > At least in Indonesia, the reasoning is that one > uses the left hand to clean > oneself after going to the toilet.
Yes, in many countries it is so. The question is : why ? More precisely : why are human hands specialized, and why is usually the right hand considered as "good", and the left one as "bad" ? I heard theories about that, related to the origin of mankind. Something about carving stones, for ex, though I can't remember why, when carving stones, it should be better to use left hand to hold the stone and right hand to strike. Another theory referred to mothers holding their child against their breast, on the side of the heart, so that the regular noise would calm the child. The fact is that the heart IS rather on the left side, which could introduce the initial dissymetry (while we cannot see any natural dissimetry when looking simply at the hands, or at the feet). But another fact is that there are many more right-handed people that left-handed, and that seems to be an innate feature, when considering an individual. So, what is cultural, and what is innate ? Why are there more right-handed people ? If it is a natural rule that man is physiologically rather right-handed than left-handed (this being a question about brain morphology and connexions), then the reason why left is considered as bad would be obvious: the minorities are always wrong, they are "not like everybody", they are deviants (thus we should kill them ;-) The use of the prefix "mal-" in Esperanto is (IMO) a very unfortunate one. True, it doesn't mean "bad" in Esperanto, only "opposite", but very many people will instinctively understand that "granda" is considered as the reference and "malgranda" as a defect, and that "dekstra" is the reference and "maldekstra" a defect (something like "not the normal way"). What is interesting is to analyze, in such opposite pairs, which ones Zamenhof took as "referents" and which ones as "not normal". "Dead" is "malviva", "stupid" is "malsprita", "perverse" is "malvirta", "restless" is "maltrankvila", "poor" is "malricxa", those (and many more) having clearly a negative connotation. But, strangely, "bold" (daring) is "maltimema" (= not fearing), "light" (in weight) is "malpeza" (not heavy), "hard" is "malmola" (not soft)... There seems to be a occasional conflict between this prefix "mal-" and usual connotations in human mind. One cannot help to instinctively think that "mal-" means "bad", even if it is not what Z. wanted. (As to "malmola", an explanation could be found in this deep remark from the French humorist Alphonse Allais : "the elasticity of rubber makes it improper to many uses"). ===== Philippe Caquant "High thoughts must have high language." (Aristophanes, Frogs) __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around