Friday, January 20, 2006

Left right blue green

This is from the British Psychological Society's Research Digest, but should be of interest to Language students too, particularly those studying language & thought/ language & representation on ENA1. It relates to our old friends Sapir and Whorf...
Whereas I might say a jumper is blue or red, female acquaintances of
mine refer to all sorts of gradations in between, such as navy blue,
shocking pink, and many others that I can’t even recall. But does the
richness of their colour vocabulary mean they can actually see more
colours than me? This is the issue at the heart of the Sapir-Whorf
hypothesis – the idea that our perception of the world is anchored in
the language that we use. Now Aubrey Gilbert and colleagues have tested
the suggestion that if language does affect perception, then it ought to
do so more on the right side of space than on the left, because it is
the language-dominant left-hemisphere with which we process the right
side of space.

In an initial experiment, 13 participants had to distinguish between
four similar shades of colour. In terms of wavelength, the shades
differed from each other in equally-sized, incremental steps, but two of
the shades were what we’d call ‘green’, whereas the other two shades
were ‘blue’. Consistent with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, participants
were quicker at distinguishing between a ‘green’ and a ‘blue’ than
between two ‘greens’ or two ‘blues’. Crucially, however, this advantage
only pertained when the colours appeared on the right-hand side of space.

A second experiment showed that this right-hand side advantage for
discriminating between shades on either side of the blue/green boundary
disappeared when participants were distracted by a simultaneous verbal
task, but not when they were distracted by a concurrent spatial task.
“The left hemisphere appears to sharpen visual distinctions between
lexically defined categories and to blur visual distinctions within
these categories, whereas the right hemisphere does so much less”, the
researchers said.

If these results can be generalised to the real world, the researchers
said “…our representation of the visual world may be, at one and the
same time, filtered and not filtered through the categories of language”
depending on whether we’re looking to the left or to the right.

1 comment:

*Chrissyfloss*- ex SFXian said...

nothing to do with this post i'm afraid.. Just a link to "The Corpus of Written British Creole" and a bit about it for anyone who ma be interested.

A new written language is taking shape in Britain. After centuries of being mainly a spoken language (or rather a group of similar, spoken languages) which only occasionally was written down, Caribbean Creole has begun to appear regularly in print in Britain.

Until very recently, most published Creole took the form of written versions of songs or poems originally spoken to music ("Dub poetry"). These often appear on the album covers/inserts of poets like Linton Kwesi Johnson and Jean Binta Breeze. However, some poetry is written in Creole and published without being performed first, and in the last few years, a number of novels have appeared which use Creole extensively in dialogue and even for first person narrative. There is also an unknown amount of personal writing - letters for example - in Creole, which is never intended to be published.

Thus we have the emergence in Britain of a written variety, in the absence of any clear or authoritative norms or "standards". This presents an unusual opportunity to several different groups of researchers. Firstly, to those interested in Caribbean Creole and its development, especially its development outside the Caribbean; secondly, to corpus linguists, to set up a corpus of a non-standard written language variety (a task which has to date scarcely been undertaken); thirdly, to historical sociolinguists, who have a rare chance to see an unstandardised language developing its written form - a stage which English reached at least five centuries ago.

The Corpus of Written British Creole was compiled at Lancaster University with financial support from the British Academy (Small Personal Research Grant no. 05-012-4670, grantholder: Mark Sebba). Most of the searching for texts, permission clearance and inputting work was carried out by Sally Kedge in 1995. In 1998, additional work, including additional tagging and checking for errors, was done by Susan Dray.