Dhruba RC

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'un'Imaginative Dictionary?

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Guy Laramee for my latest venture on web. He is known widely for his book art but also he is an interdisciplinary artist who undertook anthropological studies.
Guy said that in one of his journeys to Peruvian amazon, he found out that the Shipibos don't have a word for 'imagination'. For them everything that they can perceive is true / real.

It got me thinking. Is it really necessary to have a word for imagination to support an atmosphere that fosters creativity? What is the level of ingenuity being shown by such cultures/tribes in their daily lives or in specifically designed "in vitro" experiments? Or is it that the language which expresses the collective knowledge of the people speaking it is a true reflection of their 'creative' being as well?

He goes on to say that they believe any creative act is spurred by some outside factor, and that they don't play any part in the process. While an outside "locus of control" may often be cited as a reflection of poor belief in self, but is it really true for any and every population that mirrors the Shipibos in this respect?

What is your feeling in this respect? Does a rich language reflect the richness of the creative endeavours in a population?

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    Oct 26 2012: Dhruba, I'm guessing that there were no words for CAT scan, or Baud rate, cathodray tube, ear buds, and on and on .... In our area the Navajo Indians have no word for anchor ... but they all have one on their boats.

    One of things I find intriging is that the Bible has been translated through many languages that have no words for the very things they are translating.

    Why have we based many of our words on Latin ... why not just use the latin word not a dirivative.

    In my studies I have read the letters of Jefferson, Lincoln, and many others ... their letter were very precise in the use of words and clear in their meaning. For some reason we have lost that. We are in a era of ploitical correctness that has allow ebonics to creep into our daily use and into the dictionary as well.

    Necessity is the mother of invention ... we devise words to fit the application .... advances in electronic, science, and space have demanded specific terms to provide a universal meaning. This allows communications within the "community". Just the same as the Shipibos can communicate within their community.

    As you say the lack of a word in their language demonstrates their lack of need for it. However, we in the mean time must reconize the word "Bro" to mean brother, Ma to mean mother, LOL to mean laugh out loud. These are not necessary and in my opinion not deserving to be in our dictionary. I do not want these words to "express the collective knowledge" of our society.

    Many of the tribes had no words for hate or war ... but we taught them to hate and wage war. These people live simple uncomplicated lives and it is a shame to discover them and bring complications and disease to them.

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    Oct 25 2012: Are you thinking that a "rich language" is one in which words aim to capture a variety of ideas with different labels rather than aggregating many ideas in the same label? Does not having a word for "imagination" suggest a rich language or a limited one to you?

    The idea of creativity coming from the muse has at least a two thousand year history in Western culture as well. Have you listened to Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk about creativity? You may also enjoy Amy Tan's.

    Both articulate views of creativity as finding its source in an outside factor.
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    Oct 27 2012: Language is a communication method. If one person "creates" something it might become known to others, or not, depending on whether it is communicated. It does not seem necessary for there to be a cause/effect connection between creative endeavors and language within a population, or a species. Creativity is independent from language.
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    Oct 26 2012: Hi Fritzie, thanks for the comment!
    A rich language should be able to express the different moods and emotions which may well be attributed to stemming from a single causal factor but by means of different words / phrases. For even a subtle difference should be critically expressed without any compromises because of lack of suitable words / phrases. If many ideas are being expressed via "same label" then certainly the basic necessity of distinguishing them by means of spoken or written language is missing; I cannot claim my thought process to be unique than my peers' or forefathers' if I am not able to help others understand it by means of language. Language evolves and Erez Lieberman Aiden & Jean-Baptiste Michel showed us one very evocative example of that.
    I did not say the lack of the word 'Imagination' means it is a poor language but if curiosity and imagination are the starting points in innovation then where do they fall in this landscape. Do they not innovate, find solutions to their everyday issues or adopt themselves to changes? Of course they do and nobody is helping them in figuring out how but the one difference is in perception, between someone like me and them.