Friday, 22 April 2011

Chinese and English Worldview in their Languages? 中英语看世界观?

Do the linguistic preferences in English and Chinese reflect a difference in worldview?
Writing regularly in Chinese and English in the past two years has shown me a linguistic preference that illustrates how the people who use these languages see the world. In English, I find it necessary to minimise “uncertain” words such as “rather,  kind of, almost, perhaps”, lest I sound “hesitant, uncommitted, or beating around the bush” to Western readers. In Chinese, I need to do the opposite to avoid giving the impression of being “arrogant, one-sided, or simplistically black-and-white” to my Chinese readers. And I’m talking about describing the exact same thing. 
I wonder which is closer to real life? 
过去两年,经常用中英语同时写作,发觉到语言上的习惯,某程度反映了不同文化的世界观。用英语写作的时候,我经常须要减少使用“不肯定”的字眼;例如:“大概,似乎,应该吧,可能,看情况吧” 之类。否则外国的读者可能会觉得我自己也不大肯定,缺乏信心,犹豫不决,甚至在转弯抹角。
当我用中文描述同一件事情的时候,刚好相反,要提醒自己把语气放柔,把尖锐的角度略略放宽。中国人看世界,或一抒己见的时候,一般喜欢留有余地;太过直捣黄龙,急不及待,老想一针见血,很多时会适得其反,给人家 “自大,一边倒,流于偏激,不黑便是白,头脑太简单,信不过” 的印象。

1 comment:

AnneMarie Detay said...

Your question states the very essence of what language is: a set of symbols defined by the power-holding entity of a given community, to bind it's members together through communication. Language is social dogma. Using a language automatically throws oneself into a limited world of authorized symbols, mildly called culture. Language is dogma, setting the value of each word to be understood and shared by the community to serve the community's goals. I see no other explanation than the language dogma for giving the word 'rather' a 'positive' or 'efficient' value in Chinese and a 'negative' or 'irrelevant' value in English. A second question then pops up:
Away from Chinese or English cultural languages, is a free-of-dogma language thinkable? Writeable? Shareable? If only one could give it a genuine try, it would be Guo Du...