language structure and brain usage? really?

13 10 2008

so in my last post, i said that writing and explaining myself in general “may become more of a problem if i am successful in cultivating my intuitive side at the intentional expense of my rational side.”  i think rational side is ready to strike back a little already.

i have an uninformed interest in language’s role in defining the mind as more rational versus more intuitive.  SCIENCE tells us that the left side of the brain is the more rational side, whereas the right half is more intuitive.  painters, dancers, and clairvoyants are very handy with their intuitive sides, and accountants, scientists, and technical writers are stars with their logical bits.  so, if we live in an era of logic, which i think is not so debatable, and the efficient design beats the ornate or more aesthetic, uncalculated design, to speak generally, then we clearly have neglected a half of our brain-gifts.  at least, we’re probably not balanced in our uses of the hemispheres.  i find this interesting, by the way, when 90% of our population is right-handed, which is, of course, in cahoots with our left brains, our logical brains.

more to the point, when i took a child development course a couple of years ago, i found the brief study of language acquisition to be surprisingly interesting.  basically, our brains learn the code of the languages we’re born into and rely on those sounds/precepts so strongly that we can actually lose the ability to hear sounds not native to our tongue.  it happens in music, as well.  the structure of the music we hear is deeply embedded in our experience of it for the rest of our lives.  we in the west have an awful lot of 4/4 music, but that’s not the norm for everyone.  when researchers did a little musical exchange program between the west and some other cultures, don’t ask me which at this point, the groups mutually didn’t even hear notes when they fell outside of the structures they’d learned in their cultures.

so the next question i had that i couldn’t get answered was whether language itself had an effect on the balance of logic/intuition of the individuals of a culture.  i wondered if the structure of the english language predisposed people to rely more heavily on the left sides of their brains, deprived them of some aesthetic gifts they didn’t know they had, and forced them into being right-handers.  i don’t know if research about this has ever been done, or if it in any way should be.  but it’s the kind of stuff i think about–and in a semi-logical way, at that.  as i’ve been writing this, my right hand has kept encroaching on the some of the keys that have been permanently reserved, by logical keyboard designers and typing instructors everywhere, for the left hand.  thanks for the help buddy, but ol’ lefty can hold its own.  i hope.

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One response

8 11 2008
Mr. Allyson

dude! i don’t know about english as a language’s (necessary?) role in this, but check it: since, say, around about the time of the Enlightenment (as a historical period, though it’s kind of funny to bring it up considering your earlier post) – starring such well known acts as Rene Descartes and Emmanuel No-We-Kant – the supposed mind/body, rational/irrational split, as a philosophy and supposed truth, has been used to hold certain folks down. That is, the logic, the rational, and the mind has been held up as superior, to be imposed ‘over’ the body, the irrational, the emotional, the intuitive, and, at the same time, certain groups were associated with each ‘side.’ The usual suspects associated with the lauded rational, of course, and the ladies and various peoples of various ‘colors’ associated with the (weak, inferior, in need of rational control) body, prone to emotions and irrationality but also bearing the burden of carrying on humanity’s intuitive (and in some sense, ‘moral’) side. It’s all very complicated! It’s been going on for a long time! If you wanted to go a little rogue, or even a little bit rouge, you could question the logic/intuitive, rational/irrational, left/right split to begin with. And you know good old SCIENCE, often quite useful but not exempt from best seeing and hearing what it has already been trained to look and listen for, marching on in 4/4 time.

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