Facing the Past

OK, the reason for the Time Forward poll: A physorg.com piece on South America’s indigenous Aymara, who visualize the past in front of them and the future behind, indicating that even some of the most primal and seemingly universal metaphors are still human or linguistic constructs.

New analysis of the language and gesture of South America’s indigenous Aymara people indicates a reverse concept of time. Contrary to what had been thought a cognitive universal among humans – a spatial metaphor for chronology, based partly on our bodies’ orientation and locomotion, that places the future ahead of oneself and the past behind – the Amerindian group locates this imaginary abstraction the other way around: with the past ahead and the future behind.

The article mentions in passing that roughly half of English speakers will answer the question about a meeting being moved forward two days from Wednesday as “Monday,” the other half “Friday.” My small sampling seems to support that.

The other question is how 2000 daily visits to this site can yield only 21 respondents in two days; maybe I need to do another poll on why people don’t take polls.

Music: Mission of Burma :: OK/No Way

via Weblogsksy

2 Replies to “Facing the Past”

  1. I think the ancient Greeks had the same metaphor for time: As if you were sitting on the stern of a boat, facing aft, while the boat carried you backwards into the future. Makes sense, since you can “see” the past but not the future.

    But I’m not sure about the “moving the meeting two days forward” analogy since when I saw the poll question, I was visualizing a calendar, not visualizing myself standing in the River of Time. And on a calendar, it’s not clear which direction is “forward” or “back”. Now, left and right, that would be much easier to answer!

  2. Another interesting note in that piece is that answers to the Monday/Friday question seem to depend on whether people visualize themselves moving through time or time moving through them. e.g. we might say “We’re approaching the end of the year” or “The end of the year is approaching.”

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