Saturday, May 16, 2009

Language Day – Día del Idioma

Last month we celebrated the Language day (Spanish language) commemorating the dead of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the writer of  one of the most read novels and best seller “Don Quijote de la Mancha” and I decided to tell you three facts about my language :) (watching again Raga’s introductory video where he speaks his first words :P was the thing that I needed to write this :P)

  • Living Diversity: I think that you can find more than 100 ways to speak Spanish and each one of the ways describes something about the culture of the people. People from Spain speaks a very “heavy” Spanish, not in the good way, and also the people from that country are not as polite as Latin-American people are. Mexicans speaks something that we could call “Native Spanish”, a mixture between Spanish and Native Languages (like Aztec or Maya) and they, the Mexicans, are kindly people, with a strong culture and nationalism, based on their origins; for example a common word of them is “Guey” that is an Aztec word that means “soul mate”. A final example are Colombian People, we have a lot of language diversity, people from the coffee zone speaks a very “aggressive” and sung language, so they are very strong and “hechados para adelante” that means that they do whatever they have to. People from here, Bogotá, speaks an Spanish without accent, and we are very calm and workers; and people from the south speaks an Spanish-Quechua (Native language) so they are very slow but with a lot of environmental knowledge.
  • Origins: Spanish is maybe one of the languages that have more “origins”, with this I mean that the language has a lot of influences. I am going to give you three examples that will show you where my language comes from: 
    • To be: This verb in Spanish, as in many romantic languages, comes from the Latin “Sum”. As many words and meanings comes from the Latin our language is called a Romantic Language, or a language that comes from the Roman Latin.
    • Azul: This word means blue. This doesn’t make any sense If I don’t tell you that in French you say bleu and in Italian blu…. all are romantic languages based in the Latin and have a quite similar syntax with the English word. But Spanish is also a Romantic Language … and we say Azul!!! why? because we have a strong influence of the Arabic Language. During the middle age Spain was invaded by the Arabs and they founded the “Caliphate of Cordoba” one of the most prosperous kingdoms of the middle age where Muslims, Jewish and Catholics live in a complete peace. They give us more than 3000 words and dialects…
    • Canoa: This term has its origins in the deepest of the Andes, in some place between Bogotá and Cartagena. Our natives used it to describe a small boat, made of wood, that they used to travel by the Magdalena River and in their religious rites, where the “Dorado” legend was born. Spanish learn this word and now is used around the world to describe this small wooden boats. This shows you how the language of our natives has some influence in our actual Language. I can give you more examples of this, like the words “Aguacate” (Avocado) or “Xocolatl” (Chocolate) .
  • Romanticism: As most of you know Our language is in the group of the “Romantic Languages”, like French or Italian. I’ve read a lot of literature from many authors (Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allan Poe, Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Benedetti, Julio Cortazar, etc) and I’ve realized something, Latin literature is better than the others…. The incredible way to express situations, characters, places, feelings, gives to this kind of literature a particularity of “Exceptional”. An also if we talk about the “romantic authors”, like Victor Hugo, we can say that the literature in this languages have something special. Not only in literature you can find the beauty of our language, also in the music you can find it. Artists from Latin America are recognized for the beauty and romantic  of their songs. Maybe because I’m Colombian, but I prefer to sing a Spanish song to a beautiful lady instead an “American Ballad”.

Those three facts that I said are some of the most important things in the Spanish Language. Now I want to share something, something that I was discussing with a friend some days ago. Due this facts our language has so many complex structures, that you can really discover reading Latin American Literature (specially the one of the Authors of the “Boom”). This means that we have to create complex systems in our brains in order to use Spanish as a tool to express our ideas.

Because of this we have two characteristics that could describe our behavior as Spanish speakers. The first one is that, maybe because this complexity, all the cultural expressions, the music, the art, the literature have a special appreciation around the world. Gaudi, García Márquez, Mercedes Sosa, among others, have been respected for people around the world. The  beauty of their imagination show us the power of the human mind, given by the complexity of the paths between the neurons.

But in the other hand, and this is the second characteristic, maybe that complexity makes slow the process of thinking and express that thoughts. This could be a reason to explain why most of the people who have discovered or invented something are people that speaks a less complex language, like English or German. We could say that  the best solutions to the problems are given by simple solutions, like in my work field the best algorithms are the less complex ones. This means that the less and faster brain connections that English or German speakers have should be the reason because they can develop more complex structures. A concrete example of this people who have defined the world are Newton, Einstein, Carl Marx, Hegel, Kant, Freud, among others. They explained the world and the human being with an special particularity…

This might give us an idea about why people around the world have quite different behaviors, and also that people with similar linguistics structures have similar behaviors, like Latin Americans, people from the far east (Chinese, Japanese or Korean) or people that speaks Slavic languages. The linguistics should give us some ideas of the mental structure of the different people around the world, with this we could try to create more complex systems based on Artificial Intelligence (AI), the question is: how to define the human possibility to express themselves? is there a way to express, mathematically, how people speaks? and most important and helpful, if less complex  linguistic structure gives better performance, should we create an “optimal” language in order to evolve faster?

Thank you Ricardo for the discussion about linguistics :)

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