I checked with my local semitic language speaker and together we went through all of the english words for time (during, since, yesterday, soon, later) that we could think of and found an exact correlation in maltese for each one. Bang goes that theory.
It wasn’t a waste of time, however, as it prompted a discussion with Dylan about how translation between languages isn’t just a simple matter of word substitution. Some words in french like chez, for example, need a whole bunch of english words to say the same thing.
By a lucky coincidence, a blog about this very topic showed up this morning.
Speakers of different languages must attend to and encode strikingly different aspects of the world in order to use their language properly (Sapir 1921; Slobin 1996). For example, to say that “the elephant ate the peanuts” in English, we must include tense–the fact that the event happened in the past. In Mandarin, indicating when the event occurred would be optional and couldn’t be included in the verb. In Russian, the verb would need to include tense, whether the peanut-eater was male or female (though only in the past tense), and whether said peanut-eater ate all of the peanuts or just a portion of them. In Turkish, one would specify whether the event being reported was witnessed or hearsay. Do these quirks of language affect the way their speakers think about the world? Do English, Mandarin, Russian, and Turkish speakers end up thinking about the world differently simply because they speak different languages?
Georgina is always throwing around words like ittellaghhomli (you make my temper flare up) whenever english lacks the right concept. The blogger claims that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has been discredited but isn’t it a little odd that mediterranean languages have so many words for getting angry?