How Morality Changes in a Foreign Language

[Why does it matter whether we judge morality in our native language or a foreign one? According to one explanation, such judgments involve two separate and competing modes of thinking—one of these, a quick, gut-level “feeling,” and the other, careful deliberation about the greatest good for the greatest number. When we use a foreign language, we unconsciously sink into the more deliberate mode simply because the effort of operating in our non-native language cues our cognitive system to prepare for strenuous activity. This may seem paradoxical, but is in line with findings that reading math problems in a hard-to-read font makes people less likely to make careless mistakes.]

Read the full story | Scientific American



Epic Battles of Words. In Rhyme.

“Racist bars and jokes are known for creating shock value and major crowd reactions, and to be on the receiving end of those lines will trigger emotions not only for a battler but for the people who those lines are referring to. I chose to embrace the stereotypes and I guess you can say, ‘take it back, take away the power.’ Those words hold and in, I turn flip it on my opponents.

I incorporate a lot of Native schemes, references, jokes and use it to my advantage. I always expect the them to come and me with the same material as they should since it’s a battle, and I’ve recently learned to sway myself from using  stereotypes against my opponents because, for me to do so would be defeating the point I’m trying to accomplish when I battle.”

Meet Phrase vs Pyrex

The Significance of Traditional Oral Communication | And this Can Partially Explain not Why it Happened, but How

I cannot attest to whether this rhetorical delivery was deliberately employed or not. But I agree as to how effective it can be. This delivery is intercultural, intergenerational (if you exclude certain gestures). It feels and sounds spontaneous, honest and personal. In part, it employs the good old salesman’s gigs. And it strikes that cord in us which yearns for connection and being understood and embraced without much effort. Or apology.

[His seeming incoherence stems from the big difference between written and spoken language. Trump’s style of speaking has its roots in oral culture.

Only a few of Trump’s big speeches have been scripted. At many of his rallies, he speaks off the cuff. We get a lot of fractured, unfinished sentences, moving quickly from thought to thought — what Trump calls a “beautiful flowing sentence.”

To some (or many), this style is completely incoherent. But clearly not everyone feels this way. Many people walked away from Trump’s rallies having understood — and believed — what he said.

It’s the difference between reading Trump’s remarks and listening to them in real time, University of Pennsylvania linguist Mark Liberman explained:

This apparent incoherence has two main causes: false starts and parentheticals. Both are effectively signaled in speaking — by prosody along with gesture, posture, and gaze — and therefore largely factored out by listeners. But in textual form the cues are gone, and we lose the thread.

In other words, Trump’s digressions and rambles — or, as he says, when “the back of the sentence reverts to the front” — are much easier to follow in person thanks to subtle cues….

Many of Trump’s most famous catchphrases are actually versions of time-tested speech mechanisms that salesmen use. They’re powerful because they help shape our unconscious.

Take, for example, Trump’s frequent use of “Many people are saying…” or “Believe me” — often right after saying something that is baseless or untrue. This tends to sound more trustworthy to listeners than just outright stating the baseless claim, since Trump implies that he has direct experience with what he’s talking about. At a base level, Lakoff argues, people are more inclined to believe something that seems to have been shared.]

Read the full article | VOX




We Imprint on What a Story Ought to Be

A preliminary reflection on the sad grandeur of my after-election shock allowed me the license to draw an analogy from the structure of stories: native American stories vs western fairy tales, African tales vs western didactic myths, Indian folklore, Japanese stories… The structure of these “other” stories is different than most western ones -saturated with conquest and blissful, or not so blissful, unions-. They do not consist of a single layer of reality. A structure which, disturbingly distorted on so many levels, fits our current post-election narrative -as do the plans for our future- of the “conquerors.”

An eloquent and clear comparison I just found in this article, about Japanese story structure:

Our Fairy Tales Ourselves: Storytelling
From East to West

[Kawai addressed the idea that reality is in fact slippery, in the Yubaba-Zeniba way. He writes: “Reality consists of countless layers. Only in daily life does it appear as a unity with a single layer, which will never threaten us. However, deep layers can break through to the surface before our eyes. Fairy tales have much to tell us in this regard.” What lies behind this layer of reality?

Kawai also introduces the concept of “the aesthetic solution.” In western fairy tales, Kawai notes, stories often resolve with a conquest, or with a wedding. Examples are numerous: Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, etc. But in Japanese fairy tales, Kawai says, there is rarely this kind of union. Frequently, stories resolve with “an aesthetic solution.” And by aesthetic, Kawai specifically means images from nature.]



Speak to Me | Lakota (Sioux) Language from “Threatened” to “Moribund”

Published Febraury 21, 2016  |

Lakota Language Now Critically Endangered

PIERRE. SOUTH DAKOTA— Lakota Language Consortium (LLC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of the Lakota language, also known as Sioux, announced today that only 2,000 first-language speakers of Lakota remain – a decline of 66% in ten years.

Lakota, a language spoken on reservations in North and South Dakota, is one of the most well-known of America’s indigenous languages, and one of the few still spoken with a significant chance of survival. Lakota population is 170,000, but fluent speakers are a small fraction of that number.

In 2006, there were an estimated 6,000 first-language Lakota speakers. Beginning 2016, LLC counted approximately only 2,000 remaining speakers – a loss of 4,000 in just 10 years. The 66% loss in speakers equates to approximately 400 speakers lost each year.

Based on the new findings, Ethnologue, a catalogue of world languages, will now redesignate the Lakota language from “Threatened” to “Moribund”, with the special status of “Reawakening” – reflecting the community’s commitment to bringing back the language into every day use.

Ben Black Bear, a 69 year-old Lakota Elder and a first-language speaker, remarked, “I’ve been looking for good Lakota speakers, and the only ones I’ve found are older than me. But there are young people interested in learning. The challenge is getting them from ‘I want to learn’ to ‘What can I do to stop Lakota from disappearing?’”

For 10 years Mr. Black Bear has worked with the Lakota Language Consortium on numerous translation and recording projects, dubbing The Berenstain Bears into Lakota, and taking part in a language documentary, Rising Voices/Hóthaninpi, which premiered on public television in November 2015.

Despite the latest Lakota speaker count, Mr. Black Bear remains hopeful, “From the outside perspective, the language is in critical condition. But from the inside, from those of us living and speaking it, we just need to look at ourselves in a positive way to move the language forward.”

Lakota Language Consortium (LLC) is leading the revitalization of Lakota by educating the public on the issue and providing critical support to language teachers and learners. The group consists of schools and colleges across Lakota reservations, community leaders, linguists, and volunteers working together for the revitalization of Lakota.

For more information please visit

Or for Rising Voices/Hóthaninpi Rising Voices


Tom Red Bird reads in Lakota to the Immersion Nest children |

Refugees and Migrants Welcome | Teju Cole Borrows from Derrida

[…. I say refugee, I say migrant, I say neighbor, I say friend, because everyone is deserving of dignity. Because moving for economic benefit is itself a matter of life and death. Because money is the universal language, and to be deprived of it is to be deprived of a voice while everyone else is shouting. Sometimes the gun aimed at your head is grinding poverty, or endless shabby struggle, or soul-crushing tedium.

And more than “refugee” or “migrant,” I say “people,” and say it with compassion because everyone I love, and everyone they love has at some point said tearful goodbyes and moved from place to place to seek new opportunities, and almost all of them have by their movement improved those new places. Because I reject the poverty of a narrowly defined “we” that robs me of human complexity. Because I don’t believe that radical inclusivity is going to destroy “our” way of living, when I generally don’t know what “our” you’re talking about, and when I think we can do much better than this malevolent way of living anyway.]

Migrants Welcome | The New Inquiry


Identity + Moral Compass

Research on neurodegenerative diseases suggests that, more than anything else, moral traits like kindness and integrity define who we are.


[Following up with a more detailed analysis, Strohminger and Nichols discovered that symptoms of declining morality were strongly associated with the perception that a patient’s identity had changed, while failing memory, depression, and more traditional measures of personality appeared to have almost nothing to do with a person’s identity. The only other symptom that had any discernible impact on identity was aphasia, a language impairment.] Full article here | THE PACIFIC STANDARD