Language and Empire - Why We Shun Asian Words, For Now
Few Chinese terms survived the translational onslaught during the age of European imperialism.
“I am Master of this College; And what I know not, Is not knowledge.” –A. N. Whitehead
THE ROMAN Empire is narrated with pride and pomp, and Latin, its lingua franca - having superseded the Hebrew and Greek lexicons - perpetuates all European languages to this day.
My Language, Your Prison
Yet, the Mongols had their empire too, and so did the Han and the Manchu, the Turks and Persians, the Arabs and the Hindu. Their civilizations towered large and different, and their languages: just as rich and original to humankind. Yet, why are we so reluctant, even in this age of globalization, to adopt Asian key terminologies?
One obvious reason seems to be that of power and dominance; those who own its language control knowledge. The Jewish world order ended when St. Jerome translated the Hebrew (and Greek) bible into Latin; Martin Luther, the protestant reformer, translated the Latin bible into German, hence the march of the German empire.
Translation No Longer Justified
The translation rationale has served European expansionists well for a thousand years; but is it ethical, scientific or even legal in the 21st Century to translate Asia’s socio-cultural originality into convenient European words? Why is it that, say, US brand names like ‘Coca-Cola’ and ‘Google’ enjoy greater legal protection than the entire intellectual output of India and China of the past 3000 years?
One way to protect words is to limit translation: Ayatollahs and imams are not “philosophers,” philosophers are not “buddhas” or “bodhisattvas,” buddhas are neither “shengren” nor “rishis.” Western categories are often unsuitable for non-Western creations: Calling a heshang, rabbi, ulama, or junzi “priest” seems unnecessary in the face of our digital age, where we can easily dig the originals (if we wanted to, that is).
For Lack of Chinese Words
A great example is the ‘shengren’ of the Confucian tradition. The shengren is the most important key concept in East-Asia, only perhaps comparable to the role of the ‘philosophers’ in the West; yet, needless to say, shengren are not “philosophers,” nor are they (biblical) “saints,” “prophets”, (folkloric) “sages” or (Lutheran) “appointees:” the shengren are just this: shengren.
Unfortunately, the entire Confucian tradition of ‘ruxue’ -including the daxue, an instruction manual on how to become a junzi (often loosely translated as ‘Chinese gentleman’)- has been obscured by European categories. Few Chinese terms have survived the translational onslaught during the age of European imperialism.
Some commentators try to arbitrate the case. They argue that the English language has already adopted enough Asian loanwords like Japanese samurai, ninja, and sumo, or Sanskrit yoga, guru, and pundit, etc. Yet, compared to what the Asian world still holds on offer, the number of foreign loanwords remains suspiciously low and, in the case of Chinese words, almost insignificant. [This is going to change.]
The Future of Global Language
World history, or better: the writings of thereof, is still administered by the West. However, if Asia truly wanted to escape the suzerainty of European words over her thoughts and originality there is a sure-fire way: Revive and promote more Asian words and key concepts.
For the liberalization of all the world's vocabularies has only just begun.
Image credit: SimonHS/Shutterstock.com
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Scientists discover the inner workings of an effect that will lead to a new generation of devices.
- Researchers discover a method of extracting previously unavailable information from superconductors.
- The study builds on a 19th-century discovery by physicist Edward Hall.
- The research promises to lead to a new generation of semiconductor materials and devices.
Credit: Gunawan/Nature magazine
Students who think the world is just cheat less, but they need to experience justice to feel that way.
- Students in German and Turkish universities who believed the world is just cheated less than their pessimistic peers.
- The tendency to think the world is just is related to the occurence of experiences of justice.
- The findings may prove useful in helping students adjust to college life.
The world is just? That’s news to a lot of people.<p>The study is the most recent addition to a long line of work focusing on the belief in justice, our behavior, and our reactions to evidence that might suggest injustice occasionally occurs. This study focuses on a personal belief in a just world, (PBJW) rather than a general belief in a just world (GBJW). The difference between them must be highlighted.</p><p>GBJW is the stance that justice prevails all over the world and that people tend to get what they deserve. PBJW is more focused on the individual's social environment and their belief that they tend to be treated justly. While several studies show PBJW correlates with a higher sense of well-being and a variety of other positive effects, a high GBJW is associated with less life satisfaction, negative behavior, and callousness towards the suffering of <a href="https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-1-4939-3216-0" target="_blank">others</a>. This study controlled for GBJW, and focused on PBJW as much as possible. </p><p>To assure that culture was not a factor, the study included students at universities in both Germany and Turkey. </p><p>The researchers gave students at the four participating universities a series of questionnaires that asked if they ever cheated in class, if they perceived the world to be just, if they though that justice always prevailed everywhere, their tendencies towards socially appropriate behavior, their life satisfaction, and if they felt like they were treated justly by their teachers and fellow students. </p><p>The answers were statistically analyzed for relationships. While some of the connections seem trivially true, others were surprising. <strong></strong></p><p>PBJW turned out to only be an indirect predictor of if a student was likely to cheat. Both a belief in a just world and a lower likelihood of cheating were mediated by the justice experiences of the students, with more of these positive experiences lowering the rate of cheating and improving their belief in justice. This was also associated with higher levels of life satisfaction. </p><p>These effects existed across all demographics in both countries. </p>
What does this mean? Is a belief in justice a self-fulfilling prophecy?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6oMv-azHNCA" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>In a way, it seems to be. People who have reason to think the world is just to them tend to interpret events in a way to sustain that belief and behave in a just manner. In a larger sense, the take away from this study is that experiences of justice, both from peers and instructors, is vital to student's wellbeing and understanding that the rules that exist about cheating are part of a larger, legitimate, system. </p><p>The researchers, citing previous studies on the perception of justice, note that "justice experiences (1) signal that university students are esteemed members of their social group, which in turn conveys feelings of belonging and social inclusion and (2) motivate them to accept and observe university rules and norms. These cognitive processes may thus strengthen their well-being and decrease the likelihood that they cheat."</p><p>The authors also suggest that if you want people (not only students) to act justly; consider treating them with "civility, respect, and dignity."</p><p>Sometimes, all it can take to help somebody act virtuously is to treat them well. Likewise, people treated harshly can rarely find reason to play by rules that don't protect them. The findings of this study will certainly add to the literature on how we perceive justice in the world around us, but might also help us remember that there are real consequences to our actions which can be much larger than we imagine. <strong></strong></p>
This could change how researchers approach vaccine development.
- The reason children suffer less from the novel coronavirus has remained mysterious.
- Researchers identified a cytokine, IL-17A, which appears to protect children from the ravages of COVID-19.
- This cytokine response could change how researchers approach vaccine development.
A member of staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a child's temperature at the Harris Academy's Shortland's school on June 04, 2020 in London, England.
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images<p>Experts don't want to place kids at the back of the line, regardless of how strong their immune systems appear. At least one company, Moderna, <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-vaccine-for-kids-moderna-plans-pediatric-trial-2020-9" target="_blank">hopes to begin testing</a> vaccines in pediatric volunteers by year's end.</p><p>Innate immune response is especially high during childhood (compared to adaptive immunity). This makes evolutionary sense: nature wants an animal to survive until its ready to procreate. Turns out the children in the study possessed high levels of cytokines that boost their immune response. The biggest impact is made by IL-17A, which appears to protect the youngest cohort from the ravages of the coronavirus. </p><p>While both age groups produced antibodies to fight off the infamous spike protein, adults that produce neutralizing antibodies actually suffer a <em>worse</em> fate. Herold says this "over-vigorous adaptive immune response" might promote inflammation, triggering acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). </p><p>This matters for vaccine development. As Herold says, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Our adult COVID-19 patients who fared poorly had high levels of neutralizing antibodies, suggesting that convalescent plasma—which is rich in neutralizing antibodies—may not help adults who have already developed signs of ARDS. By contrast, therapies that boost innate immune responses early in the course of the disease may be especially beneficial."</p><p>Herold says current vaccine trials are focused on boosting neutralizing-antibody levels. With this new information, researchers may want to work on vaccines that boost the innate immune response instead. </p><p>With <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html" target="_blank">at least 55 vaccine trials</a> underway, every piece of data matters. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
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