Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Words with A Point of View/Focus


Parenting in Japanese is 子育て(kosodate), literally “child raising”. I find the contrast interesting. The English word seems to indicate something a parent does. The recipient of this guidance, the child, is not represented in the word. There is a term “child rearing”, but it is rarely used. In Danish, I’m told the verb is opdrage (literally “raise up”). It’s not clear to me which it focuses, the giver or the recipient. Is the difference in the point of view in the vocabulary a reflection of the attitude we adopt when parenting? Is the Danish’ parents’ respect for a child’s individualism influenced by their word for parenting? Or is their word for parenting a result of their focus on the process itself?

Sometimes the receiving and the giving actions share the same word: e.g., learning and teaching is the same word in Danish. It’s different than some English words I covered in a previous blog, where one word can have opposite meanings which evolved over time (e.g., the word “literally” means both figuratively and in a literal manner).

I haven’t read any studies on how specific vocabulary can shape one’s attitude or actions, although it seems intuitive to think that languages where directions are given based on external factors vs. locations based on your orientation (e.g., asking someone to sit north of you, vs. to your left) has to some how affect the speaker’s sense of self with respect to the rest of the world.

I’m sure Whorf, an engineer turned linguist, not the Klingon from StarTrek: The Next Generation, has something to say about it.


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This entry was posted on April 1, 2015 by in Family, language and tagged , , .
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