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About names and languages

We humans love to give names to everything around us. We love giving names to living beings (we call them “creatures” because they are created by God), to the places we inhabit, to the objects and products we invent and produce, to our activities, and even to our ideas, myths, projects and corporations.

Our capacity and desire of giving names was an important step in the history of Mankind. Yumal Harari (Sapiens) describes it as the cognitive revolution. The Bible describes it as a divine commandment.

Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19)

A language is nothing but a set of names (words, vocabulary, definitions, concepts) tied together by rules.

There are many different languages on Earth, which can be an obstacle when a human of one culture moves to a place where they cultivate another language. But languages are translatable to each other, and humans are able to learn a new language.

Imagine a family with a linguistic particularity. They would use the word ‘ragle’ to designate that thing we use to gather around when having meal. They would be surprised or even offended when you would call their ‘ragle’ a table. They find that ‘Children, meal is ready, come to ragle!’ sounds much more beautiful. If some circumstance would require you to live in that family for a few years, you would say “Why not” and eventually get used to that little oddity in their vocabulary.

But you would have more difficult to live in a family where they decided to give different names to each individual chair, depending on its angle relative to the kitchen door and on the time of the day. Or a family where they would have a rule saying that I must knock three times at the kitchen door and praise it by saying “What a beautiful door you are” before sitting down at their table. Or in another family where they decided to use a single word “thing” for everything: for the table, the door, the chairs, the forks and the knives. Or yet another family where they decided to not speak at all about tables, chairs, doors, knives and forks. You would perceive these models as unrealistic or unpractical. You would eventually suggest changes.

Languages are more or less adapted to a given usage field. When you live in a village in northern Alaska, the Inuit language is probably more practical than English.

There is no “perfect” language. Every language is just an incomplete reflection of reality. A language is obviously influenced by the world view of its speakers.

Ssome Eskimo languages like Yupik and Inuit have It seems that there are 46 Somali words for “camel”

Note that the opposite direction (whether a language influences the world view of its speakers) is a controversial hypothesis known as Whorfianism.

Every computer user believes to know what a “folder” is. But actually the “folders” on your computer are more like “directories” than like “folders”: