[lit-ideas] Re: Russian?

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 5 Jan 2014 09:49:37 +0000 (GMT)

>If you tell a three year old here that something is a bit scary, they'll
 largely ignore the warning.  "A bit" means "just a little" or 
"slightly". >

There is a sense where "a bit" "means "just a little" or 
"slightly"", granted, and granted also this is a sense that might be the one 
fastened on by other 3 year olds: but it is not the sense as "a bit" is used by 
the 3 year old I spent Christmas with. What he may have picked up on is use 
from adults, for example warning him that food is hot - "Careful - it's a bit 
hot". Here "a bit" means "quite" rather than means "just a little" or 
"slightly": we might say this use is one of deliberate understatement of the 
actual sense (in this kind of 'polite' English even "slightly" can be used to 
understate i.e. to mean "quite"; an English person in a car being driven far 
too fast might observe "This is slightly fast"). It is clear this 3 year old 
uses "a bit" in this sense - for example, when reluctant to give his 
grandmother a kiss (at her invitation) he explained "It's a bit dangerous" - 
again a phrase adults may have used as regards his own behaviour which he 
adopts to suit his own purposes.

Here comes a story.

There has been marked advances in his speech. Last Christmas the closest he got 
to my name was
"Do-no" but for several months now he has been saying
"Donal" very clearly - for example, when asked who has put felt-tip
all over a fabric (backing this up by shouting "Naughty
Donal!", he eventually admits it was him - he fibbed because "You'd
tell me off, Nanny "), or when asked where his "bot-bot" has gone when
we were on a long car journey (flatly "Donal threw it out the window"; then,
when asked again, calmly and emphatically "Donal put it on the road" [Donal in 
driving]). But sometimes what he wants to communicate is beyond what language 
he has - but this does not always mean he cannot adequately communicate his 

Though he says many kind things, like "Drive carefully, mummy" when his mother 
goes to work, adults who incur his displeasure (including his mother) are 
admonished "Not coming to my birthday party" [severest punishment in his 
world]. Recently we were alone together 
and, having again been admonished for some infraction, eventually I asked "How 
then would I be able to give you your present?" 
He thought for a few seconds - then gestured 'Hold on and watch' with his tiny 
hands, walked to door, bent down, made motions as if leaving objects there, 
then looked at me with voila expression to see whether I understood I would be 
able leave presents at the door.


On Sunday, 5 January 2014, 2:57, Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx> wrote:
I wrote

The so-called Sapir-Whorf (Whorf was Sapir's student; they did not 
collaborate) has been around for a long time, under the name 'linguistic
 relativity.' Most people think it's been thoroughly debunked, although a
 'weaker version of it' is still around.

The first part of this should read ...'they did not collaborate) theory has 
been around for a long time.'


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