Language and our Brain

I am currently reading “Embracing the Wide Sky” by Daniel Tammett, a famous autistic savant. As I was by the last book of his I read, I am again fascinated by this man’s mind and ability to explain it. With cognition and linguistics having been one of my life’s great interests, I was particularly intrigued by his chapter on the universality of language ability in humans. He claims that we can understand meaning in other languages just by the nature and structure of the words. Below is a quiz in his book to illustrate this.

  1. Does the adjective “pambalaa” in the Siwu language of Africa describe (a) a round, fat person or (b) an angular, thin person?
  2. Is the word “durrunda” Basque for (a) a quiet or (b) loud noise?
  3. Do the Japanese colors “aka” and “midori” mean (a) red and green or (b) green and red?
  4. The Malay verb “menggerutu” refers to someone who (a) laughs or (b) grumbles?
  5. Is the Italian “piro piro” a kind of (a) fish or (b) bird?
  6. Do the Hungarian adjectives “nagy” and “kicsi” mean (a) big and small or (b) small and big.
  7. If a Samoan says “ongololo” is he talking about a (a) centipede or (b) an ant?
  8. In the Aboriginal Yir-Yoront language of Australia does the word “chichichi” refer to a dog that is (a) sitting or (b) running?

I will publish the results later. I might add that I scored 100% right on my first try.

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