WHAT MAKES LANGUAGE HUNTING DIFFICULT?
One of the problems I experienced when using the method was the "obviousness" of language hunting (rather, the lack of it for some people). In my experience, young people in their late teens and twenties seem to cotton on quite quickly while monoglots above the age of 50 somehow seem to have a mental block. It seems to be a kind of mental agility that is lost with time.
Can it be regained?
Intuitively I believe it can. But how?
Often these tried to organize all known concepts into a hierarchy of categories and sub-categories. This seemed logical and straightforward enough, nevertheless all such attempts were doomed to failure. It turns out our universe of concepts is much more like a vast Venn diagram, and as such defies rigid, exclusivist classification in a top-down hierarchy.
The semantic primes idea is an answer to this conundrum and follows almost the opposite approach: Instead of slotting words into a larger hierarchy, what if we take the words themselves and "unpack" the concepts they contain until we find the basic building blocks, the atoms of language?
HOW DOES THIS HELP?
Regardless of the scientific debates surrounding this approach, it is a very useful mental exercise. In a way, you learn to approach language like a child again.
While growing up, our vocabularies are expanding at a fast rate. When we first grasp a concept we see it as a composite, a combination of simpler concepts. But as time passes we come to view the new concept as an simple concept in its own right. As we settle into adult life and reach the limits of the day-to-day universe of concepts, we come to see almost all concepts as simple and forget the web of semantic connections between them.
My theory is that this is why younger people find it much easier to "unpack" concepts than older people, because it was not so long ago that these concepts were new, composite concepts to them. This, in turn, makes language hunting much easier.
For example, I would expect a young person who does not know the word for "tea", say, to find it easier than an older person to come up with, "You know, you put hot water in a mug and then you put a little bag in it with a string and the water turns black." By extension I also think now that mastery of this skill is one of the biggest differences between a successful independent language learner and an unsuccessful one.
:: You are subscribed to the "Where are Your Keys?" Google Group. http://groups.google.com/group/wayk
:: To unsubscribe from this group, send email to wayk+uns...@googlegroups.com
:: Also, see http://www.whereareyourkeys.org/
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Where are Your Keys?" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to wayk+uns...@googlegroups.com.
For more options, visit https://groups.google.com/d/optout.