The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Thinking with the aliens

My language is not about designing words or even visual symbols for people to interpret. It is about being in a constant conversation with every aspect of my environment, reacting physically to all parts of my surroundings.

Via kisrael, In My Language

It's a video, but you might want to skip to 03:12 where she stops “talking” in her language and offers a translation, or more loosely, an explanation of what she it communicating, which isn't really meant for human consumption.

What makes this interesting to me (at least, the part after the first 3′15″ of her video) is her definition of “language” and “communication.” And since it's not intended for human interaction, it reminds me very much of the concept of varelse, although it's clear she isn't strictly varelse, but possibly ramen (more information). It also reminded me of Dr. Temple Grandin, who has the uncanny ability to think like a cow and can thus, communicate for them to us (and both women suffer from Autism, although to varying degrees).

I write about stuff from the perspective of an autistic person, because that's part of what I am (I'm also a lot of other things, including probably brain damaged). But when I write about the experience of not being a “person” until I learn a foreign language, I'm not writing to give insight into autism specifically. I'm writing because that's true even in accepted languages, that people are more “people” when they speak the dominant language, or the dominant dialect. I'm writing because that's true of people with brain damage, people with Alzheimer's, people with intellectual disabilities, people whose bodies don't let them form speech easily even if their cognition is totally standard, people considered crazy (in all the various ultra-sophisticated medicalizations of that basic concept), etc, and I see it all the time.

This stuff isn't just about autism.

There's also a lot of food for thought in this MetaFilter thread.

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