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科学美国人60秒双语科学新闻综合篇:不会计数的民族

Lily85 于2013-04-07发布 l 已有人浏览
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计数是父母最先让子女学会的事之一。比如说,可能每一个父母都曾经下过这样的最后通牒:"在数到三之前,你最好乖乖的给我上床"。然后开始计数:"1、2、2.5、……"不
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Counting is one of the first things we teach our kids. I mean, every parent’s probably said, “You had better be in that bed by the time I count to three.” Followed by “One…two…two-and-a-half…” But counting might not be as universal as it seems. Because scientists from M.I.T. have found that a tribe living in the Amazon has no words for numbers.
计数是父母最先让子女学会的事之一。比如说,可能每一个父母都曾经下过这样的最后通牒:"在数到三之前,你最好乖乖的给我上床"。然后开始计数:"1、2、2.5、……"不过计数却并非像我们想象的那样是人人都会的,麻省理工的科学家就发现亚马孙一个部落的语言中就没有表征数的词。

Back in 2004, the M.I.T. team reported that the Piraha people seemed to have terms that described “one,” “two,” or “many.” This was based on asking tribe members to count objects, like sticks or nuts or AA batteries, as the researchers laid them out. This time, the scientists had the subjects count backward as they removed things. And they discovered that tribe members used the word previously thought to mean “two” for as many as five or six objects. And they used the word “one” for anything less than that. So the words don’t stand for numbers, so much as relative amounts. The findings appear in the online edition of the journal Cognition.
早在2004年,麻省理工的这个研究小组就报道说,亚马孙Piraha人的语言似乎只能表达"1、2和许多"三个概念,而无法对超过2的数进行精准表征。这一结论是让Piraha人对木棍、坚果和电池等物品进行计数而得出的。最近的研究则让他们凭借记忆说出曾经见过的物品数量。结果发现:Piraha人用原本以为指代"2"的这个单词来表示多达5或6个数,而"1"则表示任何少于5的数。因此科学家推断,这些单词并不代表确切的数,而只具有相对量的意思。这些发现发表于《认识》杂志的在线版。

Although the Piraha people might not need numbers, think of what they’re missing. “A large number of trombones led the big parade, with an even larger number of cornets close at hand…”
虽然Piraha人可能不需要计数,但他们却错过了很多关于数的乐趣,比如那首脍炙人口的歌在他们口中可能就只能这样唱了"游行队伍的最前面是许多的长号,紧随其后的是更多的短号"。

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