Human-ities · Science

How do people lose their native language?

Sgt Bowe Bergdahl spoke English for 23 years until he was captured by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan five years ago. But since his release, he has trouble speaking it, says his father. How can you lose your native language, asks Taylor Kate Brown.

Some people have gone decades without speaking or hearing their first language but they retain the ability to speak it easily, says Dr Monika Schmid, a linguistics professor at the University of Essex in the UK. But others begin losing fluency within a few years of not speaking it.

It’s rare to totally lose command of a first language, she says. Instead people have “language attrition” – trouble recalling certain words or they use odd grammar structures. Age is a factor. Once past puberty, Dr Schmid says, your first language is stable and the effects of attrition can reverse themselves if you are re-immersed. But children as old as 10 don’t necessarily retain the language they were born into. In a study of French adoptees who left South Korea in childhood, when asked in their early 30s to identify Korean, they did no better than native French speakers with no exposure to the language.

The difficulties in recalling your first language are greater the more immersed you are in a second language, says Dr Aneta Pavlenko at Temple University in Philadelphia, because cognitive resources are limited. Despite teaching Russian at university in the US, she herself returned to her Russian-speaking community in Kiev to realise she had forgotten how to start a conversation at the post office.

It’s well known that brain injuries can have an impact on language loss, but emotional trauma can also affect it. Among German Jews who fled the country during the Holocaust, Dr Schmid says the loss of language was far more dramatic the greater their trauma.

All text and Image via BBC News

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities

The Work of Grief

“ How do you turn catastrophe into art?” This bold question, posed by Julian Barnes in a fabulist exegesis of Géricault’s great painting “The Raft of the Medusa”, in A History of the World in 10½ Chapters (1989), might be said to be answered by his new book, Levels of Life, a memoir of his wife of thirty years, Pat Kavanagh, who died of a brain tumour in 2008. With few of the playful stratagems and indirections of style typical of his fiction, but with something of the baffled elegiac tone of his Booker Prize-winning short novel The Sense of an Ending (2011), Levels of Life conveys an air of stunned candour: “I was thirty-two when we met, sixty-two when she died. The heart of my life; the life of my heart”. The end came swiftly and terribly: “Thirty-seven days from diagnosis to death”. The resulting memoir, a precisely composed, often deeply moving hybrid of non-fiction, “fabulation”, and straightforward reminiscence and contemplation, is a gifted writer’s response to the incomprehensible in a secular culture in which “we are bad at dealing with death, that banal, unique thing; we can no longer make it part of a wider pattern”.

Levels of Life is a not quite adequate title for this highly personal and at times richly detailed book, implying an air of lofty contemplation from which the vividness of actual life has departed. Barnes quotes E. M. Forster: “One death may explain itself, but it throws no light upon another” – yet Levels of Life suggests that a single death, if examined from a singular perspective, may throw a good deal of light on the universal experiences of loss, grief, mourning, and what Barnes calls “the question of loneliness”. “I already know that only the old words would do: death, grief, sorrow, sadness, heartbreak. Nothing modernly evasive or medicalising. Grief is a human, not a medical, condition.” The epiphany – or rather one of the epiphanies, for Levels of Life contains many striking, insightful aphorisms – towards which the memoir moves is the remark of a bereaved friend: “Nature is so exact, it hurts exactly as much as it is worth, so in a way one relishes the pain . . . . If it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t matter”. In the more intimate passages here, Barnes would seem to be making the tacit point that the creation of art is inadequate to compensate for such loss.

Excerpt from an article written by Joyce Carol Oates. Continue HERE

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Science

Is Depression an Adaptation?

Many functions have been suggested for low mood or depression, including communicating a need for help, signaling yielding in a hierarchy conflict, fostering disengagement from commitments to unreachable goals, and regulating patterns of investment.
A more comprehensive evolutionary explanation may emerge from attempts to identify how the characteristics of low mood increase an organism’s ability to cope with the adaptive challenges characteristic of unpropitious situations in which effort to pursue a major goal will likely result in danger, loss, bodily damage, or wasted effort. In such situations, pessimism and lack of motivation may give a fitness advantage by inhibiting certain actions, especially futile or dangerous challenges to
dominant figures, actions in the absence of a crucial resource or a viable plan, efforts that would damage the body, and actions that would disrupt a currently unsatisfactory major life enterprise when it might recover or the alternative is likely to be even worse. These hypotheses are consistent with considerable evidence and suggest specific tests.
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2000;57:14-20

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