The Western world-view, at any rate since the Greeks, has concentrated almost entirely on ‘things’ to the relative exclusion of ‘events’. But has this not been the case everywhere and during all epochs? If we consider the religions and philosophies of the East and the beliefs of so-called ‘primitive’ societies, it is by no means true that a ‘materialistic’ slant on life is inevitable and universal.  Although philosophic ‘materialism’ —  in a strangely modern sense — existed  in India as far back as the time of the Buddha (Note 1), likewise in China, such systems never became dominant and the whole trend of philosophic thought in India, for example,  even up to the present day, has been ‘idealistic’ — probably one reason why contemporary Indians excel in the least materialistic science of the lot, so-called ‘information technology’. In India the two dominant religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, regarded ‘matter’ as at best secondary and, more commonly, as a dangerous delusion; similarly, in China Taoism, the philosophy of perpetual flux, for a long time more than held its own against the more rational and commonsensical (to our eyes) Confucianism.
One might, of course, wonder whether those persons who claimed that ‘matter’ and ‘self’ were illusory were being entirely sincere, or, if they were, whether they had a right to be : after all they were generally monks dependent on the charity of ordinary people who had to grapple with the very real problems of earning their daily bread (or rather daily rice). There is, however, also the testimony of language, for what it is worth.
Benjamin Whorf is out on his own amongst linguists : he trained as a chemist and, during most of his short life, worked for a fire insurance company, though his employers seem to have been surprisingly understanding about the time he was allowed to take off. Whorf had an amazing flair for picking up languages that scarcely any white Americans of the time had heard of, let alone learned to speak, and an even more remarkable flair for entering into the thought processes of ‘primitive’ peoples. He held to the notion, currently unfashionable in academia, that the structure of a language embodies a ‘world-view’ :

“We are thus intorduced to a new principle of relativity, which holds that all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same pucture of the universe, inless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated. (Whorf)” 

In particular, Whorf noted the striking differences between the structure of modern European languages and that of the languages of native American Indian tribes.

“Hopi, with its preference for verbs, as contrasted to our own liking for nouns, perpetually turns our propositions about things into propositions about events.” (Whorf, Language, Thought and Reality, p. 63, MIT Press 1991)

“The SAE (Standard Average European) microcosm has analyzed reality largely in terms of what it calls “things” (bodies and quasibodies) plus modes of extensional but formless existence it calls “substances” or “matter”. It tends to see existence through a binomial formula that expresses any existent as a spatial form plus a spatial formless continuum related to the form….
The Hopi microcosm seems to have analyzed reality largely in terms of EVENTS (or better “eventing”), referred to in two ways, objective and subjective.”  
(Whorf, op. cit. p. 147)

Whorf has many interesting things to say about Amerindian languages and the alleged philosophy behind them, but rather than repeat what he wrote I refer readers to Whorf himself. He died prematurely at the age of forty-four leaving various published and unpublished papers : M.I.T. brought about a selection edited by John B. Carroll in 1991 entitled “Language, Thought and Reality”.
My sketch of the language, Lenwhil Katylin, from my unfinished SF novel, The Web of Aoullnnia, incorporates several ideas I culled from Whorf, though they ‘rang a bell’ immediately. This novel — I hope it is a novel —  consists of a series of “transmissions from the future” emanating from a certain Yilkin I. Isellyion, a ‘mefam’ (male) living around the year 2260 “by your reckoning”.  Mr Isellyion has also communicated certain ‘explanatory notes’ about customs and behaviour that “will most likely appear strange to twenty-first century readers”. The following is one of them :

“Katylin is a language developed by the Sarlang during the latter part of the period known to us as the Abyss (and which is due to start shortly in your time) when they lived in underground settlements in North-West Territory (your USA). There are two forms, Lenwhil (or ‘true mode’) Katylin which is the language actually used by the Sarlang, and Sarwhil (‘easymode’) Katylin which is a simplified version of it with some borrowing from other languages. No one today speaks Lenwhil Katylin and it would be regarded as sacrilegious to even attempt to do so. However, a good deal of the chants and litanies to Aoullnnia are in a relatively pure form of Katylin and the Yther (a fanatical mystical sect only open to fam) use written Lenwhil Katylin for letters and certain documents.
Sarwhil Katylin is currently employed by the Interdominants as an official language somewhat analogous to your Church Latin in Europe in earlier times. The difference between the two modes of Katylin is essentially one of degree: the basic structure of the two languages is the same but is more strictly adhered to in the original Lenwhil form. Also, since the Sarlang had a much subtler perception of sound than we have, Lenwhil when actually spoken employed several different  tones – there were supposedly over eighteen in all.
The linguistic principles on which Katylin is based have their origins in the manner in which the Sarlang experienced reality — or, if you like, demonstrate  the Sarlangs’ philosophic prejudices. In Katylin the first word of every utterance is usually a ‘gerund’, a verbal noun. There is ‘action’, something occurring. Then comes a word or group of words giving  the origin of the action and finally a word or group of words giving the result of the action. Thus the statement “I am painting a picture” will in Katylin be thrown into the form

Painting / me / picture.”

As a secondary, or alternative, dual specification we might have the first word in an utterance giving the localisation of the origin of the action and the second word the localisation of the effect. Thus the ‘sentence’

‘Flashing/ sky/ ground’   

indicates that a flash (of lightning) has occurred, originating in the sky but having effects on the ground below.
Again, if I direct a beam of light upwards into the sky I might write something like

Flashing/me/ground/sky”

Because of the (to you) strange Sarlang conceptions of causality, there is often no great distinction made between the origin and localisation of an action even if the ‘origin’ is a human being. However, if the action is definitely the result of an act of will, a prefix  such as ‘en-‘ will make this clear, distinguishing, for example, between

“Shooting/I/him ”    and  “En-shooting/I/him ”

The first utterance is just a statement of fact, or supposed fact, with the implication being that the shooting was accidental (because of the lack of the prefix). Incidentally, though past, present and future actions can be distinguished if desired, there are no tenses as such in Katylin (cf. your Mandarin ?).
Katylin also makes several subtle distinctions between different types of  ‘fictitious’ events since, for the Sarlang, there were ‘degrees of unreality’ just as there were ‘degrees of reality’.     Yilkin I. Isellyion  (Note 2)

Notes: (1) “The Indian materialists denied the existence of any spiritual substance…..next to that, they denied every established order in the Universe, other than a haphazard order. They admitted no a priori binding eternal moral law. (…) They supported the established order and the religion upon which it was founded, without caring to be religious themselves. But not only did materialism flourish among the governing classes [at the time of the Buddha], it also had its votaries among the popular circles. From among the six most successful popular preachers  who were wandering through the villages of Hindustan during the life-time of the Buddha, two at least were materialists” (Stcherbatksy, Buddhist Logic, p. 16, Dover).  

(2) Anyone who wants to take things further is invited to peruse the opening chapters of The Web of Aoullnnia  on my website www.sebastianhayes.co.uk

 

 

 

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