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Back in the social sciences, there are studies to support our sense of such differences—not in cognitive view but in cultural flavor. Bilingual people, for instance, seem to narrate stories very differently in their two languages. Russian émigrés to America seem to use more collectivist nouns when they’re speaking Russian, more individualistic ones in English; bilingual French-English speakers tend to tell the same stories with an emphasis on “achievement” in English, and on “aggression toward peers” in French. (The English story is “I done it!”; the French version is “And the bastards tried to stop me.”) This seems little different from the truth that the rituals and habits of playing hockey (cursing, stoical indifference, then handshaking) are different from those of playing soccer (whining, faking injuries, etc.). Obviously, immigrants have sociolinguistic habits among themselves that are different from the social habits acquired by speaking their new language. We don’t speak French or Italian if we don’t know the way to speak French and Italian.
Adam Gopnik: Word Magic (New Yorker)
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