Helena and David,
I wonder if this quote below from Benjamin Whorf (one of the so-called
authors of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis - a kindred tradition to
Vygotsky's) might be useful. In it Whorf is comparing the Hopi notion of
"time" to the SAE (Standard Average European - including English) notion of
"time" and how each of these languages offers different affordances of
meaning. Whereas Hopi has a much more processual understanding, English has
a much more reified/objectified/entified sense of time. (btw, I think the
first paragraph is easier to follow than the second - and in that first
paragraph you'll find our old friend "imagination").
David, does this jibe with what you were pointing to?
" "Such terms as summer, winter, September, morning, noon, sunset" are with
us nouns, and have little formal linguistic difference from other nouns.
They can be subjects or objects, and we say "at sunset" or "in winter" just
as we say "at a corner" or "in an orchard." They are pluralized and
numerated like nouns of physical objects, as we have seen. Our thought
about the referents of such words hence becomes objectified. Without
objectification, it would be a subjective experience of real time, i.e. of
the consciousness of "becoming later and later"--simply a cyclic phase
similar to an earlier phase in that ever-later-becoming duration. Only by
imagination can such a cyclic phase be set beside another and another in
the manner of a spatial (i.e. visually perceived) configuration. "But such
is the power of linguistic analogy that we do so objectify cyclic phasing.
We do it even by saying "a phase" and "phases" instead of e.g., "phasing."
And the pattern of individual and mass nouns, with the resulting binomial
formula of formless item plus form, is so general that it is implicit for
all nouns, and hence our very generalized formless items like "substance,
matter," by which we can fill out the binomial for an enormously wide range
of nouns. But even these are not quite generalized enough to take in our
phase nouns. So for the phase nouns we have made a formless item, "time."
We have made it by using "a time," i.e. an occasion or a phase, in the
pattern of a mass noun, just as from "a summer" we make "summer" in the
pattern of a mass noun. Thus with our binomial formula we can say and think
"a moment of time, a second of time, a year of time." Let me again point
out that the pattern is simply that of "a bottle of milk" or "a piece of
cheese." Thus we are assisted to imagine that "a summer" actually contains
or consists of such-and-such a quantity of "time."
In Hopi however all phase terms, like "summer, morning," etc., are not
nouns but a kind of adverb, to use the nearest SAE analogy. They are a
formal part of speech by themselves, distinct from nouns, verbs, and even
other Hopi "adverbs." Such a word is not a case form or a locative pattern,
like "des Abends" or "in the morning." It contains no morpheme like one of
"in the house" or "at the tree." It means "when it is morning" or "while
morning-phase is occurring." These "temporal s" are not used as subjects or
objects, or at all like nouns. One does not say "it's a hot summer" or
"summer is hot"; summer is not hot, summer is only WHEN conditions are hot,
WHEN heat occurs. One does not say "THIS summer," but "summer now" or
"summer recently." There is no objectification, as a region, an extent, a
quantity, of the subjective duration feeling. Nothing is suggested about
time except the perpetual "getting later" of it. And so there is no basis
here for a formless item answering to our "time." "