Re: Language/Conciousness/Thinking

Pat Scheib (pscheib@PCT.EDU)
Wed, 7 Aug 1996 17:00:21 -0400

>>> Chris Braiotta <cbraiott@NETOPE.HARVARD.EDU> 08/02/96
10:16am >>>
>I recently was told by a colleague that someone had done research on
>brain hemisphere and language with some Native American peoples
>found that Native Americans who suffered damage to the left
>hemisphere of their brain, which would normally damage their language
>areas, experienced no such loss of language. The conjecture was that
>some Native American cultures may have evolved to process language
>in the right hemisphere since they are a "right-brained" society. I find
>this very intriguing but my colleague couldn't produce any references
>this information. Does anyone out there know anything about such

I don't know anything about this research (not surprisingly, as I'm a
layman. Hope that's ok), but that conjecture sounds pretty unlikely to me.
Humans haven't been around long enough, and certainly Native
Americans haven't been in the Americas long enough, for such a
profound change to take place.

At any rate, this whole right brain/left brain thing gets a lot of airtime, but
this sharp differentiation between the hemispheres is really something of
a false dichotomy. There's really not that much difference between, the
two...merely a TENDENCY (according to what I was taught, at least) for
one side to process certain functions, and the other to process others.
Quite often, one side of the brain can make up for deficiencies caused
by injury or trauma in the other side. Perhaps that's where their culture's
emphasis on "right-brainedness" comes into play, in the seamless
transition from one side to the other.

Does that make any sense?


Yes Chris, I agree that what I was referring to as "left and right-brain
processing" probably doesn't literally happen exclusively in the left or
right hemispheres. Perhaps that was a poor choice of terms. I was
trying to come up with a term to describe the types of thinking processes
and consciousness which, outside of the literal translation of left and
right-brain, I do believe occur and do so at times without the necessity of

>>>Humans haven't been around long enough, and certainly Native
>>>Americans haven't been in the Americas long enough, for such a
>>>profound change to take place.

OK, I'm just a clinical sociologist, but hasn't there been some pretty solid
evidence in recent years that Native Americans have indeed been here a
lot longer and had developed far more sophisticated technology than we
previously supposed? I thought they even found a skull somewhere in
California which dated to be far older than the time when the land bridge
opened up over the Bering Straits? When they encountered Native
Americans, the white settlers assumed that because Indians weren't
utilizing the same technology they were at the time (more sophisticated
weapons, different types of shelter, etc.) and didn't share the same
values (money, profit, materialism), that they were an inferior and
backward race. Just a thought, but what if the Native Americans were
here long enough to develop that technology, but had the foresight to
predict the long range ecological and social impact of developing such
technology and chose not to go that route?

Pat Scheib