In 1770, as Captain Cook was first exploring Australia, his men came across a small tribe called the Guugu Yimithirr. After various interactions with the tribe, they discovered an astounding thing: whenever these aborigines referenced a direction such as left or right, they would so in terms of points of the compass, such as east or west. They had no words denoting egocentric directions in their language, instead exclusively using cardinal directions.


What was even more interesting though, was that by embedding geographical directions into a language, speakers seemed to have an uncanny sense of direction. Regardless of their surroundings or conditions, whether indoors or outdoors, they always knew where north was. Indeed, whenever the Guugu Yimithirr recalled a situation, they always did so in terms of their direction at the time. To put it another way, geographical locations were embedded in their memories.

via The Power of Language by Alex MacCaw.

The Power of Language by Alex MacCaw

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