Yenya's World

Fri, 03 Nov 2006

Time versus direction

The topic of the previous Japanese lesson was directions and time. I have found out that Japanese use the word/kanji "" (hold the mouse over this kanji to see the pronnouncation) for both "in front of", and "ago". So, "20 years ago" is "二十年前" as in "the time we are talking about had 20 years in front of it to the present time".

It is interesting that the same concept is in Czech as well - we say "před 20 lety", where the word "před" can be used as "in front of" as well. On the other hand, in Russian they use "тому назад", which literally means "back from now". So they are talking about the past from the present point of view, while Czechs and Japanese talk about the past from the point of view of that past.

But all those languages have a similar view of the flow of the time - the past is "behind us, back from us", while the future is "in front of us". I wonder whether this concept has been developed independently, or whether this shows some kind of common roots of all those languages.

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