Category Archives: Language

Odd Thoughts on Language and Climate

This question came about when I was discussing an oddity of English language on Twitter. I noted in passing that both Malay and Tagalog (often spoken in the Philippines) don’t have past tenses. Nor do a lot of tropical languages.

Image by MustangJoe from Pixabay

This got me wondering: Does tropical weather affect how we perceive time so much that it changes the need or desire to develop tenses?

Some of these languages don’t have future tenses either. It would be like speaking English this way: “Yesterday, I go to the store. Today I go to the store. Tomorrow I go to the store.” The only time markers are the actual words for the days.

I’ve been living in Malaysia for seven years now. When you live in a place without seasons, days, weeks and months just fly away. The sense of urgency is gone. (Note, I also lived in Namibia, and there “Africa Time” is a common expression for the lack of concern about urgency or timeliness.)

For those who can’t place Malaysia on a map (I’ve met a few) look at Australia. Go up the left side and keep going. You’ll pass through Jakarta and hit Singapore. Singapore is an island just off of the southern tip of the Malay peninsula.