This week I worked on adjectives. I used objects like the ones above to elicit words for sharp, round, smooth, scratchy, soft, etc. When I asked Wati how he would describe a cube, he said there is not a word for that–”it’s something new.”
I’m not surprised when I get this response for a computer or camera–it’s understandable that they don’t have a word for things that are not part of their traditional world. But I’m still surprised by things like the block. It reminds me that, until very recently, everything in Menya was a product of nature only shaped by human hands or stone tools. Without manufactured goods–or at least a table saw–the Menyan people had no experience with square objects and so they don’t have a “square” word.