Imagine traveling with a GPS embedded in your brain?

A man from the ancient tribe Kuuk Thaayorre, from Northern Australia.

Actually, this isn’t that crazy of an idea. In fact it already sort of exists in an ancient culture called the Kuuk Thaayorre tribe, from the area of Pormuraaw, in Northern Australia and they speak a language called Thaayoore.

The reason that Kuuk Thaayorre speakers always know where they’re going is that their language is not self-oriented to left or right, only the points of the compass (cardinal points). For example, if you were speaking to someone in the tribe, they might say, “Look at the horse to my west side”. Now remember, if you are sitting across from them, the horse is actually to your east side. Or if you were at a 15-degree angle from them, the horse may be to your north! When meeting someone, the first question typically asked by a Kuuk Thaayorre is, “Where are you going?” The other person might reply, “Oh, north-east in the middle distance.” Direction is key to communicating in Kuuk Thaayorre and the report a kind of mental compass that follows them where they travel and resides in their mind.

As a result, this unique aspect of Kuuk Thaayorre affects the Thaayorre people’s whole culture. They don’t view the past as stretching out behind them, or even in front of them. To the Thaayorre people, time always moves from east to west, just like the sun.

Unfortunately, Kuuk Thaayorre is endangered. Only about 350 members of the Thaayoore ethnic group are native speakers of the language.

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