I am looking to rewatch English filmmaker John Smith's 1975 piece, "Associations." I am watching a video upload of the film on YouTube so that I can turn on the automatic closed captioning. A YouTube video with CC optioning is almost always guaranteed to be poorly subtitled. Poorly as in automatically detected which results in non-human errors.
When searching YouTube for "john smith" associations the search bar's autofill function begins to predict my search query before I have finished typing, based on the relevancy and popularity of other YouTube videos. By the time I have typed only "john sm into the search bar, YouTube begins to predict that I may be looking for john smith pocahontas. While the prophecy is false, it is not unfulfilled.
John Smith's "Associations" queues up images of commercial and didactic stagings to appear in tandem with their phonetic sounds when spoken by the voiceover. The voiceover reads from the chapter "Word Associations and Linguistic Theory" by Herbert H. Clark, published in New Horizons in Linguistics in 1970. In the book, the chapter is introduced by a note from editor J. Lyons.
'Associationism' has long been very influential in psychology. As far as language is concerned, this is the doctrine that, whenever two words occur together or in close proximity, an 'associative' link is formed between them in the mind of the hearer, and the more frequently they occur together the stranger the 'association'. This theory is at least superficially attractive (because, as Clark says below, it is 'simple'); and it seems to explain the fact that, when people are presented with one word as a stimulus and asked to produce as a response the 'first word that comes into their head', there will be a fair degree of consistency in the results (provided that the responses are made without reflexion or hesitation). It is after all a fair assumption that all speakers of a language have met the words with which they are familiar (or at least the most common words) in the same contexts.
Pocahontas was given the name Matoaka when she was born to the Powhatan people a few years prior to 1600. The Powhatan legend tells that the girl, aged 10, prevented the English man John Smith (b. 1580) from being killed by her father, Chief Powhatan. The name Pocahontas is teasing, and is translated to mean the naughty one, or spoiled child, according to the Powhatan Renape Nation's official telling of the tale. "The true Pocahontas story has a sad ending," wrote the late Chief Roy Crazy Horse. "In 1612, at the age of 17, Pocahontas was treacherously taken prisoner by the English while she was on a social visit, and was held hostage at Jamestown for over a year."
There is, however, an alternative explanation. This is that we are able to produce associations as a consequence, a side-product as it were, of our ability to understand and produce utterances; and that these associative links between words do not play any fundamental role in the acquisition or use of language.
"As a condition of her release, she agreed to marry [John] Rolfe, who the world can thank for commercializing tobacco. Thus, in April 1614, Matoaka, also known as 'Pocahontas', daughter of Chief Powhatan, became 'Rebecca Rolfe'."
Matoaka only lived to be 17 years old.
Rebecca Rolfe only lived to be 21 years old.
Pocahontas is still alive today.
"She was buried at Gravesend, but the grave was destroyed in a reconstruction of the church. It was only after her death and her fame in London society that Smith found it convenient to invent the yarn that she had rescued him," Chief Roy Crazy Horse writes. "Chief Powhatan died the following spring of 1618. The people of Smith and Rolfe turned upon the people who had shared their resources with them and had shown them friendship. During Pocahontas' generation, Powhatan's people were decimated and dispersed and their lands were taken over. A clear pattern had been set which would soon spread across the American continent."
"The free-association game has been played for centuries," Herbert H. Clark begins.
Word associations have characteristically different effects depending on the rules the player has followed. When the player is allowed to take his time, he generally reacts with rich images, memories, or exotic verbal associations, and these give way to idiosyncratic, often personally revealing, one-word responses.
"It is unfortunate that this sad story, which Euro-Americans should find embarrassing, Disney makes 'entertainment' and perpetuates a dishonest and self-serving myth at the expense of the Powhatan Nation," follows Chief Roy Crazy Horse's telling of The Pocahontas Myth.
But when he is urged to respond quickly, his associations become more 'superficial', less idiosyncratic, and more closely related in an obvious way to the stimulus; these responses are much more predictable in that they are the ones almost everyone else gives to the stimulus. But if he has to respond even more quickly, the player will ignore even the meaning of the stimulus and produce 'clang responses', words that sound like or rhyme with the stimulus.
In the most memorable Pocahontas stimulus from the Disney animated film, the theme song "Colors of the Wind" presents a perspective from a Native American talking to the materialistic colonizing English. Stephen Schwartz's lyrics begin with the line, "You think I'm an ignorant savage."
The common associations - i.e., the responses other people are most likely to give - are produced more quickly than the uncommon ones. This suggests that we can attach greater importance to the fastest, most frequent associations, for hypothetically they are the product of the basic association mechanisms.
"Colors of the Wind" peaked at #2 on the US Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks in 1995, the year of its release.
"Colors of the Wind" also peaked on the 1995 charts for US Billboard's Hot 100 (#4), Hot Adult Top 40 (#10), and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop (#53). That same year it was found on charts for the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia. In 1996 it peaked on Dutch and Flemish charts.
"Colors of the Wind," covered by Vanessa Williams, was listed on the Best-Selling Records of 1995 chart by Billboard for selling over 700,000 copies, earning it Gold status in the US. The song is listed between "Keep Their Heads Ringin'" by Dr. Dre and "Scream" by Michael Jackson.
The stimulus cottage often elicits cheese, completing the common idiomatic phrase cottage cheese. Likewise, whistle elicits stop; white, house; stove, pipe; justice, peace; how, now; so, what; and so on. The rule that generates these responses is a close cousin of the selectional feature that has only one realization. The rule might be stated: 'Find an idiom of which the stimulus is a part and produce the next main word.'
Cottage often elicits cheese, but cheese rarely elicits cottage; and the same is true of other idioms. The idiom-completion rule therefore works left to right, not right to left.
The official Powhatan site precedes the telling of The Pocahontas Myth by stating that many of her descendants have come forward to inquire about membership with the Powhatan Renape Nation.
"There are, no doubt, many persons who can trace their ancestry back to the Powhatan Confederacy, such as ourselves," the FAQ page begins in regards to the lineage of Pocahontas. "In the sixteen or so generations since that time, in each generation, individuals who were descended from a marriage of a Powhatan person and a non-Powhatan person had a choice as to whether he or she wished to take on the identity of one parent or the other. We recognize those choices must have been difficult, given the disadvantages attached to 'being Indian' as compared to the struggle of being accommodated within the people of the non-Powhatan parent."
The first three verses of Schwartz's Pocahontas theme song are meant as her confrontation of John Smith:
You think I'm an ignorant savage
And you've been so many places
I guess it must be so
But still I cannot see
If the savage one is me
How can there be so much that you don't know
You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name
You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew, you never knew
"As near as we know, all the descendents of Pocahontas and John Rolfe made the latter choice, continuing in each generation to marry non-Powhatan persons," continues Chief Roy Crazy Horse's FAQ.
Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind
"As a result, the would have approximately one Powhatan ancestor and 16,383 other ancestors - they might say they were 1/16384 Powhatan. Obviously, such persons would have very little claim to membership in today's Powhatan Renape Nation, although we would value their friendship and support."
Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sun sweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they're worth
The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends
How high will the sycamore grow
If you cut it down, then you'll never know
And you'll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind
"Our membership is well known and it is unlikely that you are entitled to membership."
You can own the Earth and still
All you'll own is Earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind
"However, if you still believe you have an entitlement, please send us a full family tree."
Clark concludes his chapter in New Horizons in Linguistics by leaving an open ending, hopeful for further studies on his findings. "Since the word-association game is so easy to play, we know plenty about the scores. We now need to find out more about the rules."