An interesting follow up to Sujatha's post on Greg Mortenson, his book and his charity. This story in the Economist points to certain liberties that Mortenson may be taking not just with facts but also language.
GREG MORTENSON claims to have tried and failed to climb K2 (the world's second-highest mountain), stumbled into a village alone after being separated from his party on the way down, and been nursed back to health by kind villagers. He also claims to have been kidnapped, years later, by the Taliban in Waziristan. He wrote a book, "Three Cups of Tea", which has become something of a manual for understanding Central Asia, even being given to American troops serving there. And he has started an organisation called the Central Asia Institute that builds schools and offers other services in the region.
Now Mr Mortenson is being accused by CBS News of fabricating some of his stirring tales. (He is also accused of potential financial improprieties regarding CAI money, not the subject of this post.) CBS spoke to two porters who left K2 with Mr Mortenson, contradicting his claim to have stumbled alone into the village of Korphe.
Mr Mortenson's written response blames the confusion on the Balti language of the people of Korphe:
Even the Balti language — an archaic dialect of Tibetan — has only a vague concept of tenses and time. For example, "now" can mean immediately or sometime over the course of a whole long season. The concept of past and future is rarely of concern.
Calling Balti an "archaic dialect" is odd; it is a full-blown language according to Ethnologue, and no language is any more archaic than any other. But this seems as though it might be an attempt to set up a linguistic defence: Balti, being archaic and a mere dialect and all, doesn't have concepts of time that would allow the villagers to be reliable in contradicting Mr Mortenson.