Have you ever watched a video? (I guess this is a stupid question).
Then you must have returned to earlier part of a video. Expressing this action in any language (as far as I know) can be quite confusing because of varying perspectives on the issue.
Say, you want to return to earlier part (2:00) of the 10-minute long video. This action can be put on two kinds of "frame of reference." One is based on the passing of the time as the video progresses. Conventionally, the video runs from left to right and top to bottom. And most non-Arabic speaking people (because Arabic is read right to left) think of left as something older. So some might say that rewinding to 2:00 of 10:00 long video as "going back."
While this expression makes sense another case is true. Since still most people think of earlier part as something that preceded or something that is forward, going to the earlier part of the video can be expressed as "going forward," as well.
Now compare the two expressions. "Going back to 2:00" and "Going forward to 2:00." The two seems to be expressing something opposite to each other, but, in fact, they are expressing the same thing, just in different perspectives.
Similarly contradicting perspectives exist in expressing what is "before me." Conventionally, what is "before" something is what is in front of something (this is the same in Korean or Chinese because Korean's Chinese loanwords regarding the same issue has 전면 'in front of', 'before' meaning before in time as well as space, just like 'before' in English). For some time, I was confused by "in front of" being the same as "before." I think that is because I thought of before as in the past in time. So I thought the past is behind me so 'before' should be behind me, not in front of me. But the other way of thinking can be employed to explain this away. In front of me is before me because people walk forward not backwards. If you are walking forward, things in front of you are things that are yet to be experienced or "before" you. Things you passed by are things after. In addition time is thought as passing by you just like a static object in the road you are walking on. So temporal preposition like "before" is applied to things that are physically in front of you. So "I see the future before me" is possible.
This matter has been quite confusing to me. Just like understanding that when you face someone, left and right are switched for the person. But these things are quite interesting and mind-boggling at times.
Jin Woo Won
An undergrad at Columbia University, studying Computer Science and in particular artificial intelligence.