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Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:10 PM

How Do You Say ‘Disagreement’ in Pirahă?

In his 2008 memoir, “Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes,” the linguist Dan Everett recalled the night members of the Pirahă — the isolated Amazonian hunter-gatherers he first visited as a Christian missionary in the late 1970s — tried to kill him.

Dr. Everett survived, and his life among the Pirahă, a group of several hundred living in northwest Brazil, went on mostly peacefully as he established himself as a leading scholarly authority on the group and one of a handful of outsiders to master their difficult language.

His life among his fellow linguists, however, has been far less idyllic, and debate about his scholarship is poised to boil over anew, thanks to his ambitious new book, “Language: The Cultural Tool,” and a forthcoming television documentary that presents an admiring view of his research among the Pirahă along with a darkly conspiratorial view of some of his critics.

In 2005 Dr. Everett shot to international prominence with a paper claiming that he had identified some peculiar features of the Pirahă language that challenged Noam Chomsky’s influential theory, first proposed in the 1950s, that human language is governed by “universal grammar,” a genetically determined capacity that imposes the same fundamental shape on all the world’s tongues.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/books/a-new-book-and-film-about-rare-amazonian-language.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120322

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Reply How Do You Say ‘Disagreement’ in Pirahă? (Original post)
groovedaddy Mar 2012 OP
Odin2005 Mar 2012 #1
xchrom Mar 2012 #2
Judi Lynn Mar 2012 #3
groovedaddy Mar 2012 #4

Response to groovedaddy (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 08:47 PM

1. I just read the book last weekend.

Chomsky's "Universal Grammar" has always stunk like BS to me.

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Response to groovedaddy (Original post)

Fri Mar 23, 2012, 07:13 AM

2. huh. interesting -- but he should not have gone as a missionary

this makes me very sceptical of his academic abilities.

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Response to xchrom (Reply #2)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 04:20 AM

3. Absolutely. My first thought, as well. They've done irreversable damage in the Americas. n/t

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Response to xchrom (Reply #2)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 07:19 AM

4. If I'm not mistaken, his experience with the people there caused him

to reject his religion. He found out that they had far more to teach him than what he was trying to foist on them.

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