Posted 20 hours ago

Don't Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle

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Everett states in his book that he as well as a series of psychologists completed experiments to prove that the Pirahas had no words for numbers in their culture.

Everett's theory is that someone has to feel like they are missing something in their life before they see a need for a belief system and the "redemption" it promises (in other words, you have to feel a need to be "saved" before you will agree to be "saved"). Second, they know that danger is all around them in the jungle and that sleeping soundly can leave one defenseless from attack by any of the numerous predators around the village. Ah well I did wonder how Everett’s (and Chomsky’s) views were regarded in the linguist community, nicole – and was aware that in the book, the lay reader has only Everett’s word to go on. And a good storyteller would not assume his readers understand the significance of "recursion" or interrupt a personal anecdote with page after page of technical discourse. Part 1 is a mixture of anthropology and personal memoir – for example in one chapter Everett relates how his wife and one of his children nearly died of malaria in 1979 – Part 2 is about the Pirahã language, and a short Part 3 relates how living with the Pirahã caused Everett to lose his Christian faith and become an atheist, an ironic outcome for a missionary.Numbers are generalizations that group entities into sets that share general arithmetical properties, rather than object-particular, immediate properties”(p.

Whilst I understand the sentiment, frankly, I would rather that others sent out with that as their missionary mindset, should rethink not only what, but why they are doing what they are doing. The lack of a clear structure and aim to the book certainly didn't endear the author to me, and, while I come from a "faith-perspective" myself, I found his approach to the Piraha tribe he was working with, and his own inability to reflect on his own thinking and behaviour, deeply frustrating long before he revealed his loss of faith. Everett realizes that these people have a peaceful happy culture and they don't need Christianity, loses his own faith, eventually divorces his wife and somehow in the midst of all this graduates Phd. The stoicism that he finds suggests that these are a people satisfied with life as it is, without a need for a new world view.I find linguistics fascinating, I enjoy reaing about cultures with entirely different ways of viewing the world from our own, and the book simply has to be packed with engaging stories. Everyone was streaked from ashes and dust accumulated by sleeping and sitting on the ground near the fire. One night, Everett awakened to the drunken conversation of angry Piraha, who were plotting the murder of him and his family. I would go so far as to suggest that the Pirahãs are happier, fitter, and better adjusted to their environment than any Christian or other religious person I have ever known.

Of course, he'd have to learn the language anyway, and only a very few previous missionaries had learned to speak with the inhabitants and developed a written system. Mornings among the Pirahãs, so many mornings, I picked up the faint smell of smoke drifting from their cook fires, and the warmth of the Brazilian sun on my face, its rays softened by my mosquito net.He even said himself that he wouldn’t have fully learned their language without being immersed in their culture and he wouldn’t have understood their culture fully without learning their language. The fact is that every phenomena has a multitude of explanations, and it's incredibly problematic that Everett argues from a position of experiential superiority (I lived with them, I know them, I am them, etc.

As Daniel struggles to find some way to get around this hurdle, he identifies many ways in which the Pirahã think differently than speakers of English (or any language, for that matter).Everett, then a Christian missionary, arrived among the Pirahã in 1977—with his wife and three young children—intending to convert them. As pointed by other reviewers, classifying a people as "peaceful" does not usually allow them to gang-rape women and kill old people and babies by starvation and abandonment.

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