I admit to being curious about all the aspects of this book, from the conversion story, to the linguistics, to the issues that the author struggled with while living with the people. The main idea is that the Piraha only talk about something that they have experienced first hand, or that someone else they know experienced first hand. But perhaps more important, humanity loses an example of how to live, of how to survive in the world around us. I didn't read it for the linguistics and skipped some of that but there's still enough anthropology to make it worth the read. We were in the Rocky Mountains this weekend and dropped in on a presentation about grizzly bears. Dear Reader, I, for one, am a skeptic about several of his claims.
I agree that a magazine article would have been better than a full length book — better yet might have been another journalist interviewing Everett and writing the article. I ask because there was a fairly famous incident where a sole researcher claimed that the language of the Hopi Indians contained no words for time, a conclusion which for a while became relatively common knowledge. Wasn't entirely sure what the author was trying to do in this book. Why did I not do that? After successfully building a canoe, the Pirahas refused to build one again. He also cites ostracization as the highest form of punishment. However, it is an entertaining and thought-provoking read, and so I guess I'd recommend it, if you don't have this issue.
Why would they help one for the better of the village, but not the other? Everett comes to respect this world view so much that he begins to analyze exactly why he felt he needed Christianity in the first place, and he eventually reaches the conclusion that any kind of subjective belief system that makes judgmental and far-reaching claims about the universe without any evidence to back it up is unnecessary and often harmful. He chased them around the village, trying to stick his large penis into them. The general idea, as Everett puts it, is that standard view of linguistics grammar is divorced somewhat from semantics and is universal in nature cannot account for the one he's most interested in, called Piraha, spoken by a small number of indigenous Amazonians somewhere in the north-centralish part of Brazil. Thirty years later, he left an atheist. Children were usually laughing, chasing one another,. They do not have a future tense because it has not yet happened to them.
They laugh at their own misfortune: when someone's hut blows over in a rainstorm, the occupants laugh more loudly than anyone. They sleep for no more than two hours at a time the title of the book is a common Piraha greeting. They wore bright smiles, and laughed about everything. My evangelism professor at Biola University, Dr. Thank you for the very inspired review.
. He walks to the village. If he is right, he will permanently change our conception of human language. When Everett translates many of the lines from Piraha to English, they are terse and simple. The Pirahã's primitive insistence on first-hand experience and not believing in any just-so stories became a factor in Everett losing his religion.
There is one particular harrowing narrative where Daniel literally dragged his sick hallucinating wife Keren through river muck for a week trying to get medical help. Yet, they see spirits everywhere, considering a person play-acting as a spirit or the motion of a leaf caused by a spirit as literally seeing the spirit. The major problems are with pacing and organization. Not long afterwards, the same men came to him for money to buy another big boat. Everett not only shocked his missionary peers and fractured his marriage; he sent ripples through the linguistic establishment with his claims about the construction of the Pirahã language, saying it did not build upon itself and was not recursive, which challenged the theories of the great Noam Chomsky. The Pirahãs see immediately that outsiders lack this quality.
I am not sure you have it in you to do that, so here are the best bits. They thought that the Pirahãs were lazy and stupid, because they had zero interest in pursuing wealth, or plundering their ecosystem. In effect: words placement without meaning. However, he gives just as many examples of incidents where the community helps one another and supports each other the father of one family who feeds another child, the hunt for an older man in the jungle, the old man who is too crippled to hunt, but who is given food by other villagers. There was a curious contradiction between his latter description of the Piraha as not needing what he had originally gone to share with them ie. The author speaks first of his efforts to convert the Pirahãs to Christianity, then of his own loss of faith when he has no success in proselytizing. If the couple is married to each other, they will just walk off in the forest a ways to have sex.
First marriages are recognized simply by cohabitation. They live in the now—never referring to anything in the past. At the center of this massive wrangle is a small group of people for whom the 'crooked heads,' as they call foreigners, and their petty bickering are the furthest thing possible from their world of enjoying themselves and whatever they happen to be doing at any given time. Dan Everett's life as a field linguist began when he entered a Pirahã village in the Amazonian jungle in December 1977. And third, and perhaps most important in the long run, his data and his conclusions about the language of the Pirahã run dead counter to the prevailing orthodoxy in linguistics. While it is generally agreed that culture affects certain aspects of language, most notably vocabulary, effects on grammar have largely been dismissed.