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

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

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

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It is also an anthropological investigation, an adventure story, and a riveting memoir of a life profoundly affected by exposure to a different culture. Pirahã has only 3 vowels and 8 consonants, one of which is a glottal stop, and amongst many other unusual features it does not contain cardinal or ordinal numbers (which Everett suggests is because numbers and counting are generally abstractions outwith the IEP).

We keep being told that the happiest people in the world live in Finland, Denmark and other rich nordic countries. I don't think many people living with a smartphone in their pocket would, given the choice, give up their lives, move to the jungle and spend all day hunting, gathering and making sure they're not killed by a wild animal. I picked my gym shorts off the floor and checked to make sure that there were no tarantulas, scorpions, centipedes, or other undesirables in them. The Pirahã only concern themselves with directly experienced events, or at least those within living memory. They have no abstract words for colours, no numbers (not even ‘one, two, many’ which some other languages exhibit), no oral history or creation myths, and most remarkably, women have fewer consonants at their disposal than men.UG (Chomsky) or The Language Instinct (Pinker) claims that human's ability to learn languages is innate, because all languages share some underlying common "grammar" whose "parameters" (e. I think creating useless hypotheses might be common for people that work with non-mathematical, anthropological linguistics, but it's far cry from the hard science I'm used to read and make.

On our furlough, I thought again of the challenge of the missionary: to convince a happy, satisfied people that they are lost and need Jesus as their personal saviour. My dwelling was flanked by two smaller Pirahã huts of similar construction, where lived Xahoábisi, Kóhoibiíihíai, and their families. But perhaps more important, humanity loses an example of how to live, of how to survive in the world around us. But that means they would miss out on American English if they had no concept of the internet or television. Their sense of direction is fluid, organized by orientation to the river rather than cardinal directions on a map.The Pirahãs have shown me that there is dignity and deep satisfaction in facing life and death without the comfort of heaven or the fear of hell and in sailing toward the great abyss with a smile.



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