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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Now, however, he thinks about it in a different more positive manner by saying that language shapes culture and culture shapes language. Xigagai, one of the beings that lives above the clouds, is standing on the beach yelling at us, telling us he will kill us if we go to the jungle.

I need another perspective, preferably female, such as testimony from his wife, or the point of view of a female anthropologist. That said, there are others who defend Whorf and argue that he had real insights and was essentially correct in his theories, even if the Hopi example wasn’t his best. The Pirahã only concern themselves with directly experienced events, or at least those within living memory. I’d also query the spirits on the beach thing, they have no words for colour but they do for unseen spirits?It's amazing to read this man's 30 year journey into this completely new, untranslatable universe, and the final remark that the language appears to be an evidence against Chomsky's (precarious) "hypothesis". For example, he characterized them as "peaceful" right before mentioning the rape of a young woman by "most" of the men in the village. Everett also finds that there is no recursion in Piraha language, ie embedding of sentences within sentences (such as “the man who is tall came into the room”).

He actions often cause mocking from other Piraha, whether it is at the poor way that he hunts or carries objects or speaks their language or identifies an animal threat. The third section, which unfortunately only makes up a small fraction of the book, is about Everett's re-evaluation, and ultimately rejection, of his faith in god and other supernatural ideas. Though this was a culturally shocking experience, I can at least understand their culture and respect that their “immediacy of experience” does not mean that they are cruel when it comes to death, but rather they think and talk in the present so it only made sense to them not to let the baby suffer any further. They have embraced the idea of mindfulness and living in the moment without the need for gurus, meditation or any type of conscious effort, other than their active distaste for outside culture. Mornings among the Pirahas, 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.Their sense of direction is fluid, organized by orientation to the river rather than cardinal directions on a map. But that means they would miss out on American English if they had no concept of the internet or television. This is why the Bible has no meaning to them, but if Everett had said "I saw Jesus today and this is what he told me," they would have accepted that as legitimate testimony. Everett said in the interview that he was so upset with them and still to this day, doesn’t understand why they thought that was okay when they could have tried more ways to save him. Sleepers became a playground for dozens of three-inch cockroaches (annoyances), and were often joined by eight-inch roach-eating tarantulas (beloved allies).

It creeps me out when over-educated/churched white people go to live in jungles with non-white/non-educated/underprivileged people to "learn" their way and then promote their way of life as some kind of idyllic vision. Everett was originally enlisted by the Summer Institute of Language to translate the New Testament into Pirahã. The key point of which was that during the six months of summer a grizzly has to take in 40,000 calories a day to build up the energy reserve that will feed it for six months of hibernation.But I forgive Everett everything because anyone who says Chomsky is wrong and manages to undermine his whole silly theory is a friend of mine. One example: Everett was really upset with all the people of Brazil for seemingly not giving a damn about the fact his wife was very sick with malaria, and maybe dying even.

Maybe it’s just that, for them, there’s no distinction between a superstition and a rationally justified belief, because they’re not in the business of justifying their beliefs at all. However their different culture, stresses/tones, and singing in conversation makes their language one of the hardest to learn. He never discusses nor seems concerned about the possible traumatic effects such fear and threat of violence might evoke in the women and children. I mean this is about the tribe that seems to have a language that doesn’t exhibit Chomsky’s deep structures, and that threw the linguistics community into disarray. And yet as certain as I was about this, the Pirahãs were equally certain that there was something there.

Everett’s heroic efforts were vexed by the fact that no other language on Earth bore the slightest resemblance to Pirahã. BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. One of the issues Everett had with talking about Jesus was that the Pirahã could not relate to the idea that he was telling them about events from long before Everett’s own life.



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