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A riveting account of the astonishing experiences and discoveries made by linguist Daniel Everett while he lived with the Pirahã, a small tribe of Amazonian Indians in central Brazil. Everett, then a Christian missionary, arrived among the Pirahã in 1977-with his wife and three young children-intending to convert them. What he found was a language that defies all existing linguistic theories and reflects a way of life that evades contemporary understanding: The Pirahã have no counting system and no fixed terms for color. They have no concept of war or of personal property. They live entirely in the present. Everett became obsessed with their language and its cultural and linguistic implications, and with the remarkable contentment with which they live-so much so that he eventually lost his faith in the God he'd hoped to introduce to them. Over three decades, Everett spent a total of seven years among the Pirahã, and his account of this lasting sojourn is an engrossing exploration of language that questions modern linguistic theory. It is also an anthropological investigation, an adventure story, and a riveting memoir of a life profoundly affected by exposure to a different culture. Written with extraordinary acuity, sensitivity, and openness, it is fascinating from first to last, rich with unparalleled insight into the nature of language, thought, and life itself. From the Hardcover edition.
A bold and provocative study that presents language not as an innate component of the brain--as most linguists do--but as an essential tool unique to each culture worldwide. For years, the prevailing opinion among academics has been that language is embedded in our genes, existing as an innate and instinctual part of us. But linguist Daniel Everett argues that, like other tools, language was invented by humans and can be reinvented or lost. He shows how the evolution of different language forms--that is, different grammar--reflects how language is influenced by human societies and experiences, and how it expresses their great variety. For example, the Amazonian Pirahã put words together in ways that violate our long-held under-standing of how language works, and Pirahã grammar expresses complex ideas very differently than English grammar does. Drawing on the Wari' language of Brazil, Everett explains that speakers of all languages, in constructing their stories, omit things that all members of the culture understand. In addition, Everett discusses how some cultures can get by without words for numbers or counting, without verbs for "to say" or "to give," illustrating how the very nature of what's important in a language is culturally determined. Combining anthropology, primatology, computer science, philosophy, linguistics, psychology, and his own pioneering--and adventurous--research with the Amazonian Pirahã, and using insights from many different languages and cultures, Everett gives us an unprecedented elucidation of this society-defined nature of language. In doing so, he also gives us a new understanding of how we think and who we are.
A handy beginner's guide, this textbook introduces the various stages of linguistic fieldwork, from the preparation of the work to the presentation of the results. Drawing on over forty years of fieldwork experience between them, in over two dozen languages, the authors pack the book with examples and anecdotes from their experiences and include practical exercises for students to test what they have learned. Independent of any particular perspective, the methods can be applied to a wide range of fieldwork settings, for projects with very different theoretical backgrounds and without the need to travel too far. The book covers 'traditional fieldwork' such as language description and documentation, as well as less typical methods, including language contact and quantitative studies with experiments or questionnaires.
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