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

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One wonders, however, about the parts glossed over, his break with the Church, his divorce, his remarriage at a late age. Initially, it seems to the reader and to Everett himself that him wanting to eat a salad is completely separate from the fact that he doesn’t quite get the language yet. BUT - the issue was Everett has never been open to sharing his data (as he seemed to claim in this book).

One night, Everett awakened to the drunken conversation of angry Piraha, who were plotting the murder of him and his family. Some concepts are fundamental to the way a society functions, and numbers is definitely one you need if you expect to have an Economy. This book is about the lessons I have learned over three decades of studying and living with the Pirahãs, a time in which I have tried my best to comprehend how they see, understand, and talk about the world and to transmit these lessons to my scientific colleagues.Regarding the claim that Pirahã is non-recursive, I find an absolute lack of respect that linguists all around the world ague against Everett without even speaking Pirahã themselves. They are a group of indigenous people who have maintained a language and culture distinct in many, fascinating ways. Their sense of direction is fluid, organized by orientation to the river rather than cardinal directions on a map. 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.

However, he hits a wall when trying to convince them to convert, and he goes into the irreconcilable differences between cultures. And I can look at some of those old men (old like me) who once threatened to kill me and recognize some of the dearest friends I have ever had — men who would now risk their lives for me. This seems to be deeply connected to the happiness of the Piraha people and seems to be a good lesson to takeaway. Even I could tell that there was nothing on that white, sandy beach no more than one hundred yards away. It is the immediacy of experience principle, central to Piraha culture, which is the downfall of Everett’s missionary work among the people.

He tells story of his stupidity to identify a massive anaconda, a caiman, and to identify malaria when he thought it was something else. Everett spent much of 30 years among the Pirahã (1977-2006), arriving long before the happiness study was published. Therefore, when Everett states this: But violence against anyone, children or adults, is unacceptable to the Pirahas. They always had everything they needed, and life was more or less grand, hence the smiles and laughter.

But the bulk of the text is devoted to really trying to understand their culture, which he does through the “immediacy of experience” principle. Everett emphasizes that this is not because they are primitive or simple-minded; on the contrary, his personal impression was that Pirahas live much more responsibly and healthily than many Christian Westerners do, and he maintains that they have a wisdom that we lack, akin to a Zen-like state of acceptance and recognition that the current moment is all we have.He mentions, at one point, that the Piraha women douse their fires and run into the jungle to hide when their men are drinking.

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