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Somehow I never pointed to this article

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 21, 2007

Somehow I never pointed to this article from April about Dan Everett and his efforts to understand the language of the Piraha, an Amazonian hunter-gatherer tribe. Everett’s position on Piraha linguistics is controversial because he believes their language doesn’t adhere to Noam Chomsky’s idea of universal grammar. “The Piraha, Everett wrote, have no numbers, no fixed color terms, no perfect tense, no deep memory, no tradition of art or drawing, and no words for ‘all,’ ‘each,’ ‘every,’ ‘most,’ or ‘few’ — terms of quantification believed by some linguists to be among the common building blocks of human cognition.” Everett recently wrote a piece for Edge on the Piraha’s lack of recursion and engaged in a debate with Steven Pinker and Robert Van Valin on the topic.

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