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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While reading this book for class I as well as my classmates were amazed at how different their language was to ours. He tells story of his stupidity to identify a massive anaconda, a caiman, and to identify malaria when he thought it was something else.

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. In general it really surprised me that they lacked so much language and linguistic forms that we have. Over the more than two decades since that summer morning, I have tried to come to grips with the significance of how two cultures, my European-based culture and the Pirahãs’ culture, could see reality so differently. He helped to create an official reservation for the Pirahã, so that they will forever be safe from greedy materialists (true? 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.

Xigagaí, 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.

However, despite all this, Everett ultimately concludes that they are “better fit” for their environment than many people living in more industrialized countries.Everett found himself more and more persuaded that “the act of believing in something unseen” was ridiculous. Their idea of a family unit is nowhere near as rigid as Westerners are used to, and neither is their relationship to sexuality or child rearing.

He was preceded as missionary by one or two others, one of whom gets namechecked fairly often in the book (I don’t have it to hand so can’t remember his name), and Everett says that this predecessor had done quite a lot of work on the language before him, and there are some Piraha conversations transcribed by the predecessor which are reprinted in the book. This is much less dry than it sounds, and is all cunningly tied into an equally fascinating story of Everett’s life with the Piraha and his loss of faith. Most significantly, Pirahã sentences only ever contain one verb and Everett argues the language does not allow for linguistic recursion (the use of sentences within sentences).I will only accept criticism to Everett's work on this topic by someone who is also fluent in Pirahã, otherwise it's just empty words. There is the normal speech, the hum speech, the whistle speech, the yell speech, and the musical speech. Everett gives a wonderful sense of life among the tribe, and of those great little moments which show exactly how similar and how different we all are: from the time the men killed the anaconda for the sole purpose of leaving it in the river where the women bathed and scaring them, to the time the tribe kills a baby Everett's family was trying to save because its mother had died and it "wanted to die" too. Because living in the jungle is hard, and there are, indeed, snakes, and malaria, and dying in childbirth is a common occurrence.

Eventually he leaves his religion as well, and his life with the Piraha seems to have a lot to do with it. They had no use for the knowledge of the whites, because their way of life worked just fine without it.Was it an autobiography, linguistic anthropology, critique of Chomsky's theories, or an anti-missionary apologetic? Often when I first opened my eyes, groggily coming out of a dream, a Pirahã child or sometimes even an adult would be staring at me from between the paxiuba palm slats that served as siding for my large hut. However, it's very difficult to accept that argument from someone who doesn't even really know if he speaks the language correctly. He never discusses nor seems concerned about the possible traumatic effects such fear and threat of violence might evoke in the women and children. Everett is initially shocked at how indifferent the Pirahas seem when his wife and daughter are dangerously ill, shouting after him to bring supplies when he sets off on a nightmare trip to find medical help.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
  • Sold by: Fruugo

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