Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pirahã language

Today, I watched a special program featuring Pirahã via the TV.

Pirahã language is used by only hundreds of the people living in Brazil. It has some amazing characteristics, perhaps because Pirahã has been isolated for several centuries. For example, Pirahã language has no concept of number. The users of Pirahã vaguely distinguish largeness from littleness. In addition, they do not use tense at all. This fact is sometimes introduced as Pirahã people live in the present time, either the past or the future. Moreover, they can communicate with a whistle instead of words, according to the TV report. Intonation may have a critical role in communication with Pirahã language.

Indian Country: The Amazon's Pirahã People's Secret to Happiness: Never Talk of the Past or Future

Daniel Everett is an authority on Pirahã language. There are quite few persons who can speak Pirahã language other than natives. He was a missionary in the past. He visited this region to translate the Bible into the Pirahã language to make use of propagation. However, getting accustomed to Pirahã lifestyle, he felt doubtful of the goodness of his mission. Finally, he abandoned the Christian doctrine, simultaneously, he began to study the Pirahã language in detail.

Freedom from Religion Foundation: The Pirahã: People Who Define Happiness Without God

His research ignited broad discussion among linguists. He could not find any recursion in Pirahã language. This fact obviously contradicts the modern theory of language. On the other hand, the evidence supporting the findings by Everett is limited because he was not permitted to enter Pirahã region again. The argument is still continuing.

Recently, the Brazilian government decided to provide Pirahã people primary education. Thus, Pirahã children will learn the concept of number. It is afraid that external intervention can ruin the traditional way of life of Pirahã. However, Pirahã people will be deceived by foreigners with malice if they never learn it.

Research about minor forks teaches us many things. Where does the common sense that we believe come from?

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