The rules of language are not innate, but are born of the need and circumstances, said Daniel Everett
Daniel Everett is a linguist who is best known for his studies on the language of the Pirahã people of the Amazon basin. His new book,
Language: Tool of Culture (Profile Books, £ 14.99)
explores his theory that the Language is not innate, but a tool developed by humans to solve problems.
You started out as a. Missionary and later became a linguist Can you tell me how this happened?
I joined an organization called Wycliffe Bible Translators who had the goal of translating the Bible into all languages ??of the world, which has been studying the language, and so that was my first exposure to linguistics. The first phase of translation of the Bible is how language works. I realized that I wanted to go to a diploma work.
Can I have a very quick summary of the essential demand of this book?
There are two applications, the first is that universal grammar does not help there seems to be much evidence of that. What can we implement? A complex interplay of factors, including culture, the involvement of human values, plays an important role in structuring the way we speak and the things we talked about.
his experience in the Amazon, and, in general, which makes language possible?
Language is possible because a number of cognitive and physical characteristics that are unique to humans, but none of them are unique to that language. Meet make language possible. However, the fundamental building block of speech is the community. Humans are a social species than any other, and build a community, which for some reason humans have to do for a living, we must solve the communication problem. Language is the tool that was invented to solve this problem.
You studied the Pirahã community in central Amazonia. Is there something particularly interesting Pirahã language?
was assigned there to translate the Bible for them, because nobody could understand the language - which is not related to other known living language. All languages ??have unique characteristics, but the Pirahã appears to have unique features to many others. Things did not expect. I mean the absence of figures, the lack of counting and colors, the absence of creation myths, and refusal to talk about the distant past or distant future. A number of things like that, even the particularity of recursion, the ability to maintain a process that continues indefinitely syntax. This constellation of features really screamed for explanation, and it took me 20 years to realize that there could be a unifying explanation for all these things. My experience with the Pirahã was absolutely fundamental in shaping my ideas about human language.
How long does it take to learn?
There is no common language, so just point and started to learn nouns and verbs below. I was in town with my family for one year initially, and at the end of this year, he could speak, he could say a few things. In the next two years, more or less told me what he meant, and now is a cumulative total of nearly eight years in the city and speak the language very well.
What are you doing?
Well, I first saw as a kind of talking parrot. It was difficult for them to understand when I was learning the language to really understand something of what they said. They thought I was just imitating an animal of the jungle, and I want to say something to them and they would say: "See that sounds like us" and spoke of me. And I said, "But I understand you, I speak Pirahã" and it was difficult for them first, and the children looked at me with his mouth open. But I agree very well now.
You speak of a grammar of happiness - it's a good idea, but are just perpetuating a myth
Initially, I was, of course. They first did not see me as a human being in the same way they are. And he felt a little threatened at first when I started working there, even though I was the third missionary group that met. They threaten our lives for our first visit.
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