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Daniel Everett: Endangered Languages and Lost Knowledge

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Asalvio Avatar
Asalvio
Posted: 01.16.12, 04:02 AM
A brilliant, illuminating discussion by Mr Everett. Zeroing in on the Piraha people, they seem to break many limited and limiting euro-centric molds seldom questioned outside academic circles, most relevant to the discussion being the concept of recursion in language. However, another fascinating blank spot was left wide open for me here. Beside a brief mention on belief in spirits, an extremely healthy skeptical attitude was emphasized throughout, with no mention of shamanism anywhere in the discussion, nor rituals involving states of rapture or psychotropics, so in a sense, the Piraha seem to practice an animistic equivalent of agnosticism. I find this both disorienting and peaceful, as if my preconceptions have flown out the window, and I'm suddenly staring at a slightly larger patch of Truth. online car insurance
scootwes Avatar
scootwes
Posted: 08.03.10, 10:23 PM
General Anubis, your comment is ignorant, insulting and condescending. Many of us were formerly evangelical christians (in my case 46 years including Bible School degree and missionary in Europe) who just could no longer believe in the bible god who sends 95% of his children to eternal torment over a matter of what a person happens to believe or not believe. We had MUCH faith and MUCH biblical knowledge, but it was not enough to hold back the flood of discovery when we started asking the hard questions and investigating the evidence in an objective way. We did not want to lose our deeply held faith, but our hearts could no longer believe in a god that no longer made sense in our heads. The evidence was too overwhelming to the contrary. So save your prayers. Even if there were a God listening to you, none of us who are genuine ex-believers ever want to return to that extremely narrow worldview. We have been set free from those chains, never to return. I have exchanged email with Daniel Everett, and I can assure that he shares that sentiment. I do not begrudge you the comfort you find in your religion, but please keep it to yourself. Some of us have found it deeply lacking.
General Anubis Avatar
General Anubis
Posted: 03.08.10, 12:00 PM
An interesting look at a culture very alien to the typical worldview. One striking concern I have is that they apply no value to historical proof, apparently. It is an uneducated (in archaeology and history) Christian whose faith falters when asked for evidence of Jesus, a historical figure whose existence is agreed as fact. His divinity is up to debate, but his existence is not. How can a culture that applies no value to history preserve their heritage? Sorry to be so tangential in my comment, but I spend a lot of time following the evidence of my faith and conveying the findings of that evidence to others. All the questions the Pirahã posed to you (at least, all the ones you mentioned or hinted at in this video, and all the questions their culture and view likely brought to your own mind) are easily answered with only a slightly in-depth look at the Bible. It saddens me that there are Christians out there, especially evangelical Christian missionaries, with that little faith or Biblical background knowledge. If you ever read this, Dan, know that you need only contact me if you'd like to have answers to the hard questions you could not answer, and also know that I'll be praying for your return.
John Moriarty Avatar
John Moriarty
Posted: 02.14.10, 01:11 AM
I am new to this whole field; my background is engineering. There are many fascinating aspects to the subjects discussed. Daniel Everett is a very interesting person although I never could see myself dedicated to living so long and so far from my present technosociocultural comfort zone! The controversy regarding recursiveness (recursion?) IMHO is somewhat of a red herring. All one need to do is to view recursion as either explicit or implied. It may be that implied recursion in an oxymoron, however it make sense for at least some of the examples given. Will we learn much from the Piraha? I would say only a little, which is how to be happy as grasshoppers in the good times. Daniel has alluded to their huge sense of superiority over the rest of us. This is a highly arrogant and absurd attitude, the apotheosis of ignorance is bliss. It is however understandable from their "emic" view. They have lived in a highly stable environment for so many generations that their adaptability is soon to be tested and exposed for its unsuitability for survival in unchanged state. Their lifestyle was idyllic if measured by smiles and laughter, so that's been a definite plus in their favour. But they are in a proverbial fishbowl of human experience, and their fishbowl is going to get rudely tipped into the ocean of humanity unless they are artificially insulated from the rest of us. This is assumed to be a good aspirational thing, but in fact is patronising to the point of threatening their survival. Once the shell around them gets breached, then away goes their viability as a people. Their patrons will wrongly assume responsibility for their welfare. Their culture gets one thing spot on in that they know in a basic way we are the ones to look after ourselves the best. If I were helping them I would be telling them stories about threatened disaster and happy endings brought about by timely adaptation. Now the question is how to inculcate foresight and openness to change when their own cultural superiority resists it like a pane of glass, strong until suddenly shattered from without, likely by getting dropped by those that take the role of protector away from them whether by good intention or not. Hey Pirahas, don't rely on one group of well meaning strangers to protect you from another group! I think the sad reality of their position is their own lack of imagination of trouble, on the scale of the unstoppable influence of the rest of us. The kindest education, and their survival depends on it, is to get them to learn from the tragedies of others. But they are so self absorbed in the present!
Juan Rudametkin Avatar
Juan Rudametkin
Posted: 07.21.09, 02:28 AM
An brilliant, illuminating discussion by Mr Everett. Zeroing in on the Piraha people, they seem to break many limited and limiting euro-centric molds seldom questioned outside academic circles, most relevant to the discussion being the concept of recursion in language. However, another fascinating blank spot was left wide open for me here. Beside a brief mention on belief in spirits, an extremely healthy skeptical attitude was emphasized throughout, with no mention of shamanism anywhere in the discussion, nor rituals involving states of rapture or psychotropics, so in a sense, the Piraha seem to practice an animistic equivalent of agnosticism. I find this both disorienting and peaceful, as if my preconceptions have flown out the window, and I'm suddenly staring at a slightly larger patch of Truth.
lisbartlett Avatar
lisbartlett +
Posted: 05.06.09, 09:50 AM
"Some estimates are as high as one language every two weeks going extinct"
Brian Barker Avatar
Brian Barker
Posted: 04.02.09, 05:33 AM
As far as dying, or endangered languages are concerned, may I let you know of the contribution, made by the World Esperanto Association, to UNESCO's campaign on behalf of the protection of endangered languages. The following declaration was made on behalf of Esperanto, by UNESCO at its Paris HQ in December 2008. http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/...CTION=201.html If you have time you might like to look at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations.
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