Professor Daniel Everett, author of Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes, discusses the importance of preserving dying languages. He describes his experience living with the Piraha people in Brazil, and explores what Piraha, both the people and the language, can teach us about human nature.
Stewart Brand is co-founder and president of The Long Now Foundation and co-founder of Global Business Network. He created and edited the Whole Earth Catalog (National Book Award), and co-founded the Hackers Conference and The WELL. His books include The Clock of the Long Now; How Buildings Learn; and The Media Lab. His most recent book, titled Whole Earth Discipline, is published by Viking in the US and Atlantic in the UK.
Daniel Leonard Everett (born 1951 in Holtville, California) is a linguistics professor best known for his study of the Amazon Basin's Piraha people and their language.
He currently serves as Chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. He previously taught at the University of Manchester and is former Chair of the Linguistics Department of the University of Pittsburgh.
Laura Welcher is the Additional Project Idea Representative for the Rosetta Project.
Laura Welcher, director of the Rosetta Project, announces the digital release of the Rosetta Disk. The original Rosetta Disk contains 13,000 pages of information etched onto a small metal disk and cost $25,000 to make. This version is available for free, online.
Study of the nature and structure of language. It traditionally encompasses semantics, syntax, and phonology. Synchronic linguistic studies aim to describe a language as it exists at a given time; diachronic studies trace a language's historical development. Greek philosophers in the 5th century BC who debated the origins of human language were the first in the West to be concerned with linguistic theory. The first complete Greek grammar, written by Dionysus Thrax in the 1st century BC, was a model for Roman grammarians, whose work led to the medieval and Renaissance vernacular grammars.
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.
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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.
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.
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!
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.
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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Watch Daniel Everett: Endangered Languages and Lost Knowledge
Good evening, I am Laura Welcher from The Long Now Foundation. Iam the director of the Rosetta Project. Some of you may know, this summer, we finishedour first prototype Rosetta disk, after 8 years of work, and so now five copies of that diskare out there in the world, that is to the very long-term archive of the Rosetta Project asyou know is a collection of the worldÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s languages. When we made that available over thepast several years, we have had many, many request for a version that would not cost$25,000 and that we could distribute it very widely. So, I am very pleased to announcethat we have now made a version that can be distributed very widely, and this is a digitalfully browsable version of the disk which is available now on DVD and today we havemade it available at the Rosetta Project website for anybody to go and interact with. Andso this is what it looks like, so now if you go to rosettaproject.org this is what you seeand this gives you the virtual experience of looking at the Rosetta disk through amicroscope except you are browsing on your computer. And so what you see here istheÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ what we call the human eye readable side, so this is the part that starts withlanguages at a scale that the human eye can see, and it tells you this is an archive of theworldÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s language and then the text spirals down and gets progressively smaller andsmaller, and inside those radiating spokes are list of languages that have information onthe other side of the disk. So, I will show you what this looks like, you can browse all theway in, the languages are arranged by geographic region, and so you can see I amzooming in on the Americas, and getting closer, and here you can see we havedocumentation in the Rosetta Project on the Piraha language that Dan Everett is going tobe talking about tonight. So, there is Mura-piraha which is the very small languagegrouping that Piraha belongs toÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ and you can also look at the other side of the disk, thisis the archive side, so this side has about 14,000 pages of documentation and about 1,500languages, there is about 7,000 languages in the world, this is a good chunk of them.And you can also zoom all the way in this one. So, now we are zooming in to the regionthat has documentation of languages of the Americas, we are getting closer, and closer,and closerÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ ahah! It turns out we have information on Piraha, by Daniel Everett. So,you are very welcome to go browse site at your leisure, you can also buy DVD versionsof this disk. So, it is now my very great pleasure to introduce the speaker for tonight DanEverett, a linguist who has worked for many, many years with an endangered language.A group of people called the Piraha along the Amazon river, and in the 70ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s, as he isgoing to tell you much more about, he equipped as a missionary, went with his entirefamily to work with the Piraha and he had his missionary tools and beliefs. He had hislinguistic tools and beliefs, and he went there and what he learned from this very smallgroup of people shook, actually rocked, both of those sets of beliefs, and changed hisworld view in a very fundamental way, and also changed the way that he looked atlanguage. Now, his research and his writings on language are changing the way all of usthink about language works, and how it is encoded in the human mind. So, let meintroduce and welcome, Dan EverettÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦Great! Good to be here this evening, have you ever imagined that youwere God, that is something that I think about once in whileÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ and when I do, I thinkmaybe the tower of Babel could have been different than the story was originally told,maybe God actually liked the results of humans creating some tower, and he decided totake out of this one language and make many, and send many people around the world tosolve problems. As it were creating thousands of other Adams, not atom ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ A-T-O-M butAdam ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ A-D-A-M, to create and name other creatures, and learn about the world aroundthem. And language have spread around the world. We do not really know where thefirst language started, but we have ideas about how long ago it might have been, and wedo know that language has thrived and that the general principle that makes languagesalike or different is very simple. You talk like who you talk with, so if you talk withsomebody all the time, you will talk like them, and if you do not talk to them, eventuallyyou would not talk like them at all. So, language has lived like bread and love, by beingshared with others. But languages die also, and languages die in one of two ways. Firstway is that the speakers actually die, and so if the speakers of a language die out thelanguage is going to die, the Piraha almost died out in the early 60s, they got down to 80or 90 because of a measles epidemic, and eventually it come back up to 350 people, butthat is still a very small number. Another reason language die is because the speaker stopspeaking, speakers lived but they shifted to another language. So, the languages that aregone, usually would not come back. So, the language of Squanto, the Indian fellow youall remember from your history books who helped the pilgrims make it through the firstwinter. The Tupinamba who occupied the coast of Brazil in the 1500s and wereeventually wiped out by a combination of factors mainly the activities of Jesuit priests.And another language that might be dying out is Irish, and we do not know how muchlonger that will last. There are almost 7,000 or more than 7,000 languages spoken in theworld and all the red regions that you see are the areas of highest concentration oflanguages. So, if you look very carefully at the world map, you will see that the highestconcentration of languages in the world is Papua New Guinea, in Brazil there are about188 languages still spoken, probably half the number that was spoken in the 1500s and apopulation of less than 200,000 people. What is the scale of language loss in the world?What I want to do this evening is talk to you about the general issues of language loss andwhat that means to us, when languages die. But also very specifically look at a casestudy, the Piraha people that I spent the last 30 years working with, and the lessons thatthey have for us, both scientifically and how to live lives as human beings on planetearth. There are 6,912 to 7,000 languages, nobody knows exactly how many, but aroundthat number, 3500 languages are spoken by 0.2% of the worlds population. So, almosthalf the worldÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s languages, or half the worldÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s languages are spoken by only 0.2% of thepopulation, 40% of the languages in the world are endangered. Some estimates go ashigh as one language every 2 weeks becoming extinct. That is much higher thanmammals only 18% or 5% of fish, or 8% of plants according to a new book that I highlyrecommend by David Harrison on When Languages Die. So what is lost? The late KenHale, linguist at MIT was one of the greatest field workers who ever lived, said that whena single language is lost, it is worst than a bomb dropped on a Louvre, it is a museum itis a repository of knowledge that cannot be replaced, it is not written, most of theselanguages are not written at all. Linguists have to go there and develop writing systems,they are not written, there is no way to recover the knowledge once it is gone, once theselanguages are lost. We lose ways of life, and records of ways of life, we lose solutions toproblems, we lose classifications of plants and animals and folk knowledge of the world.We lose myths, folktales, lullabies, songs, poetry, and literature. Talk encodes ways oflife. One of the groups that I worked on the Amazon are the Wari, who were until about1962 cannibals and they practice exo- and endo- cannibalism, exocannibalism eat yourenemies, endocannibalism eat your own dead. And the reason that they ate their dead,which is a very elaborate set of rituals was toÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ among other things to give the deadimmortality, they live on through us, as we eat them and consume our beloved and thefirst people to have consume the dead were immediate family. To be able to give themeternal life through us. The Wari discourse about death and immortality is fascinating,and teaches us a lot about how to face death and how to live life, unafraid of death in theworld, and that is going as the Wari language is more endangered. Almost 50% somepeople say 55% of the foods consumed in the world today come from the Americas ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“cassava, manioc, chilis, coca, coffee, tobacco, corn, some people have claimed that cornmight be the greatest invention in human history, it does seem to have been invented bythe Mayas or predecessors to the Mayas from husbandry of different kinds of grasses, andit is certainly one of the most widely consumed foods in the world. But as theselanguages have died, the question that arises for us is what else have we lost and theanswer isÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ we will never know, how many cures for diseases, how many other food,how many other great stories and philosophies that we lost, because these people havegone. We lose information when these languages die about classifications andtaxonomies of the world, so the Wayampi Indians of Brazil, speakers of Tupi-Guaranilanguage, classify birds, every bird in their environment is carefully classified, but theydo not classify them just like we do. So for example someone noticed, a colleague ofmine in Brazil, Allen Jensen, when he did his dissertation on them, that one type of hawkis classified in the toucans. Why would they classify a hawk among the toucans? Surelythey can see the difference. The reason is their classification systems follows the foodthey eat and certain kinds of behavior, and this hawk as we got to know more about it,actually eats what toucans eat, and has a behavior similar to theirs. We lose this kind ofknowledge, this folk knowledge that is vital to us understanding the way the world works.Especially in these local environmentsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ when I asked the word for dog in Piraha, I gottwo words neopi and neipi and I asked them why are there two words? That is the way itis, then I saw them bring in two jungle animals that according to my book of mammals inthe tropics were both extinct and they were called jungle dogs, and so they haven't beenseen in the wild for over 50 years, and here the Piraha have 2 the were keeping as pets inthe village, and knew all about their behavior all about the things they eat and the placesthey stay, things that biologist would love to know, and we lose this as these languagesbegin to die out. We know for example that Tupi Indians in Brazil have heavilyinfluenced Brazilian literature from the legends that were written down by catholic priestWe learn things about calendars and the way time is kept so the Natchez Indians ofLouisiana in the United States keep their calendar according to crops that grow at certaintimes. And by knowing how their language works and how they keep time, we learnsomething about crops, and how different kinds of crops that have entered the areahistoricallyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ when languages die, it is like to me, a great disturbance in the force, thereis something about humanity, and the unity of all humans and the things that we alldepend on, the knowledge that we have beenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ we spread around the world to share withone another is lost. So, I want to talk to you first about a small group that I worked withcalled the Banawa, and then I will spend most of my time talking with you about thePiraha. The Banawa are now only 79 people, they are members of a family called theArawan family and there are only 7 languages left in this family and the biggest one isabout 1500 people spoken in Peru and recently was accused of being cannibals and this isa very highly charged accusation in South America, because if you can find that a groupis cannibals, the idea is that they do not deserve any land or anything. It is completelyfalse that they are cannibals, there is no evidence whatsoever for this, that any groupanymore practices cannibalism, not that I would care. But the population of the Banawais 79 as of 2005, the last time I was there. And one type of special knowledge that theBanawa have is how to make poison, so they hunt with long blow guns and poison dartsand this is really fascinating technology, to know how to make poison according toethnobotanist Mark Plotkin in his book the ShamanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Apprentice is really to sit at the topof knowledge about the uses of the plants around you and the knowledge of how differentpoison affect, what kinds of ingredients do you put in the poison, I remember going witha Banawa man to collect poison one time, and filmed the entire process, and here he isgetting poison. It does not look like poison, does it? This looks like a tree, but actually itis a vine that grows up high in the trees in the jungle, you have to climb up cut the vine,the vine falls, it is full of strychnine in the bark, and so I did not know that, so I walkedover, this guy is cutting, I just picked it up and say, whatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s this, and he looked at myhands to make sure there were no cuts and everything, he said, you should not have donethat, wash your hands as soon as we get back to the village, and do not put them in youreyes or your mouth, on the way back, they take strychnine from the bark, and they use tomake a very potent poison that goes on darts, and the first sample of this poison wastaken in the 1800s and taken in to the Smithsonian Institution, and a hundred years later,they tested the poison, and it was still just as lethal as when they have originally collectedit. So they know to make very good poisons, and the make blow guns to hunt with, Iremember bringing quite a few of their darts and blow guns to the States for the CarnegieMuseum in Pittsburg, had them in a long PVC pipe, it did not occur to me that that pipecould break and those darts could getÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ so do not tell anybody that I brought this up here,but we were going through customs and the guys said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOpen the pipe,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ and I tried toopen it, it would not open, it was hard, he said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWell, just go on throughÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ and my son,who was about 8 then, said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe could have brought cocaine.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ Endangered languages,endanger scienceÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ and the reason for that is, there are many different areas of science,many different sciences that want to know where language came from, how does it relateto the evolution of our species, is there anything like it in other species, what is languagelike, what is the essence of language, how does it relate to the mind, how does it relate toculture, what is the connection between the things that we believe and the values that weshare and the way we talk, is there any connection, we cannot know this until we get awide variety of languages to study. So, I am going to talk to you about a people that arecalled in the literature the Pirahas, but they do not even know what that word meansthemselves. They call themselves the Hi'aiti'ihi and the talk something this, [phrase inPiraha] which means, do not speak with a crooked head to me, speak with a straight head,and their language is called a straight head, and you guess what our language is called acrooked head. They call themselves the straight ones, they are found in Brazil, if youtook out all of the country boundaries of South America the Piraha would be right in theheart of the Amazon jungle, right in the heart of South America as a continent. [junglesounds] These are the kinds of sounds you go to sleep with at night, the Piraha have agreat expression when you go to bed at night. And that is, [phrase in Piraha] do not sleepthere are snakes. If they know you are afraid of something else though, they might say[phrase in Piraha] do not sleep there are tarantulas. Whatever makes you the most afraid,but they say this to themselves, and they do not sleep solidly, all night long. Fieldresearch and figuring out these languages takes a certain amount of time, the reason thisphoto is in there, is the little boy standing by me is now in his second year as an assistantprofessor of anthropology at the University of Miami, and when I first went to the Piraha,he was 9 months old, so its been a long time now. [audio playing] Now if you noticed,when one starts singing the others are about a syllable behind him, and the reason for thatis, they havenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t sung the song before, he is telling them about an experience that he hadthat day, and they are just following along about a syllable behind singing with him, andwhen you analyze the singing, it turns out that it is nothing more than their language, it isnot an invented melody, the tones of their words and the stress patterns of their words andthe link of their syllables produce the singing effect. And they accent those things toproduce music, but it is just part of their normal speech [audio playing] that is a spiritspeaking, the Piraha only believe and we will talk about this in more detail, the Pirahabelieve in what they can see, or what someone has seen tells them about. So how do theybelieve in spirits? Well they believe they have seen them, they think I am one, stillÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ justlast year when I thought, we were great friends and there was no mysteries between us,one of them said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHey Dan,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhat?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ Do Americans die? And I said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYeah,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ but IdidnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t want any research conducted. I said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYes we do die,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ and they said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWell, youknow you are really old and you are not dead yet.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ So, I told them about wars and thatsort of thing which is a fascinating conversation, I told them that groups of people wouldgo out and kill other groups of people, and I think there was a German researcher with meat the time, and I talked to them about, World War II as best as I could explain that inPiraha, and they just found it fascinating that we killed each other, but at least it let themknow that we did die, my name when I first went to the Piraha, they do not use foreignnames, so my first name was ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOldiyayÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ I was just named after someone else in thevillage. My next name was ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAibigayÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ which just means strong, but I do not think thatwas really a compliment. And I do not know exactly what they meant by that, but it wasnot a compliment from the way they used it. And then finally I was in the villagecamping out, it was late at night and I have been traveling at night, I was sort of lost onthe river and I found this village, and I got my tent up, put my tent up in the middle of thevillage, the fires were going, and I was really tired, and one of the Piraha came said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIwant to talk to you,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ and I said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI really rather sleep, I am tired,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ he said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œJust let metalk to you,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ I came out and he said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYour name is Aibigay, but you really, that is not agood name for you anymore,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ I said ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhy?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ He said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œBecause now you are really old,and so I am going to name you after my father who died,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ so my name now is ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œPawaiseÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬it is because I am old. This fellow is old, his name is Toitoi but you can see he is veryfit, his skin is tough as a leather, he is a very good hunter, and fisher, and you can seehow long their arrows are, and how big their bows are, they are fascinating people, theyare also interesting, because the canoe is such a vital part of their lives, and they do notmake them, they prefer to steal them. I taught them how to make canoes once, I broughta Brazilian in who make canoes and we worked on it together for days and after we got agreat canoe goingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ the Brazilian left and they came, we like another canoe like that,well I got the tools, you know how to make it, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOh Piraha do not make canoes,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhynot?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThat is hard work.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ SoÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ what do the Pirahas have to teach us, what does thissmall group of 350 people scattered along the Maici River in the center of the Amazonrainforest have to teach us, if anything. In fact, I think they have a lot to teach us, fromthe perspective of science they have things to teach us about the relationship betweenlanguage and culture. About the origin of language, about the role and nature oflanguage, whether language is an instinct or a tool, I think they have things to say aboutall of these important scientific topics. But as human beings, they have perhaps evenmore to teach us about their happiness and their way of life. Recently, a team of 3 MITpsycholinguists went with me to check out some of the claims that I have made that havebeen controversial to people, and when we got there, after we have been there for a fewdays, the team said, these seemed like the happiest people we have ever seen. Well, howwould you evaluate happiness? As good psychologists they said, we just measured thetime they spent smiling, and laughing, and compare that to the time that Americans forexample spends smiling and laughing, and I bet you they come out ahead. The Pirahahave a very interesting concept, among all Amazonian tribes as far as I can tell, oneimportant value that is shared, is called immediacy of experience, Amazonian tribes arevery interested on what is going on now. And they tend not to value so much, the deeppast or the distant future, but to focus on now, and many anthropologist have commentedon that, but I do not know of any other group that has a concept, which the Piraha calledÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œxibipiioÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ and xibipiio is a fascinating concept, when you are out there, they do not speakPortuguese by the way, so when I first went there in December of 1977 and got off theplane airsick and looking for the first place to throw upÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ they started talking to me, and IdidnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t understand anything they said. So, concept like xibipiio, these kinds of conceptare really difficult to figure out when there is no language in common. So, I rememberonce a fellow walked in to the jungle, and they said, he xibipiio left, and then somebodyelse came out of the jungle and they said he xibipiio arrived. Well maybe it means hejust left, he just arrived, and then I saw someone go around the bend in a canoe, and theysaid he xibipiio left they came back, he xibipiio left, planes, they would say xibipiio.And then one night, I could not find my candles and I just had a match and my flashlightbatteries were dead and I have this match lit and it was flickering, and they said the matchis xibipiioing they used it as a verb, and I could not figure out, what on earth would thismean. Well it means to go in and out of the boundaries of experience. If you want to usea technical terms, you can say, that refers to experiential liminality, but it simply meansto go in and out of experience. This is so important to them, notÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ we do this when weare children, peek-a-boo that sort of the equivalent to xibipiio in our vocabulary. It is theexcitement of seeing something go in and out of experience, the Piraha have codified itand made it a very important part of their language and an important part of their culture.And one thing I noticed was that, their verb structureÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ so English has how many verbforms, well it has about 5, sing, sang, sung, singing, singsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ Spanish or Portuguese mighthave 40 different verb forms, well Piraha like many American Indian languages has avery complex verbal system. So Piraha has 16 different suffix that can go with the end ofa verb, that gives 2 to the 16th power possible verb forms and that is a lot. That is morethan 40. And of those things, 3 suffixes are very important and those tell you how yougot your evidence. So every verb has to have on it the source of the evidence, did youhear about it, did you see it with your own eyes, or did you deduce it from the localevidence. So if I say did John go fishing? They can say John went fishing "heai" whichmeans I heard that he did, or they can say John went fishing ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œsibigaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ and that means Ideduced that he did, or they can say John went fishing ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œhaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ and that means I saw hewent. In some respects they are the ultimate empiricist, or like people from Missouri, theÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œshow me stateÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬. Part of this cultural value of the Piraha, the immediacy of experiencereflected in this word xibipiio produces a value to keep information slow and to keep itverifiable, and it must be witnessed, so a Christian missionary, which I no longer am, ifyou read the book, you will find out what they did to me. They actually demandedevidence for what I believe and I realized, I could not give it as well as they wanted me togive it. So, this changed my profoundly, but I remember telling them about Jesus onetime and they said ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSo Dan, is Jesus is he brown like us or is he white like you? ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI do notknow I havenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t seen him.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhat did your dad say? Because your dad must have seenhim.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œNo, he never saw him.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOh what did your friends say who saw him?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œNo I donot know anybody who saw him.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhy are you telling us about him then? Why wouldyou talk about something you do not have evidence for?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ But of course we do that all thetime. Piraha talk about a fish, nowÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ I should not make them sound like saints, becauseone of the great functions of this suffix is say I saw it with my own eyes is to lie. So itworks, they do lie, and I remember once taking the story of how they killed their babies,infanticide, and they took this, I was really getting in to this, I was taking the whole storydown, infanticide, and they all started laughing, I said ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhat are you laughing for?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWho would kill their babies?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ Difficulties of being an anthropologistÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦One of the interesting things about Piraha, in fact it isextremely interesting is that, they do not have any numbers, they do not even have theword for one, and they do not have even the concept of counting. Now it took me a longtime to work up the courage to make this claim, they have a couple of words that mightbe like numbers, one of them is ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œhoiÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ which I originally translated as one, and anotherone is ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œhoeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ which I translated as two, and there is another one ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œbahagisuÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ which Itranslated as many. So one, two, many, there are Australian languages that have one,two, many systems, there are other languages like this. But then I realize that if I have 3fish at the same size and two of them are in one pile and one was in another, then theywould in fact use the word I felt meant one for the one fish and the word I felt meant twofor the two fish. But if the fish were different sizes so that there is one large fish and twovery small fish, then they use the word that I felt meant one for the two very small fish.And the word that felt meant two for the very large fish, and then I realize that was thesame word that was appearing as a suffix on the noun for man to refer to a little boyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ alittle boy babyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ so it means a little amountÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ but it does not mean a number. When Imade this claim, a lot of people did not believe me. And so, psychologist from MITcame down, and we published a paper in Cognition eventually, which last year, won theawardÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ was named by Discovery Magazine, it is one of the mostÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ 100 top sciencestories of the year, but why would Discovery Magazine findÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ why would anybody findthat particularly interesting. Because it has been claimed that number is innate to humanbeings, there are many people who believed that number is part of the innate endowmentof human beings, we all have numbers of some sort, you show a group that does not haveany numbers or any concept of counting, what does that mean, well one thing it does notmean is that they are retarded. It does not mean that they stoop, I have seen Piraha beenkidnapped and raised outside the village as Brazilians who handle all the numbers justfine, I have met a young girl once, about 13 years old behind a counter in a store in avillage of Brazilians not far from the Piraha reservation. She look very familiar and I wasstaring at her and the guy said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOh you think, she looks like the Piraha?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ And I said,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œActually I do,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWell, that is because she was Piraha, we took her when she was a littlegirl,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ and she kept store and made all the change, the Piraha children when we tried toteach them number in Portuguese learn this fairly quickly, but they do not have in theirlanguage a word for any number. Now, one of the ways that we showed that was to getthem first toÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ we would put objects in front of them, one at a time, and I asked them toname the quantities as we went upÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ what is the size of this? So when we put one spoolof thread, they would say ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œhoiÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ one, if we put two spools of thread they would say ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œhoeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬two, and then once we got up to higher numbers, sometimes by 3 but certainly by ten, wegot ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œbahagisuÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬, but I had already figured out that bahagisu meant to pause, to touch, topile things up. It really wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t a number. But when we started with say 10 items on thepage, or 10 items on the board in front of us, and started taking them away, what you findis that they start with the sameÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ so the right end of both charts looks pretty much thesame, but once you start getting down toÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ even six, some of the Piraha are using theword I felt meant one, hoiÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ so how on earth did they call six one? And when you get tothree if you are counting down they all say one what I thought was one, and the reason is,the relative smallness of that quantity is what in focus for them, and so they use the wordwhich means relatively small, in the appropriate context, but it is not a number, and ifthat is not a number, what does that mean, what does that mean for the ability to count.So we have a research proposal and I have to go down and look at the Piraha from theperspective of education, when would be the best time to introduce math, what happens ifpeople havenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t had math for a long time. There were lot of proposals that have beenbased on the idea that all humans have math, that it is innate and it matures at certainages, but here is a tribe that doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t have it all. Another thing about the Piraha, I won'thave time to mention all the great things about them, especially their sense of humor IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢vealluded to, is they have no creation stories, they do not believe, they do not just demandevidence for my God, the God that I used to have, they demand evidence for any God, sothey do not have one, they do not believe in God, they do not believe the world was evercreated, you justÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ you ask them and when you can finally get the idea across, it is hardenough to get the idea of something they do not even believe in across, they say, it is justthe way it always was, this is the way the world is, what do you mean. What was theworld like before there was water? Before there was water that is a stupid question, therealways has been water, there have always been trees, they have no creation stories, theydo not believe in heaven, they do not believe in hell, they take life very much as it comes.They do not want to die, but when they see death is coming they do not fear it, theycertainly have sorrow when a dearth of a love one dies, or a dog, they love dogstremendously, and so I have seen women cry all night long and I thought somebody died.And I went over and I said, what is she crying about, they get embarrassed, "Oh I do notknow what she is crying for.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œBut what is she crying for? ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOh her dog died.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ And theydefinitely have sorrow about these things but they get over very quickly but they realizedthat death is part of life and they do not create any legends to make themselves feelbetter, about any myths to make themselves feel better in the absence of life. They havethe simplest kinship system known, so there is a word for me, there is a word for anybodyof my generation regardless of gender. There is a word for the generation above me,there is a word for the generation below me, and then there is a word for my biologicalson, and for my biological daughter. And that is it, that exhausted the kinship system,and if you know much about kinship systems and marriage rules, like we have here, youcannot marry your first cousin, the more elaborate of kinship system, usually the moreelaborate the marriage rules. So the less elaborate kinship system, so I have seen halfsisters, and half brothers married. I never seen full siblings married, but there is nodifference between brother and any one else of your generation, it just is "ahagi". One ofthe things that frustrated me when I wasÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ one of the many things when I was starting towork with the Piraha, trying to find the words for left and right. So I would say, this ismy left hand, and this side I would say in Portuguese which means nothing to thembecause they do not speak Portuguese but I have to say somethingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œmao esquerdaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬and they would say ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOk, handÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ that is my right hand, "Hand" its your other hand.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOh,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ so after a while I could not get this, and I thought, I must be a terrible linguist, Icannot even get left hand and right hand, and then one of them said, that hand is up river,and this hand is down river, and I said, why are they introducing irrelevant stuff, I amtrying to get left hand or right hand here. And so we went out to the jungle, and I said,now I will find it, they will tell this guy to turn left or turn right, so he said, hey turn upriver, we are in the middle of the jungle and he turns up river, and they said turn downriver, turn towards the center of the jungle, turn towards the water. I realized that, andthis turns out not to be unique to the Piraha, many other groups have this, they usedsystems of absolute direction, it is just though we only use north, south, east and west,rather than left and right. And we know that left or right are really not the best way togive direction, because if stand up here and tell you to turn left and use my left that isyour right, but if I tell you to turn up river, where is the closest river, well if you arePiraha you would know that. If you were Piraha you would have a map of your localenvironment in your head. When I walk with the Piraha in the jungles, and I asked them,what is this tree? They would give me a name, and I write it down, what is this tree, theyare always different, they know the name of every species, so they asked me, what doyou call these in your language? What is that? Tree. WhatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s that? Tree. You just haveone word? That is all I know, but there are some people that know more, but I do notÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦the Piraha do not even have a words for yesterday or tomorrow, and I found this verystrange, there a word for other day, there is a word for now, there is a word for big time, aword for little time, but they do not have a wordÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ and there is a word for sun is big,meaning noon or the moon is big meaning full moon, but they do not have yesterday ortomorrow for example. Why wouldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t they have that? One of the interesting discoveriesabout the Piraha is that their time, their view of time is that it is concentric, you take themoment of speech and if things are certain distance from them, if they are close by, theyuse one word, which means literally other day. If they are a little bit further away, theyuse another word, big time which could be future or past, so they conceive of timedifferently than we do, I least in the superficial way, I mean I have not done detailedstudies to get Piraha philosophy of time and the would probably tell me to go findsomething else to do, but it is something to think about. In any case the concentric circleview of time as opposed to the linear view of time is a new way to conceive of time andcomparing how different cultures talk about even something as much a part of our dailyexperience as time can open up new vistas. Now, you have to be probably a linguist toappreciate this, but I will try to give you some of the excitement about it. One of thegreatest sources of hate mail that I have ever had is the claim that the Piraha languagelacks recursion, that their grammar lacks recursion, now what is recursion and who caresanyway. So, let me tell you what it is and why it is important and why the Piraha areimportant for the study of it. Recursion is any rule or any operation that applies to itself,that sounds simple right? So take the act of looking at yourself in the mirror, or lookingat a reflection, now if you just look at yourself in the mirror, that is one exemplar ofreflection. But if you hold a mirror up to another mirror, what do you get? You get onemirror inside another mirror, inside another mirror, that it is recursive whatever it is, it isthe recursion of visual images reappearing. Now, I used to play in bands, in fact, my firstexperience with San Francisco when I was growing up in Imperial Valley, California. Igot arrested trying to come up here in the 60s trying to get to Haight-Ashbury. I was only15 and my dad didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t like the idea that I was coming up there to live. Because I played inbands, and one of theÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ of course like everybody in the 60s admire the innovation of JimiHendrix and one of the most amazing things that he did was to really take advantage ofauditory recursion called feedback, holding up a guitar and letting the amplifier picks upits own output and do it, apply it to its own output over and over again, now that makesthe definition of recursion, and it produces feedback, which to some people could soundlike noise, but in the hands of Jimmy Hendrix it was beautiful music. Now, in a recentpaper, in 2002, Noam Chomsky and Mark Hauser, biologist at Harvard University, NoamChomsky is a linguist at MIT also known for other writings, and Tecumseh Fitch who isa biologist at the St Andrews University in Scotland proposed that the fundamentalproperty of human language in the sense that it is the only unique characteristic thatlanguage is built on, that distinguishes us from other species is recursion. So how doesthis work in language and when do they think it is important, well think of a sentence likeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe boy was fishing.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ That is one sentence, but what if I take whatever rule made thatsentence and apply it to itself, and then I can say ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe boy who was fishing owns thedog.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ So I have a sentence inside a sentence. Or ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe dog the boy who was fishingowns bit the farmer.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ Or ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe farmer the dog the boy who was fishing owns bit got thegun.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ At some point you lose track. One of my favorite examples is ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOysters oysters eateat oysters.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ That is actually a grammatical sentence, but it is really hard to understand, Iwill let you think about it. Recursion is supposed to be very important, so you get it inwords, truck driver, it is a trucking side drive, and you get this other word truck driver, itwas a kick the bucket moment. Whatever that means, but kick the bucket is a series ofwords used inside another word, and this is recursion, human language isÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ what is thelongest sentence in English? Who knows? The idea is that it might be infinite and theonly way we can do that with brains the size of grapefruit is to have some device thatallows us to produce sentences that get that big, without actually having to memorize thesentences. So, that is supposed to the rule of recursion, so they claim this is unique tohumans, this is theÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ they do not like it when I characterize it this way, but I think it isright, so I will just say it anyway, that the essence of human language recursion. Now, itturns out that Piraha does not have that, and I do not think it is the only language likethat, but how would you say, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI want the hammock that Bill sold.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ Okay, that is arecursion that is a sentence inside another sentence. How would you say that in Piraha,you would say, I want the sentenceÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦I want the sentence? You could say that tooperhaps. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI want the hammock. Bill sold the hammock.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ And then I interpret thattogether in various ways and one of the ways is I want the hammock Bill sold. Thereason this is important is, because if the Piraha do not have recursion, my explanationisÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ first of all it is important if they do not have recursion whatever the explanation is,because if you claim that it is the essence of human language, and you do not find it inthe human language, that is a problem. Now some people have saidÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ well this is justlike findingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ in fact, Chomsky said this about me recently in a newspaper interview.Well, let us say that Piraha is just the way DanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ he did not say Dan actually, he saidsomething else, butÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ he said this person, describes it, and thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ this is more or lessequivalent to the idea of finding a group of people that just crawls when they could walk,what does it have to tell us about human biology, nothing. Okay, that is a difficultposition to hold, because if the language could be as I said it was, and he admits that itcould be, then it is possible for that language not to be like what was predicted to be, andit is also possible for a third of the languages in the world not to be that way, ultimately itis possible that no language has it. And if no language has it, then no language cansupport or refute the idea. So, some philosophers have an idea that cannot be supportedor refuted it is not a particularly useful idea. So, maybe it is wrong, and if that idea iswrong then it means that language is different than it was proposed by these 3 imminentresearchers. And if it is different, what might be? It might simply be the result of anumber of kinds of constraints on how it is we talk to each other, controlled by culturalvalues. And if cultural values can affect language then this means that language probablyis not the innate instinct that sayÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ Steven Pinker and others say that it is. This leads tofascinating research, so a lot of people are testing what I am saying, there is a lot ofdiscussion of this, and I do get a lot of hate mail, as a result of saying that Piraha do nothave recursion. But that is alright, I can take it. Culture is very important by learning theways that language combine with culture, we learn lessons about the environment. So, Iremember going with the Piraha up river one time and I saw some bubbles in the water,and I said whatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s that? And I wanted to get the word for bubbles, but they did not tell methe word for bubbles, they told me the word for a species of fishÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ that is not a fish that isa bubble, so I tried to get it across them, and they said, no it is that species of fish, theyeat this kind of thing down below the water and it produces the release of bubbles. Whowould have known that? Very few people would have known that if they did not growup around those fish and know those fish, walking in the jungle, see a branch sway, to meI do not know if the branch is swaying because of wind, that is usually what I figure whatit is, although a Piraha would point out to me that no other branch is swaying, if it werewind maybe the other branches would be swinging, and it turns out to be a certain speciesof monkey, and they know that inhabits that kind of tree, and that it has this kind ofbehavior, and it operates at this time of day, not at night. I have been walking with themmany times and they tell me to stop because I am about to step on a snake, or you seethatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ I remember going hunting with them one time, and we had gone out a couple ofmiles from the village, and they said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHey, Dan,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhat?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYou are making a lot ofnoise.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWell I am just tryingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ I had my canteen, my machete, and they just werebarefoot, and they said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYou just stay here and we will come back and get you when weare done.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬ So I stood there by the tree for probably 4 hours. Hoping that there were nojaguars in the area, assuming that they would not have left me if there were. Notknowing that they would have expected me to be able to take care of myself, because noidiot would go out to the jungle without knowing how to take care of themselves.Learning about their relationship to the environment and their knowledge of thoseanimals, animals that many people, I do not knowÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ I think I have eaten 3 species ofextinct mammals in the Piraha, and I didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t make them go extinct, they were just claimedto be extinct and the Piraha not only know that they are not extinct, they know all aboutthem. These are the kinds of things that we lose, and since the language are not written,you cannot find this knowledge on the internet. What is lost when we lose a language?We lose everything that oneÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s society has ever thought enough of to encode in theirlanguage. There is no chance to recover from it, except a bit of the form. So, one of thefew examples of a language that has been revived is Hebrew. But we know that theHebrew that have spoken in Israel today is not the Hebrew that was spoken 2000 yearsago, there is a lot of information now that has been encoded now since it has nativespeakers again, but is not the same information that was encoded before it was lost.Fortunately Hebrew was written, so one of the legacies is religion and we certainly knowwhat that was because it was written. We lose all the work of 10,000 Adams of 10,000naming societies that have gone out and learned and mastered their environment, andhave all these things to teach us. This is not knowledge that will ever be available on theinternet. This is knowledge that will be lost forever unless we do something about it.What can we do? Well one other thing I want to say, before I get to some suggestions iswhat is so important... there's a fancy sociological term called alterity which just meansotherness, getting to know people who are different. Recently, the BBC asked me tocome up with a 60-second idea to change the world. So, in 60 seconds I came up withmy 60-second idea, I didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t take it very seriously, but people really like the idea, becauseit was something that did affect me, which is that everyone should a live a week withstrangers. Everyone should live a week with people that are very unlike them in manyways. This concept of otherness has been has been profound in my life, coming from asmall farming community in Hopeville, California. And winding up in the middle of theAmazon. There is something that is unappealing about everything being homogenousaround us. About never experiencing different foods, different ways of life, differentpoints of view, this can be threatening, but the more that we lose in terms of diversity ofworldÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s languages and cultures, the more opportunities to solve problems, the moredifferent perspectives we lose that we can never recover. The full range of the etic andthe comfort of the emic. Let me just tell you those two words, these are really nicewords, the etic means to have a perspective of a culture from someone who is outside theculture, just looking at what the do, just random behaviors, it looks like to us. But if youare inside the culture, you interpret these things very differently, that is the emicperspective. The perspective of the insider, and the more we get to know culturesthrough individual friends or through travels, through experiences of living abroad themore we adapt other peopleÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s emic perspective, other peopleÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s insider perspective oncultures, and as these cultures and languages disappear, people like the Piraha, we losethis perspective, my entire view of God and religion was altered forever. My entire viewof language was altered forever by the Piraha, and it is not because I have gone native,because frankly, I prefer to be in San Francisco than the Amazon many times. I mean, Ido enjoy the Amazon but I take a lot of reading material for the nights, and I am a terriblehunter, I amÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ people think you must be this great outdoorsman, no I can take all thisstuff, but I am not good at it and I do not particularly enjoy a lot. But it is the experiencethat has changed me dramatically, not because I have gone native, but because I haveseen profound example of people who lived differently, think differently and haveachieved more success in many respects than I have in their lives. So, what do we do, wecannot just watch indifferently, as languages disappear, there is a partial solution one, weneed to help these people get land rights, we need to help their state of health, try to getthe governments of the world to provide better healthcare for these people, so that they donot lose their language because they all die. Second partial solution is to document anddescribe these languages. We need more field researchers, the problem is you cannot bewhat some Australian linguist called FIFO linguist, fly in, fly out. You cannot figure outthese languages in a weekendÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s worth of study. It takes a long time, it takes a long timeto figure out one of these languages, even reasonably well. Another possible solution isto give one of the organizations is called the Foundation for Endangered Languages andhere is its website, but there are lots of other organizations that are interested in this, butdocumenting endangered language is not just butterfly collecting, it is teaching us thingsand preserving knowledge that we would never ever have a chance to preserve again, andthen in the meantime those of us who are not going to be involved directly on this, readand learn about other cultures and about these other peoples. Thank you.