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About the Author

Daniel L. Everett is the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He is the author of many books, including Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes; Language: The Cultural Tool; and Linguistic Fieldwork: A Student Guide. His life and work is also the subject of a documentary näytä lisää film, The Grammar of Happiness. näytä vähemmän
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Lexical specification and insertion (2000) — Avustaja — 1 kappale

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Anthropology and linguistics for the rest of us.
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mykl-s | 30 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jun 17, 2023 |
This was... okay. I think the science behind it is quite reasonable. Certainly giving what we now know about human genetics and neurology it makes far more sense than the opposing view championed by Noam Chomsky and his disciples. That view -- than human ability to use language arose relatively recently and suddenly via a single mutation -- does not jive with the facts that there are no areas of the brain exclusively dedicated to language and language does not engage only one area of the brain, implying that such a mutation event would need to affect several areas of the brain (but not create new structures) as well as parts of human anatomy. Possible? Sure. Likely? No.

Instead, Everett proposes that language evolved gradually and as its utility (anthropomorphizing heavily here, but w/e) became obvious to evolution and selection for the parts of our neural and gross anatomy used in linguistic processing and production happened. Brains got bigger and areas within them got tweaked and enlarged to help humans 'do' language. The anatomy of our mouths and throats also underwent modification to enhance our production of speech sounds.

The upstart of this is that Neandert[h]als could speak (a view held by most anthropologists and linguists today) and probably our earlier ancestors (e.g., homo erectus) could too (a less common view, but in no way beyond the pale; the author holds this view as well).

The problems I had with this book were its unevenness and repetitiveness. At times things were overexplained while at others things were not. Much information is repeated ad nauseam -- for example a quotation about evolution satisficing, though at no point does he bother to point out that it's a portmanteau of satisfy and suffice. Sure, most people either know or will figure it out, but given the repetitive explanations of other things... wtf?

Finally, an error that irked me greatly. The author has done a lot of work in the Amazon and purports to speak Portuguese (which, not Spanish, is the official language of Brazil). However, he makes an observation about Portuguese verb conjugation that is flat out wrong. Wrong and something that one would learn in the 2nd week of a course. In the grand scheme of the book it's not a problem, but it is plainly wrong and no one who speaks the language even a little would ever claim. This sort of thing makes me wonder what other plainly wrong things are stated as facts.
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qaphsiel | 3 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Feb 20, 2023 |
This book describes the time spent among an isolated Amazonian tribe by a missionary and linguist, but it is about much, much more. The author was sent to learn the language of the Piraha, a tribe that now numbers less than a thousand people, so that he could translate the New Testament into that language to help convert the Pirahas. Over many years, he learned the language and came to appreciate the culture; both of which are extraordinary. His description of his family's life with the Piraha, far into the Amazon jungle, is fascinating, as is his description of Piraha culture.

But there is much more to the book than adventure in the Amazon, and discussion of an Amazonian people. In the book, he discusses the ways in which the language came to affect his views about language, to the point where they made him question Noam Chomsky's theory that grammar is innate. His work challenging Chomsky has had wide influence, and his discussion of that work (and of Chomsky's view) is the clearest that I have ever read. Essentially, the author regards language as much more a product of culture (or an interaction with culture) than a matter of genetics -- a revolutionary view.

In addition, the book discusses faith, and the challenges to his faith that the author found in the Amazon. All in all, this book made me think really hard about very big themes, despite the fact that it is a relatively easy read. I can't recommend it too highly.
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annbury | 30 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Nov 6, 2022 |
Rambling and opinionated. Was hoping for some science and experiment.
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Paul_S | 3 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Dec 23, 2020 |



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