1932

Abstract

Claims made by linguist Daniel Everett, that the Pirahã language, spoken by a small group of native Amazonians, lacks features thought to be universally present in languages, captured the imaginations of scholars and prompted broader questions on the nature of language, the diversity in languages, and the universals shared by them. Everett claimed that, in Pirahã, he had found a language without numbers, colors, mythology, abstract thinking, or recursive embedding. These claims were challenged by proponents of a universal grammar and by other biological linguists concerned with identifying shared faculties that undergird human cognitive capacities and by linguistic anthropologists concerned with the products of those potentials as they are actualized in the interactivity of speaking. Situating the Pirahã in historical and sociological context, I question the novelty of a faculty of language and many of Everett's claims of Pirahã exceptionality, and I explore the renewed interest in the nature of language.

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2023-10-23
2024-06-16
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