Eclecticity, October 23, 2014 (view all comments by Eclecticity)
An utterly fascinating and engagingly written account of a linguist's experiences living among an Amazon people whose language does not fit at all into Chomskyian--or any other linguistics--models. Seen as a charlatan by many linguists, Everett, now a professor of linguistics at Illinois State, describes how the experiences and rare (for an outsider) understanding of this isolated language and culture lead him to question his own scholarly training--and, eventually, the Christian faith that took him there in the first place. If you want an eye-opening book about a little-known part of the world and about current language debates, read this absorbing book.
JaneBP, March 31, 2010 (view all comments by JaneBP)
Any reader should be aware that this is a work of linguistics, not primarily anthropology. I thought I would enjoy it more because I enjoy anthropology, but the author's original purpose in studying the language was to translate the Bible and thus convert the people he was studying. This is not an anthropological viewpoint.
The most interesting things in terms of anthropology were the author's references to his father's "cowboy culture" and how it influenced his own agressive/possessive behavior. I presume it is this cowboy culture that allowed him to make a parenthetical reference to a gang rape of a young woman in the section where he was describing how happy the Piraha people are. No further information of the rape is given, nor any reference to the subsequent happiness (or even the identity) of the raped woman.
I think you would have to get REALLY excited about linguistics to think that this is a wonderful book.
Katherine Yuhas, January 20, 2010 (view all comments by Katherine Yuhas)
A fascinating book about the Piraha culture and the nature of language itself. Daniel Everett's narrative is engrossing and makes you long for another anthropological study as interesting as this to be published soon.
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Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle
Used Trade Paper
Daniel L. Everett
0 stars -
Vintage Books USA -
"Rich account of fieldwork among a tribe of hunter-gatherers in Brazil . . .Everett's experiences and findings fairly explode from these pages and will reverberate in the minds of readers." Kirkus, starred review
"Everett describes how he learned to speak fluent Piraha....He also explains his discoveries about the language-findings that have kicked off more than one academic brouhaha." Publishers Weekly, Signature Review
by Cleveland Plain Dealer,
"Absorbing. . . . Both the Pirahas and their interpreter make splendid company, especially for readers drawn to the way language underpins how we mediate our world."
by Random House,
Daniel Everett arrived among the Pirahã with his wife and three young children hoping to convert the tribe to Christianity. Everett quickly became obsessed with their language and its cultural and linguistic implications. The Pirahã have no counting system, no fixed terms for color, no concept of war, and no personal property. Everett was so impressed with their peaceful way of life that he eventually lost faith in the God he'd hoped to introduce to them, and instead devoted his life to the science of linguistics. Part passionate memoir, part scientific exploration, Everett's life-changing tale is riveting look into the nature of language, thought, and life itself.
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