Synopses & Reviews
A riveting account of the astonishing experiences and discoveries made by linguist Daniel Everett while he lived with the Piraha, a small tribe of Amazonian Indians in central Brazil.
Everett, then a Christian missionary, arrived among the Piraha in 1977 — with his wife and three young children — intending to convert them. What he found was a language that defies all existing linguistic theories and reflects a way of life that evades contemporary understanding: The Piraha have no counting system and no fixed terms for color. They have no concept of war or of personal property. They live entirely in the present. Everett became obsessed with their language and its cultural and linguistic implications, and with the remarkable contentment with which they live — so much so that he eventually lost his faith in the God he'd hoped to introduce to them.
Over three decades, Everett spent a total of seven years among the Piraha, and his account of this lasting sojourn is an engrossing exploration of language that questions modern linguistic theory. It is also an anthropological investigation, an adventure story, and a riveting memoir of a life profoundly affected by exposure to a different culture. Written with extraordinary acuity, sensitivity, and openness, it is fascinating from first to last, rich with unparalleled insight into the nature of language, thought, and life itself.
"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
"Absorbing. . . . Both the Pirahas and their interpreter make splendid company, especially for readers drawn to the way language underpins how we mediate our world." Cleveland Plain Dealer
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.
About the Author
Daniel L. Everett is the Chair of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Illinois State University.
From the Hardcover edition.