Don't Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle

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Don't Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle

Don't Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle

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You can see where the failure to persuade them of the benefits of organised religion is going to come. Incidentally in this book he seems to pronounce the name of the language as “pee-da-ha” or something resembling that. Daniel Everett also uncovered interesting information about the lack of words for colors in this society. Not to mention the issue of how many words the Inuit actually do have for snow — contrasted with a culture that doesn’t have an abstract word for “green”.

I wanted to like this book but I never really trusted its author, a linguist with an editor who used the phrase "a myriad of" in the first chapter. Everett suggests instead that “grammar – the mechanics of language – is much less important than the culture-based meanings and constraints on talking of each specific culture in the world.Their way of life was the same as it was 1,000 years ago, and would remain the same for the next 1,000 years.

Then, his stepmother committed suicide, he saw the light, accepted Jesus, and his life became better. The fact that Everett went there to convert the Pirahã to Christianity but ended up losing his own faith was an impressive plot twist.

The Pirahã have managed, through sheer force of being content with their own lives, to reject Western culture and capitalism. And a good storyteller would not assume his readers understand the significance of "recursion" or interrupt a personal anecdote with page after page of technical discourse. They have embraced the idea of mindfulness and living in the moment without the need for gurus, meditation or any type of conscious effort, other than their active distaste for outside culture. Part of the impetus for this rejection was his observation that no one had been successful in converting the Pirahas for over two centuries, despite a slew of missionaries and despite Everett's own painstaking work in translating the New Testament into Piraha and having many discussions with the Pirahas about Jesus.

You know know that situation when you meet somebody and they really annoy you but later on, much to your surprise, you end being very good friends with them?Everett comes to respect this world view so much that he begins to analyze exactly why he felt he needed Christianity in the first place, and he eventually reaches the conclusion that any kind of subjective belief system that makes judgmental and far-reaching claims about the universe without any evidence to back it up is unnecessary and often harmful. Because living in the jungle is hard, and there are, indeed, snakes, and malaria, and dying in childbirth is a common occurrence.

What I can say is that I personally found this book a fascinating window into the language and wider culture of the Pirahã. I can heartily recommend this book – if you are not a language nut, you can skip the sections where Everett ponders on Chomsky's theories of language development - but if you are, you will find it fascinating, and there is so much else to enjoy in Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes.Even I could tell that there was nothing on that white, sandy beach no more than one hundred yards away. I’d also query the spirits on the beach thing, they have no words for colour but they do for unseen spirits? It took him YEARS to realise that the reason behind was that poor Brazilian people keep dying of all sorts of diseases and the world doesn't stop turning, so Brazilian people didn't understand why it should stop turning because of an American being sick. I don't really know anything about Bear Grylls, but his testosterone-packed name has invaded my consciousness. They live to a much younger age, have a real danger posed from jungle animals, and die of diseases that have routine cures in the US.

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