The Pirahã

Dan Everett believes that Pirahã undermines Noam Chomsky’s idea of a universal grammar. Photographs by Martin Schoeller.

I recently came across this stunningly good linguistics article published in the New Yorker (April of 02007). While I am certain that folks working on our Rosetta Project will have varying opinions on the work being described in the article, I found it an excellent primer into the world of endangered language and field linguistics.

The story is about trying to crack the language of the Pirahã, a tribe in South America, whos language and culture arguably defies almost all linguistic and behavioral convention. The story twists and turns through academia, Chomsky, the Amazon, missionary groups, bible translators, and the 25 year relationship of one field linguist with this exceptional tribe.

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