FWD: On the Relativity Front (2)

Salinas17 at aol.com Salinas17 at aol.com
Fri Aug 20 19:19:13 UTC 2004

Forwarded Message:

Subj:    Re: [FUNKNET] On the Relativity Front
Date:   Friday, August 20, 2004 9:56:04 AM
From:   daniel.everett at uol.com.br
To:     Salinas17 at aol.com
cc:     dan.everett at man.ac.uk, funknet at rice.edu

From:   daniel.everett at uol.com.br (Daniel Everett)
To: Salinas17 at aol.com
CC: dan.everett at man.ac.uk (Daniel L.Everett), funknet at rice.edu

If anyone wants to discuss this case, about Piraha, further. I would be
happy to do so. Peter Gordon did this work with me, originally going to
run experiments to check out and refine my own anecdotes about lack of
counting and numbers in Piraha.

Gordon's conclusion is Whorfian. However, I disagree with this. In a
larger article on my website - 'Cultural Constraints on Grammar and
Cognition in Piraha', I discuss the number findings in a larger
context, arguing that there are several ways in which Piraha culture
constrains grammar (Piraha is also, I claim, the only language without
embedding, for example, it lacks color words, it has the simplest
kinship system known, the smallest phonemic inventory, etc.). I offer a
single account for all of this based on the cultural constraint against
talking about things outside the immediate experience of members of the


On 20 Aug 2004, at 10:44, Salinas17 at aol.com wrote:

> COGNITION: Life Without Numbers in the Amazon (p. 1093)
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ----
> Constance Holden
> In an article published online this week by Science
> (www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1094492), a psycholinguist
> demonstrates that among members of a tiny tribe in the Amazon jungle
> that
> has no words for numbers beyond two, the ability to conceptualize
> numbers
> is no better than it is among pigeons, chimps, or human infants.
> Full story at
> http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/305/5687/1093a?etoc
> ------------------------------------
> But of course this not eliminate the possibility that the number two
> is one
> of those prelinguistic schema.
> Regards,
> Steve Long
Daniel L. Everett
Professor of Phonetics and Phonology
Postgraduate Programme Director
Department of Linguistics and English Language
University of Manchester
Manchester M13 9PL UK
Fax: 44 161 275 3187
Phone: 44 161 275 3158

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