Doyle Saylor wrote:
This article quote doesn't say much about the reason why this person
claims this refutes Chomsky's theory of a universal grammar.  I can't
get to the main article to see what the hooha is about.  At any rate
the claim that Chomsky's theory is long accepted is sort of a crock.
However, if this person has something to add to a controversy that is
quite large with enormous threads of thought, I'd like to see it.
Doyle Saylor

Linguistics is not my specialty, I'm much closer in philosophical & societal
principal to "Piraha People" than Proust, thusly no great amount of thought
on the subject of "universal  grammar", however here's a couple of tidbits
courtesy of Google:

“Similarly we were never able to train a Pirahã to even draw a straight line without serious coaching and they are never able to repeat the feat in subsequent trials without more coaching.
The concept of a correct way to draw is profoundly foreign.”

Here's a blogging by a colleague of Prof. Everett with links on page:

August 26, 2004
The Straight Ones: Dan Everett on the Pirahã

I was co-editor of the volume in which the first full description of the Pirahã language appeared (Desmond C. Derbyshire and Geoffrey K. Pullum, eds., Handbook of Amazonian Languages, Volume 1, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, 1986). Dan Everett's 200-page chapter on Pirahã is a highlight of the volume. (The Wikipedia article on the language is currently an unedited mess from which you can't even figure out the phoneme list, so I won't link to it; don't go there.) Dan is now a distinguished specialist on Amazonian languages and professor of phonetics and phonology at the fine Department of Linguistics at the University of Manchester in England. I know him well and respect him greatly. And I thought he might like to respond to some recent suggestions to the effect that Pirahã is just too strange to be true. So in this long post I include a statement that he supplied at my invitation.

...and here's a piece from University of Pittsburgh with more information on the linguistics:

University Times VOLUME 27 NUMBER 4 OCTOBER 13, 1994

Linguistics professor discovers new language in Brazilian rain forest

Pitt linguistics department chairperson Daniel Everett found a new
sound and a whole new language last spring in the Brazilian rain forest.

The language, called "Oro Win" (pronounced OR-oh WEEN), is spoken by only about a half-dozen of the 40-50 members of the tribe of the same name. The Oro Win live at the headwaters of the Pacaas-Novos River, itself a tributary of the Mamore River along Brazil's border with Bolivia.

Before coming to Pitt six years ago, Everett lived in Brazil for 11 years doing linguistic field research among Amazonian Indians. Since then, he has visited the rain forest annually to continue his studies with the tribesmen, mainly the Piraha, whose language has only seven consonants and three vowels (the smallest number of sounds of any documented language) and can be whistled as well as spoken. Everett wrote the first Piraha grammar text and recently co-authored the first grammar of the Wari language, spoken by some 1,830 people.

Everett came across the Oro Win language while spending his sabbatical last January through July among Amazonian tribes. After failing to find even a reference to Oro Win in the limited linguistic literature on such tribes, Everett concluded that the language was unknown to any Westerners except about a dozen living missionaries and employees of the Brazilian Indian Foundation, a government agency similar to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

"One of the reasons that Oro Win may have gone undiscovered for so long is that the people who speak it are bilingual in Wari," said Everett. "Oro Win may have appeared to be the same as Wari or a dialect, but in fact it is a separate language." Most Oro Win today are switching to Portuguese as their main language, Everett noted.

Oro Win and Wari are mutually unintelligible. However, both are what linguists call VOS languages -- an extremely rare language type in which declarative sentences follow a pattern of verb/ direct object/subject. While an English speaker would say "John ate the apple," a VOS language speaker would say the equivalent of "Ate apple John." Everett said he plans to apply for National Science Foundation funding to produce an Oro Win grammar text. In the meantime, he has shared his discoveries about Oro Win with colleagues via an E-mail network for linguists.

Everett also is writing a paper describing a heretofore undocumented grammatical sound that he heard in Brazil while working on his Wari grammar.

In English, the sound is rendered as "tp~" and pronounced as the "t" consonant sound followed immediately by what linguists call a "bilabial trill," which sounds like a person releasing air between vibrating lips in imitation of a snorting horse -- or flatulence.

"Phonetically, there are two sounds there but they are treated in the language as a single sound. That combination has never been treated as a single sound in any other documented language," Everett said.

Reply via email to