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New Meetup: Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes by Daniel Everett

From: Greg
Sent on: Thursday, April 16, 2009 5:43 PM
Announcing a new Meetup for a ne{o}lit book club!

What: Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes by Daniel Everett

When: May 21,[masked]:45 PM

Where: Click the link below to find out!

Meetup Description: In an effort to migrate away from our recent spate of young adult novels, I submit for your perusal and intellectual enjoyment Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Daniel L. Everett. Everett, currently serving as Chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Illinois State University, went to the Amazon Basin as a Christian missionary and left with enough information to challenge the currently accepted orthodoxy of language.

If you've got 90 minutes whilst you're procrastinating on any given task, I recommend viewing a talk by Everett that covers endangered languages (and some of the content of the book). It's fascinating stuff.
Daniel Everett - Endangered Languages and Lost Knowledge

Here's the skinny pinched from Amazon:
Amazon Listing
Dan Everett's life as a field linguist began when he entered a Pirah? village in the Amazonian jungle in December 1977. After being greeted by a happy, chattering crowd, he walked over to a man cooking on a small fire. First, he tapped his own chest and said, Daniel, then he pointed at the animal being cooked on the fire. K?ixih?, said the man. Everett pointed at a stick. Xi? said the man. Everett dropped the stick and said, I drop the xii. Xi? xi big? k?ob?i, his new friend replied, meaning stick it ground falls. Thus began 30 years of dedication to the Pirah? and their native tongue, a mystifying system of sound and rules unrelated to any other language in the world. In this fascinating and candid account of life with the Pirah?, Everett describes how he learned to speak fluent Pirah? (pausing occasionally to club the snakes that harassed him in his Amazonian office). He also explains his discoveries about the language?findings that have kicked off more than one academic brouhaha. Everett learned that Pirah? does not use what are supposed to be universal aspects of grammar, an observation that runs counter to linguistic dogma about how culture, the brain and language connect. For Everett, Pirah? is evidence that culture plays a crucial and previously unacknowledged role in the creation of language.Everett's life with the Pirah? cost him dearly. He almost lost two family members to malaria, and his first marriage broke down after years of highly productive shared field work. But life in the Amazon taught him a great deal about human nature, too, perhaps more about his own than that of the Pirah?. Everett began his linguistic work as a Christian missionary, but the Pirah? were marvelously impervious to his promise of a life with Jesus. They pointed out that Everett simply had no proof for the supernatural world he described, and in the end he found himself agreeing with them. He left the church, choosing a world that more honestly integrated his goals as a scholar with the world view of his Pirah? friends?one where evidence matters.

From language to religion to culture to perception, this book appears to cover a multitude of welcome and challenging conversation topics. It's currently available only in hardcover, so spring for it or hit up your libraries. But this looks too interesting to wait on.

Date subject to change.

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