Debating language summary

Debating language summary

How to Format a Paper
This is a guide to formatting your paper for my class. Above you will see what the header should look like. Your name and class with section number, single

spaced, is all you need. Make sure you use your section number. Do not add extra spaces. The text of this paper is double spaced, as yours should be. As I indicate in

the syllabus you should use Times New Roman, 12 point type. Please don’t use other fonts. The title should tell me what the paper is (“Reading Summary: Death Without

Weeping”, “Reading Summary: Body Ritual Among the Nacirema, ect.).
You will notice paragraphs are indented. You will also note extra returns are not used between paragraphs; i.e. adding an extra line. You should follow that

format for paragraphs. You should also avoid paragraphs under 3 – 4 sentences. Expand ideas if you need to.
A few other comments are needed. Please try for a professional tone in a college paper. This is not a text to your boyfriend / girlfriend. Thing such as “lol”,

“or like…WHATEVER”, do not belong. Please refer to your syllabus for the length. If the instructions are for a page, and you write half a page, you will get half a

grade. If the instructions call for 2 pages, do not write a page and a half. Longer is never a problem. Shorter is. Also, as a college paper, summaries should offer a

critical engagement with the ideas of the author. You are not simply restating what they said, nor are you offering an opinion. You are addressing the strength of

their ideas, arguments, and evidence.
You need to prove read. (Did you catch the error in that last sentence? Neither would spell check.) Students rely on spell check, witch wont ketch wards

spilled rite, butt knot yews

Culture, Not Biology, Shapes Language
Categories:
Science and
Culture
10:27 am
April 26, 2012
by
BARBARA J KING
Enlarge
Courtesy of Dan Everett
The Pirahã
people live along the Maici River in Brazil’s Amazon region
.
Part 1
There’s no language gene.
There’s no innate language organ or module in the human brain dedicated to the
production of grammatical language.
There are no meaningful human universals whe
n it comes to how people construct
sentences to communicate with each other. Across the languages of the world (estimated
to number 6,000

8,000), nouns, verbs, and objects are arranged in sentences in
different ways as people express their thoughts. The po
werful force behind this
variability is culture.
So goes the argument in
Language: The Cultural Tool,
the new book I’m reading by
Daniel Everett
. Next week, I’ll have more to say about the book itself; this week, I want
to explore how Everett’s years of living among the Pirahã Indians of Amazonian Brazil
helped shape his conclusions

and why those conclusions matter.
The Pirahã are hunter

gath
erers who live along the Maici River in Brazil’s Amazon
region. They fish, gather manioc and hunt in the forest. As is true with any human
society, Pirahã communities are socially complex.
Everett first showed up among the Pirahãs as a missionary associate
d with the Summer
Institute for Linguistics (
SIL
), with the goal of converting the natives to Christianity by
translating the Bible into the local language. He left many years later as an atheist,
knowing that the Pi
rahãs “were not in the market for a new worldview.”
In between, Everett found that the Pirahãs have no words for “please,” “thank you,”
“you’re welcome” or “I’m sorry.” They have no color words, but instead deploy phrases
such as “it is temporarily being i
mmature” for green. They have a limited kinship term
system, one that does not distinguish between parent and grandparent or brother and
sister. And their sentences lack recursion. This means there are no embedded clauses, as
in the English sentence ”
Bring
me the fish that Mary caught.”
In his previous book
Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes,
Everett explained that the Pirahã
culture drives the Pirahã linguistic system. For example, the language lacks recursion
because of what he calls the principle of immediate
experience. The Pirahãs don’t
discuss events that are not experienced by the speaker or by someone alive during the
speaker’s lifetime. (They do believe in spirits, but to them, the spirits are real and thus
directly experienced.)
The Pirahãs would not sa
y ”
Bring me the fish that Mary caught.”
They would say

Bring me that fish. Mary caught that fish.”
Two independent sentences are needed in
Pirahã rather than the single English recursive one.
In corresponding with me earlier this week, Everett explained t
his for my non

linguist’s
brain (and it’s explained near the end of
Language
, too): The Pirahã language has
what’s called “an evidence requirement.” Each utterance is marked, by means of a suffix
on certain words, as how the information contained in that s
tatement came to be
known. Was it witnessed directly by the speaker, heard from a third party or deduced
from available evidence? In our example, that the fish should be brought and that the
fish was caught by Mary are statements that each must be marked o
n its own; the two
cannot be combined recursively because each has its own evidence requirement.
If you’re familiar with
Noam Chomsky
‘s theorizing on language, you by now will have
intuited that Everett’s data
directly challenge it. I refer both to Chomsky’s insistence on
universal grammar as an inborn set of rules in every human brain that allows a child to
learn grammar, and also to his more recent work with Marc Hauser and Tecumseh Fitch
that recursion is the
defining feature of all human languages.
Language is learned, on Everett’s account. And the Pirahãs do just fine, he says, without
recursion in their language. Everett couldn’t be more forceful in claiming that Chomsky
is wrong.
This is no polite academic
disagreement. Everett told me, “Over the years, first because
of my ties to SIL and then because of my ‘traitorous’ turn against Chomsky, I have been
accused of racism, of mining uranium, of stealing the Pirahãs’ teeth, of fathering
children with Pirahã w
omen, of ‘stealing their language’ and on and on and on.”
These charges Everett finds

as do I, to the degree that I can judge such things

absurd. The racism charge is plainly baseless; in his books Everett portrays the Pirahãs
as clever people. In
Lang
uage
he takes on this issue directly:
“People seem to worry that if we say a given language lacks grammatical devices that are found in other languages,
then that this is tantamount to claiming that the speakers of one language are somehow inferior to the
speakers of the
other. But nothing could be further from the truth. … Languages are tools that fit their cultural niche.”
So why does all this matter? For one thing, it challenges the seductive, heavily biologized
discourse that I’ve
complained about before
. Of course, as a biological anthropologist, I
know that, in an important sense, culture is part of our biology, that the two shouldn’t
be split. But keep in mind, Everett is challenging a dominant discourse (Chomsky’s); in
that context, he’s right to harp on culture.
For another thing, it shows how getting out into the field to live among speakers of
human language makes a difference. Th
is is no Chomsky

esque armchair theorizing; it’s
immersive anthropology at work. Another fine example of this approach comes from
Nicholas Evans and Stephen Levinson in
their article
on the “myth” of human linguistic
universals.

Culture, Not Biology, Shapes Language
Categories:
Science and
Culture
10:27 am
April 26, 2012
by
BARBARA J KING
Enlarge
Courtesy of Dan Everett
The Pirahã
people live along the Maici River in Brazil’s Amazon region
.
Part 1
There’s no language gene.
There’s no innate language organ or module in the human brain dedicated to the
production of grammatical language.
There are no meaningful human universals whe
n it comes to how people construct
sentences to communicate with each other. Across the languages of the world (estimated
to number 6,000

8,000), nouns, verbs, and objects are arranged in sentences in
different ways as people express their thoughts. The po
werful force behind this
variability is culture.
So goes the argument in
Language: The Cultural Tool,
the new book I’m reading by
Daniel Everett
. Next week, I’ll have more to say about the book itself; this week, I want
to explore how Everett’s years of living among the Pirahã Indians of Amazonian Brazil
helped shape his conclusions

and why those conclusions matter.
The Pirahã are hunter

gath
erers who live along the Maici River in Brazil’s Amazon
region. They fish, gather manioc and hunt in the forest. As is true with any human
society, Pirahã communities are socially complex.
Everett first showed up among the Pirahãs as a missionary associate
d with the Summer
Institute for Linguistics (
SIL
), with the goal of converting the natives to Christianity by
translating the Bible into the local language. He left many years later as an atheist,
knowing that the Pi
rahãs “were not in the market for a new worldview.”
In between, Everett found that the Pirahãs have no words for “please,” “thank you,”
“you’re welcome” or “I’m sorry.” They have no color words, but instead deploy phrases
such as “it is temporarily being i
mmature” for green. They have a limited kinship term
system, one that does not distinguish between parent and grandparent or brother and
sister. And their sentences lack recursion. This means there are no embedded clauses, as
in the English sentence ”
Bring
me the fish that Mary caught.”
In his previous book
Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes,
Everett explained that the Pirahã
culture drives the Pirahã linguistic system. For example, the language lacks recursion
because of what he calls the principle of immediate
experience. The Pirahãs don’t
discuss events that are not experienced by the speaker or by someone alive during the
speaker’s lifetime. (They do believe in spirits, but to them, the spirits are real and thus
directly experienced.)
The Pirahãs would not sa
y ”
Bring me the fish that Mary caught.”
They would say

Bring me that fish. Mary caught that fish.”
Two independent sentences are needed in
Pirahã rather than the single English recursive one.
In corresponding with me earlier this week, Everett explained t
his for my non

linguist’s
brain (and it’s explained near the end of
Language
, too): The Pirahã language has
what’s called “an evidence requirement.” Each utterance is marked, by means of a suffix
on certain words, as how the information contained in that s
tatement came to be
known. Was it witnessed directly by the speaker, heard from a third party or deduced
from available evidence? In our example, that the fish should be brought and that the
fish was caught by Mary are statements that each must be marked o
n its own; the two
cannot be combined recursively because each has its own evidence requirement.
If you’re familiar with
Noam Chomsky
‘s theorizing on language, you by now will have
intuited that Everett’s data
directly challenge it. I refer both to Chomsky’s insistence on
universal grammar as an inborn set of rules in every human brain that allows a child to
learn grammar, and also to his more recent work with Marc Hauser and Tecumseh Fitch
that recursion is the
defining feature of all human languages.
Language is learned, on Everett’s account. And the Pirahãs do just fine, he says, without
recursion in their language. Everett couldn’t be more forceful in claiming that Chomsky
is wrong.
This is no polite academic
disagreement. Everett told me, “Over the years, first because
of my ties to SIL and then because of my ‘traitorous’ turn against Chomsky, I have been
accused of racism, of mining uranium, of stealing the Pirahãs’ teeth, of fathering
children with Pirahã w
omen, of ‘stealing their language’ and on and on and on.”
These charges Everett finds

as do I, to the degree that I can judge such things

absurd. The racism charge is plainly baseless; in his books Everett portrays the Pirahãs
as clever people. In
Lang
uage
he takes on this issue directly:
“People seem to worry that if we say a given language lacks grammatical devices that are found in other languages,
then that this is tantamount to claiming that the speakers of one language are somehow inferior to the
speakers of the
other. But nothing could be further from the truth. … Languages are tools that fit their cultural niche.”
So why does all this matter? For one thing, it challenges the seductive, heavily biologized
discourse that I’ve
complained about before
. Of course, as a biological anthropologist, I
know that, in an important sense, culture is part of our biology, that the two shouldn’t
be split. But keep in mind, Everett is challenging a dominant discourse (Chomsky’s); in
that context, he’s right to harp on culture.
For another thing, it shows how getting out into the field to live among speakers of
human language makes a difference. Th
is is no Chomsky

esque armchair theorizing; it’s
immersive anthropology at work. Another fine example of this approach comes from
Nicholas Evans and Stephen Levinson in
their article
on the “myth” of human linguistic
universals.

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