Monday, April 30, 2007

the man who found the nail for the coffin

Just at a very busy time, personally and professionally, my mother sent me a fantastic article that has reawakened my interest in perhaps one of my largest projects, getting at the fundamental nature of language, and why Chomsky is wrong. This particular article gives a pretty good account of the state of linguistics (namely, what is Chomsky up to?) and how Chomsky, having never been able to prove his main thesis, can now be disproven, by a guy (Dan Everett) who lived for many years among a tribe called the Piraha in Brazil. This is a language that has no recursion (to Chomsky, the fundamental element of language that separates human language from all others- and the basis of proof that language skill is the genetic domain of humans). More interesting, this is a language that has many other unusual qualities, most of them, according to Dan Everett, distinctly cultural in their origin. Read "cultural" as "created by people together" or "related to the way we live and the way we choose to live in this place"...Dan Everett joins me, and my friend Tony Webster, in believing there may be something to the Sapir-Whorf theory. How I will connect these threads, or finish my treatise on the nature of language, I have no idea. But it's a fascinating subject- thanks, Mom!

Colapinto, John. (2007, Apr. 16). The Interpreter: Has a remote Amazonian tribe upended our understanding of language? The New Yorker. Not available online (to my knowledge).

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