The Pirahã

Guardian article about a missionary who went to convert an Amazonian tribe to Christianity but instead, "learned to speak their unique language – and ended up rejecting his faith, losing his family and picking a fight with Noam Chomsky." I also heard him on Excess baggage on Saturday – highly recommended.

By | 2008-11-10T13:02:23+00:00 November 10th, 2008|Culture|3 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Thatcher November 11, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks. Perfect distraction from translating!

  2. Rym Rytr November 12, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    It seems a simplistic matter to explain either side of their disagreement. There are no ablosutes in the transition of life, from the beginning to now. That span is, as it was, in flux. Therefore, when one states that “all” are genetically directed to/from a single concept, there has to be room for, at the least, one abnormal gene, in all those millions of years. Why could the Piraha language structure, not be that exception?

  3. Monika November 19, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Thanks for the link, it is a great article. I am just a little bit skeptical about Everett “dismantling” Chomskyan theory, since he wasn’t the first to discover a language that only has a present tense. Remember Sapir-Whorf hypothesis? It was actually based on the study of the Hopi language, which retains the same feature as Piraha. Only that later it was discovered that Hopi actually had references to the past and the future… Who knows, maybe the same will be later discovered for Piraha.

Comments are closed.