The Pirahã maelstrom

Posted 23 May 2012 at 15:14 UTC (updated 23 May 2012 at 15:15 UTC) by sye Share This

"The Pirahã maelstrom has had two vortices: recursion, and the language–culture connection."


source: Daniel Harbour - staunch chomskite

"Turduckens and iphones may seem like silly metaphors, but they reveal, in familiar and concrete terms, Everett’s errors in logic (arguing from irrelevant data) and in understanding (the crucial distinction between linguistic hardware versus its use in a given language). This does not bode well."


I wonder how and why Dan Everett's effort of saving endangered language damaged his faith in Christianity?

Who would you side with? General Anubis or scootwes ?

General Anubis's comment:

An interesting look at a culture very alien to the typical worldview.

One striking concern I have is that they apply no value to historical proof, apparently. It is an uneducated (in archaeology and history) Christian whose faith falters when asked for evidence of Jesus, a historical figure whose existence is agreed as fact. His divinity is up to debate, but his existence is not.

How can a culture that applies no value to history preserve their heritage?

Sorry to be so tangential in my comment, but I spend a lot of time following the evidence of my faith and conveying the findings of that evidence to others. All the questions the Pirahã posed to you (at least, all the ones you mentioned or hinted at in this video, and all the questions their culture and view likely brought to your own mind) are easily answered with only a slightly in-depth look at the Bible.

It saddens me that there are Christians out there, especially evangelical Christian missionaries, with that little faith or Biblical background knowledge.

If you ever read this, Dan, know that you need only contact me if you'd like to have answers to the hard questions you could not answer, and also know that I'll be praying for your return

scootwes wrote:

General Anubis, your comment is ignorant, insulting and condescending. Many of us were formerly evangelical christians (in my case 46 years including Bible School degree and missionary in Europe) who just could no longer believe in the bible god who sends 95% of his children to eternal torment over a matter of what a person happens to believe or not believe. We had MUCH faith and MUCH biblical knowledge, but it was not enough to hold back the flood of discovery when we started asking the hard questions and investigating the evidence in an objective way. We did not want to lose our deeply held faith, but our hearts could no longer believe in a god that no longer made sense in our heads. The evidence was too overwhelming to the contrary.

So save your prayers. Even if there were a God listening to you, none of us who are genuine ex-believers ever want to return to that extremely narrow worldview. We have been set free from those chains, never to return. I have exchanged email with Daniel Everett, and I can assure that he shares that sentiment. I do not begrudge you the comfort you find in your religion, but please keep it to yourself. Some of us have found it deeply lacking.

Grammar of Happiness:

Daniel Harbour

Read The Fine Memoir, posted 24 May 2012 at 09:29 UTC by chalst » (Master)

Given how few Advogato articles we have, I dare say it doesn't matter, but this is way off topic for an article: the diary is the intended place for such things.

But if you are interested in "how and why Dan Everett's effort of saving endangered language damaged his faith in Christianity?" do read his memoir, Don't Sleep, There are Snakes which has a chapter on just this.

sure. I'll put his memoir on my to-read list, posted 24 May 2012 at 12:45 UTC by sye » (Journeyer)

I also recommend Mary Karr poetry book 'Sinners Welcome' & her memoir 'Liar's Club', 'Lit'. also check out UCLA lunch poem video of her poetry reading with intro by Robert Haas.

Robert Haas & Mary Karr on Milosz, posted 25 May 2012 at 18:16 UTC by sye » (Journeyer)

[Mary Karr 'Sinners Welcome' ]
Milosz, who dubbed himself the "least normal person in Father Chomski's class", describes the sense of alert presence prayer can yield in "Late Ripeness" - a lit-up poem of the type I aspire to write:

Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.

One after another my former lives lives were departing
like ships together with their sorrow.
And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas
assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than before.

I was not separated from people, grief and pity joined us.
We forget - I kept saying - that we are all children of
the King ...

Robert Haas reading Milosz -

Conflicting Genetic Data for Relationship Between Inuit and , posted 15 Jun 2012 at 18:02 UTC by sye » (Journeyer)

Interesting article from LinkedIn Comparative linguistic group.

"Conflicting Genetic Data for Relationship Between Inuit and Athapaskan Cultures "

James Polichak, J.D., PhD. • Previous genetic analysis of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA indicated that the cultures speaking Inuit and Athapaskan (Na-Dene) languages in North America shared a common distinct origin separating them from other major Native American populations.

New research on Y-chromosome DNA supports two distinct population expansions forming the Inuit and Athapaskan cultural/linguistic groupings. This expansion is believed to have occurred after the migration into North America.

The Abstract:
For decades, the peopling of the Americas has been explored through the analysis of uniparentally inherited genetic systems in Native American populations and the comparison of these genetic data with current linguistic groupings. In northern North America, two language families predominate: Eskimo-Aleut and Na-Dene. Although the genetic evidence from nuclear and mtDNA loci suggest that speakers of these language families share a distinct biological origin, this model has not been examined using data from paternally inherited Y chromosomes. To test this hypothesis and elucidate the migration histories of Eskimoan- and Athapaskan-speaking populations, we analyzed Y-chromosomal data from Inuvialuit, Gwich’in, and Tłįchǫ populations living in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Over 100 biallelic markers and 19 chromosome short tandem repeats (STRs) were genotyped to produce a high-resolution dataset of Y chromosomes from these groups. Among these markers is an SNP discovered in the Inuvialuit that differentiates them from other Aboriginal and Native American populations. The data suggest that Canadian Eskimoan- and Athapaskan-speaking populations are genetically distinct from one another and that the formation of these groups was the result of two population expansions that occurred after the initial movement of people into the Americas. In addition, the population history of Athapaskan speakers is complex, with the Tłįchǫ being distinct from other Athapaskan groups. The high-resolution biallelic data also make clear that Y-chromosomal diversity among the first Native Americans was greater than previously recognized.

James Polichak, J.D., PhD. • It is tough to say what exactly is going on from the abstract, but it seemed interesting to me since there hasn't been a whole lot of investigation of Native American languages and history, and the scientific consensus about the population of the Americas is in a state of flux now.

My question would be about the timing of the events, which isn't mentioned in the abstract. Without knowing more, it seems to me that the results may not be contradictory.

It could be that the mtDNA results are documenting and older event, that the two groups shared common ancestors before leaving Asia. The Y-chromosome change could be from an event happening after arrival in North America.

This could be group fission, as a look at the map of language distribution suggests that the Athapaskans lived mostly in the interior of the continent and the Eskimo-Aleut on the coastal regions.

It could also be that the Y-chromosomes diverged due to introduction of males from another population, either already present in North America, or coming later from another migration from Asia. I am thinking of something similar to the colonization of Iceland, where the male colonists from Scandinavia abducted women from Ireland. This would result in the descendants of the Irish women having mtDNA that remains similar to the population of Ireland, while the Y-chromosomes of their male descendents differs from the male population of ireland.

But I would also say that analysis of DNA to trace population history is science. Just because it's science, doesn't mean it has to produce the right answer. Isaac Newton was wrong, but that doesn't mean that Newtonian physics isn't science. All scientific theories are wrong in some sense, but determining how wrong and why they are wrong is how scientific progress occurs.

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