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Cognitive Fire: Language As a Cultural Tool…
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Cognitive Fire: Language As a Cultural Tool

by Daniel L. Everett

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Everett discusses how man evolved to become capable of language and how thinking, culture, and language are related. He uses his many years of research among Amazonian peoples to show why he believes that language is an invented cultural tool rather than an instinct and/or hard-wired in our brains. Some of the discussions get rather technical and somewhat hard to follow and his writing style doesn't make this my kind of book.
  hailelib | Nov 10, 2012 |
I preferred Everett's first book, [Don't sleep there are snakes], over this one. The first gave a lot more information about the Piraha and Everett's experiences among them, while this book spent far more time arguing Everett's case that there is no such thing as a universal grammar. As a "layman linguist" -- I find linguistics fascinating but I hardly know all the terminology and history -- not every chapter was accessible to me, although many were, and clearly Everett has worked to make them so.

This book is worth reading if you are engaged and/or interested in linguistic theory. However, if you, like me, are more interested in stories about endangered languages, personal experiences learning and analyzing languages, or learning about these issues in depth without being bogged down by academic language, I'd recommend his first book, [Don't sleep there are snakes].

EDIT: Here's a link since the touchstone doesn't seem to be working: http://www.librarything.com/work/6291124 ( )
  sparemethecensor | Sep 4, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307378535, Hardcover)

A bold and provocative study that presents language not as an innate component of the brain—as most linguists do—but as an essential tool unique to each culture worldwide.
 
For years, the prevailing opinion among academics has been that language is embedded in our genes, existing as an innate and instinctual part of us. But linguist Daniel Everett argues that, like other tools, language was invented by humans and can be reinvented or lost. He shows how the evolution of different language forms—that is, different grammar—reflects how language is influenced by human societies and experiences, and how it expresses their great variety.
 
For example, the Amazonian Pirahã put words together in ways that violate our long-held under-standing of how language works, and Pirahã grammar expresses complex ideas very differently than English grammar does. Drawing on the Wari’ language of Brazil, Everett explains that speakers of all languages, in constructing their stories, omit things that all members of the culture understand. In addition, Everett discusses how some cultures can get by without words for numbers or counting, without verbs for “to say” or “to give,” illustrating how the very nature of what’s important in a language is culturally determined.
 
Combining anthropology, primatology, computer science, philosophy, linguistics, psychology, and his own pioneering—and adventurous—research with the Amazonian Pirahã, and using insights from many different languages and cultures, Everett gives us an unprecedented elucidation of this society-defined nature of language. In doing so, he also gives us a new understanding of how we think and who we are.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:55 -0400)

An anthropological and psychological report contends that language is a human, societally driven, invention that can be reinvented and lost.

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