Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Studies Of Amazonian Languages Challenge Linguistic Theories

Date:
August 16, 2005
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
Two studies that appear in the August/October 2005 issue of Current Anthropology challenge established linguistic theories regarding the language families of Amazonia.

Two studies that appear in the August/October 2005 issue ofCurrent Anthropology challenge established linguistic theoriesregarding the language families of Amazonia.

Related Articles


New research by DanEverett (University of Manchester) into the language of the Pirahăpeople of Amazonas, Brazil disputes two prominent linguistic ideasregarding grammar and translation. The Pirahă are intelligent, highlyskilled hunters and fishers who speak a language remarkable for thecomplexity of its verb and sound systems. Yet, the Pirahă language andculture has several features that not known to exist in any other inthe world and lacks features that have been assumed to be found in allhuman groups. The language does not have color words or grammaticaldevices for putting phrases inside other phrases. They do not havefiction or creation myths, and they have a lack of numbers andcounting. Despite 200 years of contact, they have steadfastly refusedto learn Portuguese or any other outside language. The unifying featurebehind all of these characteristics is a cultural restriction againsttalking about things that extend beyond personal experience. Thisrestriction counters claims of linguists, such as Noam Chomsky, thatgrammar is genetically driven system with universal features. Despitethe absence of these allegedly universal features, the Pirahăcommunicate effectively with one another and coordinate simple tasks.Moreover, Pirahă suggests that it is not always possible to translatefrom one language to another.

In addition, Alf Hornborg's (LundUniversity) research into the Arawak language family counters thecommon interpretation that the geographical distribution of languagesin Amazonia reflects the past migrations of the inhabitants. At thetime of Christopher Columbus, the Arawak language family ranged fromCuba to Bolivia. Yet, geneticists have been unable to find significantcorrelations between genes and languages in the Amazonia. Moreover,Arawakan languages spoken in different areas show more similarities totheir non-Arawakan neighbors than to each other, suggesting that theymay derive from an early trade language. As well, Arawak languages aredistributed along major rivers and coastlines that served as traderoutes, and Arawak societies were dedicated to trade and intermarriagewith other groups. But, the dispersed network of Arawak-speakingsocieties may have caused ethnic wedges between other, moreconsolidated language families with which they would have engaged intrade and warfare. Finally, there is increased evidence that languageshifts were common occurrences among the peoples of Amazonia and wereused as a way to signal a change in identity, particularly whenentering into alliances, rather than migratory movement.

###

Sponsoredby the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, CurrentAnthropology is a transnational journal devoted to research onhumankind, encompassing the full range of anthropological scholarshipon human cultures and on the human and other primate species.Communicating across the subfields, the journal features papers in awide variety of areas, including social, cultural, and physicalanthropology as well as ethnology and ethnohistory, archaeology andprehistory, folklore, and linguistics. For more information, please seeour website: www.journals.uchicago.edu/CA


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "Studies Of Amazonian Languages Challenge Linguistic Theories." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 August 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050814165536.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2005, August 16). Studies Of Amazonian Languages Challenge Linguistic Theories. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050814165536.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "Studies Of Amazonian Languages Challenge Linguistic Theories." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050814165536.htm (accessed January 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NFL Concussions Down; Still on Parents' Minds

NFL Concussions Down; Still on Parents' Minds

AP (Jan. 30, 2015) — The NFL announced this week that the number of game concussions dropped by a quarter over last season. Still, the dangers of the sport still weigh on players, and parents&apos; minds. (Jan. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Shows Newborn Chicks Count From Left to Right Just Like Humans

Study Shows Newborn Chicks Count From Left to Right Just Like Humans

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) — Researchers for the first time identified human&apos;s innate preference for associating low and high numbers with the left and right respectively in another species. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Best Mood Elevating, Feel Good Shakes & Smoothies

Best Mood Elevating, Feel Good Shakes & Smoothies

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) — You can elevate your mood by having a meal in a glass. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) offers the best &apos;feel good&apos; smoothies and shakes chock full of depression-relieving ingredients...including apples, berries, lemons, cucumbers, papaya, kiwi, spinach, kale, whey protein, matcha, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Poll Says Firstborn Is Responsible, Youngest Is Funnier

Poll Says Firstborn Is Responsible, Youngest Is Funnier

Newsy (Jan. 30, 2015) — According to a poll out of the U.K., eldest siblings feel more responsible and successful than their younger siblings. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins