Wednesday, April 18, 2007

messy like a crime scene

John Colapinto's history of the Everetts' study of Pirahã language, "A Reporter At Large, The Interpreter," was all kinds of conflicted. Quotes that told against one another, outright lies, personal vendettas come to light, small bits and pieces of the material world that the characters in this story are fascinated with and take as evidence of one thing or another. Missionaries, Anthropologists and Tourists.

Case in point, quote from Dan Everett, "This is a culture that's invisible to the naked eye, but that is incredibly powerful, the most powerful culture of the Amazon." (124) Invisible. Complete with photos.

Even worse, the "abstract" of aforementioned article.

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8 Comments:

Blogger CheekyGeek said...

I'm no expert, but I found this commentary on the article to be interesting.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

and there is this questionable portion .

5:19 PM  
Blogger zp said...

I could not believe that Language Log chose that harp on. Even I gave Colapinto the benefit of the doubt on that one and assumed that the society as a whole allowed women to have sex with outsiders.

Cheekygeek's link, I think, was closer to my thoughts . . . one of the things I actually liked about the article was how much skepticism re. Everett, or communication more generally, Colapinto managed to create without calling the whole thing hogwash . . .

8:48 PM  
Blogger the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...

Did anyone else wonder if should have been something about food in this article?

5:32 PM  
Blogger zp said...

"they can walk into a jungle naked, with no tools or weapons, and walk out three days later with baskets of fruit, nuts and small game" (130)

I believe food bloggers have circulated memes on a similar theme?

There were lots of little food bits, I thought . . .

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your critique of Colapinto's article was (1) incomprehensible (what does "all kinds of conflicted" mean? or "Quotes that told against another"?) and (2) little more than a list of grievances with no real analysis of the issues discussed in the article.

5:00 PM  
Blogger zp said...

Oh, I disagree. It is either incomprehensible, OR a list of grievances.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Your reply to my critique is little more than double-speak. Address the issues in the Colapinto article; don't dance around them. Everett's ideas about language are revolutionary and potentially ground-breaking. If he has truly found a language lacking recursion, then he has uncovered evidence that contradicts cherished notions about the nature of language. If you don't understand the issues discussed in the article, you have no business criticizing the author's treatment of them.

7:16 PM  

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