Don’t sleep, there’s a good book

“Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes” is a fascinating book by Dan Everett detailing living, studying language and observing culture among the Pirahã people of the Amazon jungle.



Everett, who is currently the chair of Languages, Literature and Cultures at Illinois State University, was funded by SIL to study the Pirahã language, and to translate the New Testament into it. Over a span of thirty years, he spent seven living among the people, studying their language and culture. His findings challenged his own (commonly accepted) linguistic theories as well as his belief system. Listen to the language here, and see nonrecursion demonstrated:



The stories in the book are riveting, and the linguistic discussion is approachable even for me, a non-linguist. But the most intriguing part is Everett’s realization that the Pirahã people have a culture completely different from ours. The obvious superficial differences aside, they have no counting system, no color names, no creation story, no history and they are completely content with laughter-filled days. And the title? That’s a common good night phrase – part teasing, part true.

Donna Parrish
Publisher of MultiLingual, Donna Parrish is also co-organizer of the LocWorld conferences. Coming into the language industry from a background of mathematics and computer programming, she has an appreciation for the wizardry of language technology and an awe for linguists.

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