The Piraha

So that long article I had to read last night? Once again, absolutely out of this world.

This one was also about languages (for the next few weeks we’ll be learning about languages and such in class). The article was written by a man who lived with this distinct tribe in the Amazon for a few years (whether it were consecutive years or not, I’m not sure). The tribe is called Piraha (the name has a ~ above the second ‘a’ but I’m not sure how to do that on the computer…) and it’s pronounced pee-da-HAN, odd huh?

Man, their language is so uniquely strange (in a good way of course). Their language consists of only eight consonants and three vowels. One example of the language the article gave is when Everett, an American linguistics professor who also stayed with the Piraha for several years prior to the writer, introduced the writer to the tribe “as someone who would be ‘staying for a short time’ in the village.” Which in Piraha is: Xaói hi gaáisai xigíai hiabisaoaxái ti xabiíhai hiatíhi xigío hoíhi. (Oh my god that took me a while to copy).

So the language consists of such a complex array of tones, stresses, and syllable lengths. And the words can also be sang, hummed or whistled during conversations. That’s cool.

The Piraha also don’t have “numbers, fixed color terms, no perfect tense, no deep memory, no tradition of art or drawing, and no words for ‘all,’ ‘each,’ ‘every,’ most,’ or ‘few.'” It said in the packet somewhere that the Piraha only have two words that signify a small size or amount and another for a larger size or amount. And if I remember correctly, the two words are the same, it’s just that they have different tones. Also for colors, when describing the color red, they’ll just call it blood or what not.

You’d think that the Piraha are behind and aren’t exposed to the modern world, which is partly true. But they choose not to ‘update’ themselves. They’re not interested in change apparently. Good for them, man. Stick with what you got. I was a little impressed with that, not gonna lie.

Well, that’s all I’ll include. There were so many other things in the article that were interesting, but I’m not gonna write all of them. If you guys are interested, the article is called The Interpreter by John Colapinto.

I need to read more articles like these…


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