or simply "pissing around and pissing us off", according to a certain individual.

Δευτέρα, Απριλίου 23, 2007

Ο χρόνος είναι ο χειρότερος ιστός

υπότιτλος: The Old New Dizziness
ανθυπότιτλος: Comments on "The Interpreter"

Our conclusion, in brief, is that this is radically different from that displayed in the languages most studied by linguists. It is not just a matter of a restricted number of terms, or of a lack of grammatical marking, but of a system based not on countable units, but on social activity, kinship and ecological regularity, that does not permit conventional “time-reckoning”. This is all the more striking when seen against the fact that the Kawahib system for space and motion, which we have also analyzed, displays a high degree of complexity. Space and motion terms are often “recruited” by languages to organize time, but not, it seems, by Amondawa, and we would hypothesize the same to be the case for Pirahã, as well as other Amazonian languages and their speakers. This does not mean that speakers of such languages have no time awareness, or that they are unable to talk about events and activities occurring in time. But they do not talk about time, or frame relations between events in terms of a notion of time separate from the events and activities.


Everett had written that the Pirahã saw no point in, and therefore were unable to, engage in basic literacy practices such as practising the writing of alphabetical characters. During our visit, we provided young Pirahã men with the wherewithal to do this, and at their request instructed them in how to do it. They did so readily and with a high level of competence, and we have audio-video recordings of them doing so. This occurred only after extensive discussions amongst the community members about whether or not they wanted a school (we have recordings of these discussions too).


All human cultures are unique, even if we can discern common patterns holding across different groups, and even though they are all products of our common humanity. Still less do we wish to downplay the distinctiveness, carefully documented by Dan Everett, of the Pirahã language. But to view just one group as the epitome of an exotic “otherness” is to fail to do justice to all the dimensions of the variation which still, today, can be encountered in the languages and cultures of the world.


Our research on Amondawa conceptualizations of time leads us to the speculative conclusion that the absence -- as true of this Kawahib group as for the Pirahã -- of a cultural norm of accumulation (of food, seeds, money and goods in general) is related to the Amondawa notion of time as embedded in activity, kinship and seasonality.


Whether or not we choose to call them “creation myths”, the Amondawa have narratives which both relate them to other groups and lend their own community a history and an identity. These narratives link the present day Amondawa to a time before “contact”, and in turn to the narratives that were told in those times. Everett maintains that such narratives simply do not exist for the Pirahã, but it may be that, in focussing on language structure, he has not “heard” the narratives; or that, faced with the competing narratives of Christianity, the Pirahã have chosen not to recount their own narratives to him. The Pirahã, it seems, both from Everett’s account and from our own observations, place little value on artefacts, or on the cultural transmission of the making of artefacts. Their material culture is, indeed, of an extreme simplicity. Yet the Pirahã could not survive without reproducing their culture.
Καθώς πρόσέθετα έμφαση έκανα ηλίθιες γκριμάτσες χαμόγελου. Αγνοώ γιατί.

2 σχόλια:

Κουνουπι είπε...

Γίνομαι καλύτερος άνθρωπος διαβάζοντας το blog σου.

(Πού τα βρίσκεις όλα αυτά;)

akindynos είπε...

Δεν τα βρίσκω εγώ, αυτά με βρίσκουν. Πρόσθεσε το Language Log στο feed reader σου και θα πάθεις το ίδιο.