Daniel Everett, “Endangered Languages, Lost Knowledge and the Future” (MP3 audio), Longnow Foundation, 2009/03/20

While languages spoken by a majority of the population of the world (e.g. Mandarin, English), are popular, local culture embeds knowledge into regional dialects.

The Pirahã language is the simplest in the world. Speaking it and singing it are the same, and it can be hummed or even whistled, yet it can convey enormous richness. Among other things, the wide variety of verb forms are used to account for the directness of evidence for a statement. Everett originally went to the Pirahã in 1977 as a Christian missionary. They challenged him to provide evidence for the existence of Jesus, and lost interest when he couldn’t. Eventually so did he. The Pirahã made him an atheist.

And the through him the Pirahã revolutionized how we think about languge.

Some 40 percent of the world’s 6,912 known languages are endangered, says Everett, and that endangers science. When we lose a language, we lose a whole way of life, a whole set of solutions to problems, a whole classification system and body of knowledge about the natural world, a whole calendar system, a whole complex of myths, folktales, and songs.

Daniel Everett: Endangered languages, lost knowledge and the future – The Long Now

 

MP3 Audio

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David Ing blogs at coevolving.com , photoblogs at daviding.com , and microblogs at http://ingbrief.wordpress.com . See .

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