Colloquium Dan Everett
On Tuesday 15 May, Dan Everett (Bentley University) gave a talk on 'Language: the Cultural Tool'.
Prior to the lecture, his film 'The Grammar of Happiness' was screened.
For the past 50 years the idea of an innate, universal grammar has been popular among linguists. In this talk I will make the case that language emerges from numerous factors, of which culture is one, and that consequently universal grammar turns out to be about the least interesting hypothesis on the origin, nature, and form of language that one could entertain. I will present data from Pirahã and other languages to argue for the crucial role of culture in shaping language forms. The views developed here are explored in greater detail in a recent book and are compatible with several different lines of contemporary linguistic research. But not all.
A language that can be spoke, hummed, or whistled? A language with no unique words for color or numbers? Linguistics professor Daniel Everett claims that the unique language of the Piraha people of the Amazon is exactly that. More than 30 years ago, he traveled as a missionary into the amazon rainforest to teach the tribe, but they ended up teaching him. Their way of life and unique form of communication have profoundly changed Everett, and inspired a theory that could undermine the most powerful theory (or theorist) of linguistics.
For more information on the LUCL Colloquia, please visit this webpage.