Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle
By Daniel L. Everett
Recommended on: 2nd February 2023
Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle, by Daniel L. Everett. At a time when ChatGPT has everyone’s attention, this timeless book of exploration by linguist Daniel Everett lends perspective on the nature of language. It also describes what might be called the views of “happy stoics” (the Pirahã) and their perspectives on life itself.
Daniel Everett was a brilliant missionary, graduating at the top of his class from the Moody Bible Institute, who was sent to crack the seemingly uncrackable Pirahã language in the far-off reaches of the Amazon and translate the bible into Pirahã. What Everett found was unexpected—that the Pirahã language appeared to overthrow the vaunted linguistic theories of MIT’s Noam Chomsky. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the Pirahã worldview challenged and changed Everett in ways he himself would never have predicted.
Interestingly, Chomsky’s recursion theory, convincingly rebutted by Everett’s hard-won research, was developed with Marc Hauser, the disgraced former professor who resigned from Harvard after substantive allegations of scientific misconduct. As our own Terry Sejnowski describes in his Deep Learning Revolution, Chomsky’s theorizing is thought to have held back advances in artificial intelligence by decades. (We suspect far more will come out about Chomsky and his theories after his passing.) If you like adventure, language, numerical thinking, or what happens when worldviews collide, you’ll almost certainly love Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes, just as we did. Enjoy! (And if you like audiobooks, this one is read by Dan Everett himself, so you could enjoy the nuances of the Pirahã language as spoken by the world’s best non-native speaker of Pirahã.)MORE INFORMATION FROM AMAZON.COM >