John, that Pirahã language is amazingly different! Here is a quote
from your NY mag link:
Unrelated to any other extant tongue, and based on
just eight consonants and three vowels, Pirahã has one of the simplest sound
systems known. Yet it possesses such a complex array of tones, stresses, and
syllable lengths that its speakers can dispense with their vowels and
consonants altogether and sing, hum, or whistle conversations.
Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com
9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2
[mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F. Sowa
Sent: Thursday, April 08, 2010 6:52 AM
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Cultural variation in cognitive machinery
Dan, Pat, and Ali,
I agree to some extent with all of you, but I'd just like to make
a few points:
1. An extremely important foundation for all our thinking and
reasoning is laid in the first two or three years of life.
Cultural differences among societies have some effect on the
emotional responses, but not much on the early intellect.
2. During those years, very few children learn to read and those
who learn a little aren't yet strongly affected by it.
3. Also during those years, chimpanzee and bonobo infants compete
quite effectively with human infants. During the third year,
the language skills by human children enable them to progress
much more rapidly than the apes.
These points would support Pat's position:
AH>> The invention of writing changed our sense ratios, from one
>> focused on hearing, to one focused on visualizing, which very
>> probably led to the adoption of this inference rule.
PH> This seems like complete fantasy. Can you cite any historical
> evidence for this claimed shift in human nature?
All the primates have extremely well developed visual systems.
Hand-eye coordination is essential for swinging through trees, and
I would cite athletes, gymnasts, and fighter pilots for evidence
that we still have those genes.
Furthermore, look at all the artwork by preliterate societies,
such as the Cro-Magnon wall paintings. Look at the artwork in
medieval churches. Most people in those days were illiterate, and
the clergy used the walls as visual supplements to their sermons.
I also agree with the material that Dan cites. Note the subtitle
of the book by Nisbett: How culture colors the way the mind works.
The word 'color' suggests a modification, but not a fundamental
revolution in the ways of thinking. But in some cases, that
coloring can be extreme. For further evidence, I recommend the
following article about the Pirahã tribe in the Amazon jungle:
There is an enormous cultural (and linguistic) gap between that
tribe and the rest of the world. Even professional linguists have
required years to learn their language without being willing to
say that they have mastered it.
Furthermore, the Pirahã adults have never been able to learn more
than a few words of any other language. They were eager to learn
how to count in Portuguese, since it was important for trade, but
they just couldn't do it. They learned a few number words, but
they could not use them correctly.
For research articles that go beyond the _New Yorker_, type
Piraha" to Google Scholar. Chomskyan linguists are
especially upset. Everett
started his career as both a born-
again Christian and a born-again Chomskyan -- and the Pirahã
caused him to lose his faith in both.
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