Don't Sleep, There are Snakes, By Daniel Everett

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The Independent Culture

In 1977, young missionary Daniel Everett travelled to the Amazonian jungle to convert the remote Piraha people. He had a few surprises in store. As an anthropological researcher, his long years with the tribe not only uncovered some extraordinary features of their life, culture – and, above all, of a language whose structure seemed to turn almost every tenet of post-Chomsky linguistic theory on its head.

Even more curious: the Piraha converted him. With a language innocent of "recursion" (Everett explains all this with clarity and charm) goes a world-view oblivious to past, future and afterlife: "They don't believe in a heaven above us, or a hell below us, or that any abstract cause is worth dying for". "Going native" has seldom led to a book as challenging and appealing as this memoir.

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