Don't Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle

Author(s): Daniel Everett

Travel | Linguistics

Daniel Everett took his family to convert the Pirahas (pronounced pee-da-HAN), a remote people of the Amazonian jungle whose language no outsider had yet been able to understand. They encountered malaria, snakes, jaguars, spiders, insects, and a plot to kill them as they slept. But Everett gradually gained entry to this curious culture, and gave up trying to Christianise it. Along the way he discovered a language which disproved the most established tenets of linguistics.Although Daniel Everett was a missionary, far from converting the Pirahas, they converted him. He shows the slow, meticulous steps by which he gradually mastered their language and his gradual realisation that its unusual nature closely reflected its speakers' startlingly original perceptions of the world. He describes how he began to realise that his discoveries about the Piraha language opened up a new way of understanding how language works in our minds and in our lives, and that this way was utterly at odds with Noam Chomsky's universally accepted linguistic theories. The perils of passionate academic opposition were then swiftly conjoined to those of the Amazon in a debate whose outcome has yet to be won.Adventure, personal enlightenment and the makings of a scientific revolution proceed together in this vivid, funny and moving book.

First published 2008.


Product Information

Daniel Everett took his family to convert the Pirahas (pronounced pee-da-HAN), a remote people of the Amazonian jungle whose language no outsider had yet been able to understand. They encountered malaria, snakes, jaguars, spiders, insects, and a plot to kill them as they slept. But Everett gradually gained entry to this curious culture, and gave up trying to Christianise it. Along the way he discovered a language which disproved the most established tenets of linguistics.

'Dan Everett has written an excellent book. First, it is a very powerful autobiographical account of his stay with the Piraha in the jungles of the Amazon basin. Second, it is a brilliant piece of ethnographical description of life among the Piraha. And third, and perhaps most important in the long run, his data and his conclusions about the language of the Piraha run dead counter to the prevailing orthodoxy in linguistics. If he is right, he will permanently change our conception of human language.' - John Searle, Slusser Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley'This is an astonishing book: a work of exploration, into the most distant place and language, but also a revelation of the way language is shaped by thought and circumstance.' Ben Macintyre, The Times'Astonishing... a warm tribute to this people's unique way of seeing the world... full of wonder while conveying the fragility of the Piraha way.' Waterstone's Books Quarterly

Daniel Everett was born in California. He lived for many years in the Amazon jungle and conducted research on over a dozen indigenous languages of Brazil. He has published on sound structure, grammar, meaning, culture and language. He has been the subject of endless controversy in academic circles and is currently Professor of Linguistics at Illinois State University.

General Fields

  • : 9781846680304
  • : Profile Books Limited
  • : Profile Books Ltd
  • : November 2008
  • : 2.4 Centimeters X 15.3 Centimeters X 23.4 Centimeters
  • : United Kingdom
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Daniel Everett
  • : Paperback
  • : 1
  • : English
  • : very good
  • : 320
  • : Illustrations