Preserving language diversity lessons from amazonia
This presentation is the property of its rightful owner.
Sponsored Links
1 / 35

Preserving Language Diversity: Lessons from Amazonia PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • 37 Views
  • Uploaded on
  • Presentation posted in: General

Preserving Language Diversity: Lessons from Amazonia. Simon D. Levy Computer Science Department Washington & Lee University Lexington, VA 24450 http://www.cs.wlu.edu/~levy. First W&L/Petrobras Conference on the Environment, Economy, and Sustainable Development 22 June 2007. Outline.

Download Presentation

Preserving Language Diversity: Lessons from Amazonia

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Presentation Transcript


Preserving language diversity lessons from amazonia

Preserving Language Diversity: Lessons from Amazonia

Simon D. Levy

Computer Science Department

Washington & Lee University

Lexington, VA 24450

http://www.cs.wlu.edu/~levy

First W&L/Petrobras Conference on the Environment, Economy, and Sustainable Development

22 June 2007


Outline

Outline

  • Biodiversity

  • Language Diversity

  • The case of Pirahã

  • Conclusions


Preserving language diversity lessons from amazonia

I. Biodiversity


Rainforest biodiversity

Rainforest Biodiversity

  • Greatest plant biodiversity is in rainforests: 170,000 of the world's 250,000 known plant species.

  • “We are trying to do biology knowing perhaps only a tenth, or one hundredth, of our species”

    – Terry Gosliner, National Geographic


Biodiversity and pharmacology

Biodiversity and Pharmacology


Preserving language diversity lessons from amazonia

II. Language Diversity: Sound and Sense


Language a window on the mind

Language: A Window on the Mind

  • Reflects / affects how we think about the world

  • Amazing variety of ways of saying the “same thing”

  • Counter-intuitive constraints

    not derivable (?) from more general principles


Fallacies pitfalls

Fallacies & Pitfalls

  • “Eskimo has over 100 words for snow.”

  • “Primitive” languages


Sound

Sound


Sound1

Sound


Sound2

Sound


Sound3

Sound


Sound4

Sound


Sense gender

Sense: Gender

  • English:

    (1) Masculine

    (2) Feminine

  • Dyirbal (Dixon 1979):

    (1) Animate objects, men

    (2) Women, water, fire, violence

    (3) Edible fruit and vegetables

    (4) Miscellaneous


Sense counting

Sense: Counting


Counting

Counting


Sense activity fillmore 1968

Sense: Activity (Fillmore 1968)

He ran away.

Agent

Agent Object

She hit him.

He felt sick.

Object


Activity

O

Activity

A

A

he

him

O

English


Activity1

Activity

A

A

O

O

Chinook


Activity2

Activity

A

O

A

O

Dakota

(c.f. Spanish Me gusta,

English Methinks)


Activity3

Activity

A

A

O

O

Takelma


So what is universal human vs animal language

So What Is Universal?(Human vs. Animal Language)

  • Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch, (2002): Recursion- the ability to combine words without limit:

    I enjoyed the Piatam conference.

    I told Jim that I enjoyed the Piatam conference.

    Laurence knew that I told Jim that I enjoyed the Piatam conference.

    etc.

  • I.e., every human language is infinite.


Preserving language diversity lessons from amazonia

III. The Case of Pirahã


South american languages

South American Languages


South american languages1

South American Languages


Preserving language diversity lessons from amazonia

300 languages: 20 families, 12 isolates


Pirah

Pirahã


The pirah people

The Pirahã People

  • Remnant of Mura tribe (late 1700’s)

  • 150-200 hunter-gatherers living along the Maici River

  • Trade and reproduce

  • w/outsiders, but no

    interest in outsider

    language or culture


Pirah language culture everett 1979 2005

Pirahã Language & Culture (Everett 1979 … 2005)


Sound system

Sound System

But rich “suprasegmental” inventory (sung speech: )


Lexicon grammar

Lexicon & Grammar

  • No color terms

  • No counting words

  • No recursion:

    I enjoyed the Piatam conference. I told Jim. Laurence knew it.

  • Huge controversy

    • A finite human language?

    • Culture influencing (determining?) language: “Immediacy of Experience Principle”


Preserving language diversity lessons from amazonia

IV. Conclusions


Threats to glossodiversity

Threats to Glossodiversity

  • “Of the more than 6,000 languages currently being spoken, fewer than half are likely to survive the [21st] century” – Douglas Whalen, Endangered Language Fund

  • Appears to correlate with biodiversity (Manne 2003)

  • The languages most likely to give us new insights are the ones that are most endangered.


Preserving language diversity lessons from amazonia

Each language in this sense, while sharing cognitive and communicative principles in common with all other languages spoken by Homo sapiens, is unique. This is why it is such a tragedy when a language dies — we don't just lose a grammar. We lose an entire way of thinking and talking about the world; we lose a set of solutions to the problems that beset us all as humans.

- D. L. Everett


Links

Links

  • RECURSION AND HUMAN THOUGHT: WHY THE PIRAHÃ DON'T HAVE NUMBERS: A Talk With Daniel L. Everett

    http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge213.html#everett

  • Endangered Language Fund: http://www.endangeredlanguagefund.org


  • Login