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OT: Doubting Thomas: was "Introducing Myself

From:Dan Sulani <dansulani@...>
Date:Friday, February 18, 2005, 8:00
Hi all!
    These recent threads have been very fascinating!
I just _have_  to get out of lurk-mode, delay real-world
chores and jump right in! (Say, if I doubt all my
real-world obligations hard enough, will they go away?
What's that I hear --- my wife knocking at my door ---
reminding me yet again!!? --- no, I don't think my chores
will go away! :-P  )
    Still, I'll try to stall them long enough to get this out:

On 18 Feb, Henrik Theiling wrote:


> I quote: 'After eight months of daily efforts, without ever needing to > call the Pirahãs to come to class (all meetings were started by them > with much enthusiasm), the people concluded that they could not learn > this material and classes were abandoned. Not one Pirahã learned to > count to ten in eight months. None had learned to add 3+1 or even 1+1 > (if regularly reponding '2' to the latter is evidence of learning -- > only occasionally would some get the answer right. This seemed random > to us, as indeed similar experiences were shown to be random in > Gordon's research, see below)' > > That's just weird, isn't it.
Nah! They just needed to be treated by a competent speech-language-pathologist (Ahem! ;-) ). Seriously, over the years, I've had to teach the concept of number many times. In fact, I'm currently engaged with trying to teach numerality to a little girl (who somehow is in a normal class in school! Needless to say, she's not doing very well in math!). Regarding Everett's findings: he states that Piraha is the sole surviving language of the Muron family. Is it known whether or not any of them had numbers? He doesn't describe how the Piraha come to be the only hunter-gatherers who lack the ability to count or to consider amounts. Especially if other langs in the Muron family did have numbers. Another strange thing: he states that they all were afraid of being cheated in their dealings with traders. I fail to see how the concept of "cheated" can occur without any framework to measure what's fair! If they can't count the bags of nuts one way or another, (ok, it may not be how _we_ do it in our langs, but then using some other [more interesting] :-) way) how do they know that this time they might be getting the same bartered goods for fewer or more sackfuls given over to the traders. How do they know how much "more" or "less" they are giving/getting this time as opposed to other times? I don't know about hoaxes, but I _have_ read enough accounts about how tribal people have later been found out to have given misleading or absolutely wrong answers to "nosey" anthropologists, especially if their history with outsiders has not been very pleasant! Admittedly I only (so far) skimmed the material, but I haven't seen where he says in what lang he talked to the people. Did he ask questions in Portugese and stop there? I read once (can't remember the source) about an anthropologist who "went native" with a group of Eskimos, to the point that he went out in their boats and hunted whales with them. He learned their lang as an insider, as much as it was possible, was accepted by the people as one of them. When he later published his findings about them and their lang, there was no mistaking the authenticity of what he said. Wasn't there also some controversy about how much of Margaret Meade's (sp?) reporting about teenaged girls in (IIRC) Samoa might have been "a little less than accurate"? This remends me of the professor of anthropology I once took a course from. This prof, before he decided to finish his education, spent most of his life as a "beach bum" hitching rides on boats to all over the world. Whereas all the other profs would read the textbook or cite literature about various tribes in various parts of the world, this prof would always start out by saying: "Well, when _I_ was there, it was like this...". Regarding Gage's unfortunate accident: back about 30 years ago during my speech-language internship, I once interviewed a young man who had had his left frontal lobe surgically removed (IIRC it was only the left one), in order to resolve some serious medical problem. He also talked very normally, but had problems in higher level planning and talking about the future. Re: Doubt. Could I trust the medical records as to what was done to him? Well, all I know is that the part of the skull that had been removed in order to remove his frontal lobe had been replaced by a steel plate with the skin grown back over it --- but the whole thing had sunk back to the level of his remaining brain. It gave him the look of having one gigantic dent in his forehead! It was a sight that has stayed with me all these years! Dan Sulani ---------------------------------------------------------------- likehsna rtem zuv tikuhnuh auag inuvuz vaka'a. A word is an awesome thing.


Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>
Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>