The language is incredibly spare. The Pirahã use only three pronouns. They hardly use any words associated with time and past tense verb conjugations don't exist. Apparently colors aren't very important to the Pirahãs, either -- they don't describe any of them in their language. But of all the curiosities, the one that bugs linguists the most is that Pirahã is likely the only language in the world that doesn't use subordinate clauses. Instead of saying, "When I have finished eating, I would like to speak with you," the Pirahãs say, "I finish eating, I speak with you."For years, people have debated how language limits how people think.
Equally perplexing: In their everyday lives, the Pirahãs appear to have no need for numbers. During the time he spent with them, Everett never once heard words like "all," "every," and "more" from the Pirahãs.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Language without numbers
If you think that all languages are the same, check out this S.American language: