Weekend Frame – Squares


Sometimes all your corners look squared up.  Upon second look, things are not as they seem.

Speaking of recursion, on Friday night I attended the LongNow talk with Daniel Everett. "The Pirahã, a remote Amazonian tribe with little outside contact, have
attracted the attention of mainstream media, scientists, zen buddhists,
professors of religion, mathematicians, philosophers and others because
of their unusual confluence of values, language, and culture." 

Part of the synopsis by Stewart Brand:

"The Pirahã tribe in the heart of the Amazon numbers only 360,
spread in small groups over 300 miles.  An exceptionally cheerful
people, they live with a focus on immediacy, empiricism, and physical
rigor that has shaped their unique language, claims linguist Daniel

The Pirahã language has no numbers or concept of counting (only
terms for "relatively small" and "relatively large"); no
kinship terms beyond immediate children and parents; no "left" and
"right" (only "upriver" and "downriver"); no named
distinction of past and future (only near time and far time); no
creation stories or myths; and—most important for linguists—no

A recursive sentence like "The boy who was fishing owned the
dog" does not occur in the Pirahã language.  They would say,
"The boy was fishing" and "The boy owned the dog."  The
eminent linguist Noam Chomsky has declared that recursion is an
essential part of human language and is innate.  Chomsky's
former student Everett says that the Pirahã language proves
otherwise.  The resultant controversy is profound."

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Frames And Bits - The Andrew Storms Blog authored by Andrew Storms. Read the original post at: