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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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TLTB

There's a lot that can be said here, and your skepticism is warranted. Reading Everett's claims about the Piraha makes me think back to old discussions of "non-configurational" languages that supposedly had no word-order restrictions. Deeper investigation disproved that myth.

But if Everett's claims are right, its still preliminary to take the Piraha as evidence against the nativist claims about language. The Piraha are an isolated group with very limited outside interaction. Its possible that their linguistic aberration lines up with a genetic one as well. If Everett's claims can be confirmed, the next step is to do some DNA analysis and check out the FOXP2 and other language-related genes looking for mutations.

When I spoke with Fitch back in February, he said they don't have any conclusions yet, but what he's mostly interested in is the fact that the Piraha don't have any numbers. What he wants to know is, do they merely lack words for numbers or do they actually lack the concept of numbers/counting. Are they like non-human primates (which we know can only distinguish groups of one, two, three, and more than three) or can they count higher? This bears on the linguistic stuff as well since Fitch, Hauser, and Chomsky have supposed that the recursive property of language that gives us infinitive sentence length is the same as the recursive property of numbers which gives us infinite counting ability.

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