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NYC: Daniel Everett: “On the Role of Culture in the Emergence of Language”

December 11, 2014 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

The Columbia University Seminar on Columbia School Linguistics cordially invites you to the next meeting on Thursday, December 11. Daniel Everett will be presenting: “On the Role of Culture in the Emergence of Language”.

From the event organizers:

Daniel Everett is a leading linguist who has published extensively on grammar, phonology, cognition, and culture, including including many papers in important linguistics journals (i.e., Language, Linguistic Inquiry, Natural Language and Linguistic Inquiry). He is best known for his study of the Pirahã people and their language in Brazil, a solid empirical base of research which led him to reject a generative view of language in favor of a functionalist approach that sees culture and grammar as intertwined.  Everett is the rare linguist who is deeply familiar with both formal and functional approaches to language, making him an ideal guest for the Columbia School Linguistics Seminar.

We will meet at 5:00 pm for talk in Faculty House at Columbia University. Space is limited, please RSVP to Billur Avlar, by email: ba2342@columbia.edu



On the Role of Culture in the Emergence of Language

In the early days of American anthropology, the field was divided into four main areas of inquiry, all believed to be related: archaeology, cultural anthropology, physical anthropology, and linguistics. This view was pioneered by Franz Boas, Edward Sapir, Ruth Benedict, and Margaret Mead, among many others. This lecture is a continuation of that tradition in the sense that it argues that language and culture share a deeply symbiotic relation – neither is supervenient on nor independent of the other, but both language and culture shape and constrain the other.  I address here the culture-shaping-language side of this relationship and argue that it is not possible to understand either the phonology, the discourse, or the syntax of the Piraha language without simultaneously understanding Piraha culture. This is so, it is argued, because culture is causally implicated in the structures of Piraha grammar from its sound system to its conversations, including its sentential syntax.

Daniel L.  (Dan) Everett  holds a ScD in Linguistics from the Universidade Estadual in Campinas, where he served as professor of linguistics.  He has held appointments at the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Manchester, UK, and Illinois State University. Since 2010 he is the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University in Waltham, MA. Everett   has lived in the Amazonian jungle for nearly eight out of the last thirty years, studying more than a dozen Amazonian languages. He has published more than 100 scientific articles and eight books, including Don’t sleep there are snakes: life and language in the Amazonian jungle and Language: The Cultural Tool. He is currently working on Dark Matter of the Mind for the University of Chicago Press and How Language Began, for W.W. Norton. A documentary about his life and work, The Grammar of Happiness, was released in 2012.


December 11, 2014
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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Columbia University


Faculty House, Columbia University
64 Morningside Dr.
NYC, NY 10027 United States
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