Monday, April 27, 2009

Happiness by Empiricism (and no numbers or God)

Daniel Everett: Endangered Languages and Lost Knowledge. There are some quite interesting observations made by Daniel about the Piraha: English has how many verb forms, well it has about 5, sing, sang, sung, singing, sings...Spanish or Portuguese might have 40 different verb forms, well Piraha like many American Indian languages has a very complex verbal system. So Piraha has 16 different suffix that can go with the end of a verb, that gives 2 to the 16th power possible verb forms and that is a lot. That is more than 40. And of those things, 3 suffixes are very important and those tell you how you got your evidence. So every verb has to have on it the source of the evidence, did you hear about it, did you see it with your own eyes, or did you deduce it from the local evidence. So if I say did John go fishing? They can say John went fishing "heai" which means I heard that he did, or they can say John went fishing “sibiga” and that means I deduced that he did, or they can say John went fishing “ha” and that means I saw he went. In some respects they are the ultimate empiricist...

They actually demanded evidence for what I believe and I realized, I could not give it as well as they wanted me to give it. So, this changed my profoundly, but I remember telling them about Jesus one time and they said “So Dan, is Jesus is he brown like us or is he white like you? “I do not know I haven’t seen him.” “What did your dad say? Because your dad must have seen him.” “No, he never saw him.” “Oh what did your friends say who saw him?” “No I do not know anybody who saw him.” “Why are you telling us about him then? Why would you talk about something you do not have evidence for?” But of course we do that all the time.

This is coupled with the fact that they don't have the concept of one, instead there are only relative terms like little amount. They also mention that the Rosetta Project is available on DVD.
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