Pirahã Exceptionality: A Reassessment

  title={Pirah{\~a} Exceptionality: A Reassessment},
  author={Andrew Nevins and David Pesetsky and Cilene Rodrigues},
  pages={355 - 404}
Everett (2005) has claimed that the grammar of Pirahã is exceptional in displaying 'inexplicable gaps', that these gaps follow from a cultural principle restricting communication to 'immediate experience', and that this principle has 'severe' consequences for work on universal grammar. We argue against each of these claims. Relying on the available documentation and descriptions of the language, especially the rich material in Everett 1986, 1987b, we argue that many of the exceptional… 

A Pragmatic and Philosophical Examination of Everett’s Claims About Pirahã

This paper discusses Everett’s (Curr Anthropol 46(4):621–646, 2005) claim that Piraha lacks words for the existential and the universal quantifiers. Everett bases his argument on his analysis of the

Recursive misrepresentations: A reply to Levinson (2013)

Levinson 2013 (L13) argues against the idea that ‘recursion, and especially recursive center-embedding, might be the core domain-specific property of language’ (p. 159), citing crosslinguistic

A Corpus Investigation of Syntactic Embedding in Pirahã

An analysis of a novel corpus of natural Pirahã speech that was originally collected by Dan Everett and Steve Sheldon is presented and it is found that the corpus is plausibly consistent with an analysis ofPirahã as a regular language, although this is not the only plausible analysis.

Reporting with clausal embedding and without: Another look at the Pirahã controversy*

This paper explores the relation between the syntax of clausal embedding and the ability to represent what others are saying, thinking etc.. I’m using the Pirahã controversy as a lens through which

The many errors of Vyvyan Evans’ The Language Myth

Abstract Vyvyan Evans’ The Language Myth argues that Chomsky’s program of Universal Grammar (UG) is “completely wrong,” and it has attracted much recent discussion, some of it laudatory. We set out

Syntactic Structures and Recursive Devices: A Legacy of Imprecision

It is shown that there were profound ambiguities surrounding the notion of recursion in the 1950s, and that this was partly due to the fact that influential texts such as Syntactic Structures neglected to define what exactly constituted a recursive device.

Recursive Misrepresentations : a Reply to Levinson

Citing cross-linguistic grammatical data and specific corpus studies, Stephen C. Levinson (Language 89.1, 149-162; henceforth L13) argues against the idea that "recursion, and especially recursive

Experimental Evidence for Complex Syntax in Pirahã

  • Linguistics
  • 2010
The existence of complex clauses in the Amazonian language Pirahã has been controver-sially debated. We present a novel analysis of field data demonstrating the existence of complex clauses in Pirahã.

Theorizing about the Syntax of Human Language

It is argued that the MTS view dissolves the overblown controversy about whether the set of sentences in a human language is always infinite: many languages appear not to employ arbitrarily iterative devices for embedding or coordination, but under an MTS description this does not define them as radically distinct in typological terms.

Pirahã Culture and Grammar: A Response to Some Criticisms

This article responds to criticisms of the proposals of Everett 2005 by Nevins, Pesetsky, and Rodrigues (2009, this issue). It argues that their criticisms are unfounded and that Pirahã grammar and



Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Pirahã

The Pirah language challenges simplistic application of Hocketts nearly universally accepted design features of human language by showing that some of these features (interchangeability,

Nominal Tense in Crosslinguistic Perspective

It is a general assumption in linguistic theory that the categories of tense, aspect, and mood (TAM) are inflectional categories of verbal classes only. In a number of languages around the world,

Evidence for linguistic relativity

1. Preface (by Niemeier, Susanne) 2. Introductory comments (by Lucy, John A.) 3. Part 1. Evidence from Language: Production, Interpretation, and Change 4. Linguistic relativity in speech perception:

Linguistics in the Netherlands, 1996

1. Preface (by Cremers, Crit) 2. List of Contributors 3. Constructions of inalienable possession: The role of inflectional morphology (by Baauw, Sergio) 4. Associative DPs (by Besten, Hans den) 5. On

Binding and filtering

The essays collected in this book result from recent work in trace theory, the starting point being Chomsky's proposals to permit syntax to over-generate profusely and then to provide most of the

Pronoun borrowing

1. Introduction A recurring theme in theoretical discussions of language contact is the question of borrowability—specifically, whether there are any substantive constraints governing the kinds of


nouns such as 'intelligence' more precisely, the absence of those nouns denoting entities "for which existence is debatable, but patently have no obvious stages in the world" (Carlson 1977). This

Syntactic Theory: A Formal Introduction

This second edition of "Syntactic Theory: A Formal Introduction" expands and improves upon a truly unique introductory syntax textbook, focusing on the development of precisely formulated grammars whose empirical predictions can be directly tested.

On Cultural Constraints on Pirahã Grammar

Everett’s contribution (CA 46:621–46) has the merit of shedding new light on the relationship between culture and language. Cultural influence on the human mind has been recognized for a long time,

Dutch syntax: A minimalist approach

It is argued that the functional domain of Dutch sentences includes (at least) agreement projections for subjects and objects (AgrOP), a projection for licensing tense (TP), and projections for licensing 'topics' (TopP) and wh-elements (WhP).