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Hi all!
    These recent threads have been very fascinating!
I just _have_  to get out of lurk-mode, delay real-world
chores and jump right in! (Say, if I doubt all my
real-world obligations hard enough, will they go away?
What's that I hear --- my wife knocking at my door ---
reminding me yet again!!? --- no, I don't think my chores
will go away! :-P  )
    Still, I'll try to stall them long enough to get this out:


On 18 Feb, Henrik Theiling wrote:

<snip>

> I quote: 'After eight months of daily efforts, without ever needing to
> call the Pirahăs to come to class (all meetings were started by them
> with much enthusiasm), the people concluded that they could not learn
> this material and classes were abandoned.  Not one Pirahă learned to
> count to ten in eight months.  None had learned to add 3+1 or even 1+1
> (if regularly reponding '2' to the latter is evidence of learning --
> only occasionally would some get the answer right.  This seemed random
> to us, as indeed similar experiences were shown to be random in
> Gordon's research, see below)'
>
> That's just weird, isn't it.


    Nah! They just needed to be treated by a competent
speech-language-pathologist (Ahem! ;-)  ).
    Seriously, over the years, I've had to teach the concept
of number many times. In fact, I'm currently engaged with
trying to teach numerality to a little girl (who somehow
is in a normal class in school! Needless to say, she's not doing
very well in math!).

    Regarding Everett's findings: he states that Piraha is the
 sole surviving language of the Muron family. Is it known
whether or not any of them had numbers? He doesn't describe
how the Piraha come to be the only hunter-gatherers who lack
the ability to count or to consider amounts. Especially if
other langs in the Muron family did have numbers.
    Another strange thing: he states that they all were
afraid of being cheated in their dealings with traders.
I fail to see how the concept of "cheated" can occur without
any framework to measure what's fair! If they can't count
the bags of nuts one way or another, (ok, it may not be how _we_
do it in our langs, but then using some other [more interesting] :-)  way)
how do they know that this time they might be getting
the same bartered goods for fewer or more sackfuls given over
to the traders. How do they know how much "more" or "less"
they are giving/getting this time as opposed to other times?
    I don't know about hoaxes, but I _have_ read enough accounts
about how tribal people have later been found out to have given
misleading or absolutely wrong answers to "nosey" anthropologists,
especially if their history with outsiders has not been very pleasant!
    Admittedly I only (so far) skimmed the material, but I haven't
seen where he says in what lang he talked to the people.
    Did he ask questions in Portugese and stop there? I read once
(can't remember the source) about an anthropologist who
"went native" with a group of Eskimos, to the point that he went
out in their boats and hunted whales with them. He learned their
lang as an insider, as much as it was possible, was accepted by
the people as one of them. When he later published his findings
about them and their lang, there was no mistaking the authenticity
of what he said.
    Wasn't there also some controversy about how much of Margaret
Meade's (sp?) reporting about teenaged girls in (IIRC) Samoa might
have been "a little less than accurate"?
    This remends me of the professor of anthropology I once
took a course from. This prof, before he decided to finish his
education,  spent most of his life as a "beach bum" hitching rides
on boats to all over the world. Whereas all the other profs would read
the textbook or cite literature about various tribes in various
parts of the world, this prof would always start out by saying:
"Well, when _I_ was there, it was like this...".

    Regarding Gage's unfortunate accident:
back about 30 years ago during my speech-language internship,
I once interviewed a young man who had had his left frontal
lobe surgically removed (IIRC it was only the left one), in order
to resolve some serious medical problem.
He also talked very normally, but had problems
in higher level planning and talking about the future.
    Re: Doubt. Could I trust the medical records as to what was done to him?
Well, all I know is that the part of the skull that had been removed
in order to remove his frontal lobe had been replaced by a steel plate
with the skin grown back over it --- but the whole thing had sunk back to
the level of his remaining brain. It gave him the look of having
one gigantic dent in his forehead! It was a sight that has stayed
with me all these years!

Dan Sulani
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likehsna rtem zuv tikuhnuh auag inuvuz vaka'a.

A word is an awesome thing.