Dan Everett at TEDxPenn

« previous post | next post »

On Saturday, April 1, the TEDx series comes to the University of Pennsylvania, and the TEDxPenn website explains that the event's thematic phrase "Rise and Run"

is intentionally polysemic—the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase. On the one hand, rise and  run is a reference to the mathematical description of slopes, positive growth, upward trends. On the other hand, rise and run can be interpreted literally, as in the case of someone who is motivated to wake up and do what he/she loves to do… ​

There are 12 strikingly varied speakers, one of whom is Dan Everett, whose topic is listed as "on conversing with the people of the Amazonian Pirahã".

Dan's presentation will probably focus on his experiences as a field linguist and some-time missionary, not on what Geoff Pullum in the Chronicle of Higher Education called "a venomous dispute".

But you can learn about some of the intellectual issues, disputed and otherwise, in this sample of past LLOG posts about Dan and/or the Pirahã:

One, two, many — or 'small size', 'large size', 'cause to come together'? (8/20/2004)
Life without counting throwing (8/22/2004)
The Straight Ones: Dan Everett on the Pirahã (8/26/2004)
On counting and throwing (8/27/2004)
No abstract concepts for them (9/7/2004)
Pica on the Mundurucú (11/1/2004)
Cultural constraints on grammar (3/10/2005)
JP versus FHC+CHF versus PJ versus HCF
Good story, bad headline (5/11/2006)
Parataxis in Pirahã (5/19/2006)
Pirahã channels (5/21/2006)
Fear and loathing on Massachusetts Avenue (11/29/2006)
Dan Everett and the Pirahã in the New Yorker (4/9/2007)
Pirahã color terms (4/13/2007)
Comments on 'The Interpreter' (4/23/2007)
The enveloping Pirahã brouhaha (6/11/2007)
The Pirahã and us (10/6/2007)
Ontological promiscuity v. recursion (2/10/2008)
Typological progress (5/11/2008)
The cognitive technology of number (6/11/2008)
Everett on the Pirahã in The Guardian (11/10/2008)
Kaioá (11/25/2009)



  1. Paul said,

    March 28, 2017 @ 6:09 pm

    Here are some relevant facts about Piraha:


  2. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 28, 2017 @ 7:48 pm

    I would be interested in hearing Everett give a separate talk on "on conversing with Tom Wolfe and then having the peculiar experience of reading about oneself and ones scholarship in psychedelic Wolfean prose."

    One oddity that struck me from the list of other interesting-sounding speakers was the description of Dr. Levin as an "orthopaedic surgeon," as if he were some British dude or Penn were a British host institution. But it appears that Penn's med school has a Britishly-spelled department of "Orthopaedic Surgery" and that more generally this is an area where US-med-school orthography is mixed and Noah Webster has not yet vanquished the opposition. Check out this internally-inconsistent tour of the Ivy League I googled up: "Dr. Theodore Blaine is the Interim Chairman of the Yale University Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation. Before joining Yale Orthopedics in 2011, he practiced for eight years with Columbia Orthopaedics – New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York, and four years with University Orthopedics at Brown University."

  3. Rodger C said,

    March 29, 2017 @ 6:42 am

    IIRC the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons insists on the "ae" spelling, presumably to discourage confusion with foot doctors.

  4. Dan Curtin said,

    March 29, 2017 @ 8:05 am

    Rise over run, dammit! Furthermore, slopes can just as easily be negative. –Curmudgeonly Mathematician.

  5. Mr Punch said,

    March 29, 2017 @ 8:40 am

    Harvard seems to be more flexible – "orthopedic" at Brigham & Women's Hospital, "orthopaedic" across the street at the Beth Israel.

  6. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 29, 2017 @ 9:19 am

    I heard and even taught "rise over run" for many years before I found out that the phrase is supposed to be familiar from carpentry. Probably at least a few of my students knew what I meant better than I did.

  7. Bob Ladd said,

    March 29, 2017 @ 10:30 am

    @Rodger C: Somehow I doubt that people inclined to confuse orthopaedic surgeons with foot doctors are going to be freed from their confusion by the additional A in the spelling….

  8. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 29, 2017 @ 10:36 am

    You'd think it would be easier for non-specialists to verbally muddle podiatric with pediatric, yet Penn (and other brand-name US institutions) seem content to go with pediatric(s) rather than "paediatric(s)."

  9. Rodger C said,

    March 29, 2017 @ 11:13 am

    Well, it wouldn't be the first time a non-solution has been found for a non-problem by some board of stipulation-makers.

  10. John Roth said,

    March 30, 2017 @ 8:57 am

    This is probably not the best occasion to make this comment, but one strikes while the iron is hot, I suppose.

    The Natural Semantic Metalanguage (Wirzebeka and Goddard) posits five semantic primes for numeric concepts, realized in English by senses of the words: one, two, some, all, much/many. I'd wondered for quite some time whether there was something weird about the Pyrahã, but this suggests that Everett is exactly correct: they've never learned to count. Whether there's something deeper going on is an interesting question.

RSS feed for comments on this post