Amazonian Tribe's Language Has No Tenses, Numbers over Five

Anthropologist Pierre Pica has spent ten years studying the Munduruku tribe of the Brazilian Amazon region. Their language has no tenses, plural forms, or numbers greater than five. Pica described life in a society where quantification was largely unnecessary:

To get to the Munduruku, Pica had to wait for some locals to take him to their territory by canoe.

"How long did you wait?" I inquired.

"I waited quite a lot. But don't ask me how many days."

"So, was it a couple of days?" I suggested tentatively. A few seconds passed as he furrowed his brow: "It was about two weeks."

The more I pushed Pica for facts and figures, the more reluctant he was to provide them. "When I come back from Amazonia, I lose sense of time and sense of number, and perhaps sense of space." This inability to give me quantitative data was part of his culture shock. He had spent so long with people who can barely count that he had lost the ability to describe the world in terms of numbers.


The rest of the article describes at length how people understand numbers cross-culturally.

Link via The Presurfer | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

That's very interesting.

For whatever reason, this reminds me of how our brain is hardwired to overestimate angle of inclination, probably so we don't try to climb steep hills.

So, it seems that the ability to count more than 5 isn't particularly important in evolution, but the ability to discourage oneself from climbing steep hills was (yes, I know that's not how evolution works, so no hate mails, mmkay?)
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Jason that's just the point- They don't have a calender or clock- they live in the here and now, with only general non-specified past beyond a few days and general non-specified future beyond a fwe days or just as many seasons. That is specific enough for them.

There is no beginnig, there is no end........
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
They must have an interesting calendar. 5 days in a week, 5 weeks in a month, 5 months in a year, and after 5 years the world ends.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Commenting is closed.





Check out Twaggies' very funny clip:

Give a Man a Fish - Twaggies by Twaggies
Email This Post to a Friend
"Amazonian Tribe's Language Has No Tenses, Numbers over Five"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.

 

Success! Your email has been sent!

close window