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WIREs Cogn Sci
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What does Pirahã grammar have to teach us about human language and the mind?

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Abstract Pirahã is a language isolate of the Brazilian Amazon. Among the lessons it has to teach us about human language and the mind, two are highlighted here. The first is that recursion is not a necessary condition for human syntax, because there is no evidence for recursive sentential syntax in the language. This is a stark counterexample to the claims of Chomsky and others. The second lesson is that the influence of culture on Pirahã grammar, coupled with much established and newer research, indicates that the idea of an innate, universal grammar has little if any role to play in our understanding of the nature, origins, and use of human language. WIREs Cogn Sci 2012 doi: 10.1002/wcs.1195 This article is categorized under: Linguistics > Linguistic Theory

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