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on 27 December 2015
As an anthropological linguist, the hype about this “revolutionary” book encouraged me to buy it. I have always hated the arm-chair “universal grammar” of the Chomskyan variety and always rejected “language as instinct” thesis in favour of “language as a cultural tool” and “language as social semiotic” theses. Some linguists have done excellent work to prove that there are no absolute linguistic universals, but Everett is not one of them. This book is disappointingly basic. Everett’s analysis of the Pirahã syntax is so basic and shallow that one starts doubting his central argument that there is no recursion in Pirahã syntax. There is interesting information about the culture of the Pirahã-speaking community and about the male and female speakers having slightly different phonological systems. But still as a linguist I find the book highly disappointing.
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on 29 August 2016
love it
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on 25 November 2016
Wow!
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on 1 May 2012
This book is incredibly interesting. I'm a linguistics student and it really filled in some of the gaps in my thinking about the possibility of linguistic innateism and the ontogenesis of language.

The tone of the book is very easy to understand and full of anecdotes, yet not dumbed down which is not easy to achieve! Loved this book and have recommended it to lots of my friends.
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on 21 April 2012
This book is quite academic and so could be quite-hard going for people with no background in Lingusitics. However, it is very well written and the author has tried hard to make the subject matter accessible. It presents convincing arguments in favour of language being a cultural tool rather than an innate skill. Overall, it's well-worth ploughing through
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on 19 April 2014
This book has done more to explain my speech problems, mainly due to severe traums to left base of my skull, than all doctors and previous information from all sources.
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on 27 May 2012
Perhaps my expectations were set too high, but "Language: The Cultural Tool" is written in a disappointingly simple way, aimed at people with little understanding of linguistics. The author often digresses and explains basic concepts at great length, while examples of utterances in Pirahã are not sufficiently analysed.

For instance, the example of three Pirahã sentences (?) that were supposed to show that Pirahã sentences are not recursive seems to contradict this very assumption, as each of the units the author considers a separate sentence indicates that the following unit is indirect speech in a different way, as if showing different layers of embedding for the final unit, which could just as well mean that the whole structure either is a sentence or is analogous to one, and that recursion does exist in Pirahã.

The author tries to prove that there is no universal grammar by showing how different (from English) the languages spoken by tribes living in the rainforest are. However, the sentences used as examples are translated literally and their structure is not sufficiently analysed. The author's ignorance of analogy, inability to consistently operate on the same concepts, amazement at morphology that is common in many widely used modern languages and presentation of any differences from English grammar as something very exotic made me very sceptical about the validity of his theories and analysis of the Pirahã language.
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on 29 June 2012
This book was an impulse buy after having seen it in my local Waterstone's. I'm very interested in language and linguistics, but I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this book.

I was pretty disappointed. In this book, Daniel Everett tries to explain... well, I'm not entirely sure what he tries to explain, the book isn't very well structured. The main argument seems to be "Chomsky is wrong" but, thankfully, he doesn't go about this in an aggressive "I'm right you're wrong" manner. His line of argument is that language is the product of culture, and the only reason that every human culture has language is that every human culture needs it; there is no genetic, neural or psychological predisposition for language.

He also tries to illustrate his arguments with many examples, 98% of which come from the Amazonian language Pirahã, which (as we are constantly reminded) Daniel Everett has studied for many years. This gets tiresome after a while, and if I wanted to learn everything about the Pirahã people, I would have bought Everett's other book.

The arguments do occasionally go over my head, and this is perhaps why I didn't enjoy the book as much as I could, and Everett's whole-hearted rejection of Chomskyan principles of universal grammar and linguistic nativism did make me somewhat uncomfortable.

On the whole, this book contained a few interesting nuggets of information, and it may be of help / limited interest to people who are interested in linguistics, but it's not very in depth, it's not structured very well and it's all about the Pirahã, so I wouldn't recommend it to people with anything less than a strong interest in the subject matter.
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on 18 June 2015
Fascinating. Set a few hours aside each time you dip into this!
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on 24 March 2016
Arrived as described.
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