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Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle (Vintage Departures) Paperback – Illustrated, November 3, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 598 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


"Absorbing.... Shares its author's best traits: perseverance, insight, humor and humility. Both the Pirahas and their interpreter make splendid company."—The Plain Dealer

"Immensely interesting and deeply moving.... One of the best books I have read."—Lucy Dodwell, New Scientist

"A story of language and faith along the sweeping banks of the Maici River.... Verdict: Read."—Time

"Destined to become a classic of popular enthnography."—The Independent, London

"A genuine and engrossing book that is both sharp and intuitive; it closes around you and reaches inside you, controlling your every thought and movement as you read it.... Impossible to forget."—
Sacramento Book Review

"Three stars.... [A] spiritual adventure story."—People

"A fascinating look into the lives of the Piraha, an Amazonian community of hunter-gatherers."—The Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes makes the rain forest sound like a magic mushroom."—Harper's Magazine

"A riveting account of a Christian missionary 'converted' to the viewpoint of the Amazonian Indians he had intended to evangelize."—The Huntsville Times

"Vivid.... The book is fascinating.... May serve to bring the furor of linguistics and language research to readers who otherwise never catch sight of it."—Science

"In this fascinating and candid account of life with the Pirahã, Everett describes how he learned to speak fluent Pirahã (pausing occasionally to club the snakes that harassed him in his Amazonian "office"). He also explains his discoveries about the language-findings that have kicked off more than one academic brouhaha."--Publishers Weekly (Signature Review)

"Rich account of fieldwork among a tribe of hunter-gatherers in Brazil . . . introduce[s] non-specialists to the fascinating ongoing debate about the origin of languages. . . . Everett's experiences and findings fairly explode from these pages and will reverberate in the minds of readers."—
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"Dan Everett has written an excellent book. First, it is a very powerful autobiographical account of his stay with the Pirahã in the jungles of the Amazon basin. Second, it is a brilliant piece of ethnographical description of life among the Pirahã. And third, and perhaps most important in the long run, his data and his conclusions about the language of the Pirahã run dead counter to the prevailing orthodoxy in linguistics. If he is right, he will permanently change our conception of human language."—John Searle, Slusser Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley

"Dan Everett is the most interesting man I have ever met. This story about his life among the Pirahãs is a fascinating read. His observations and claims about the culture and language of the Pirahãs are astounding. Whether or not all of his hypotheses turn out to be correct, Everett has forced many researchers to reevaluate basic assumptions about the relationship among culture, language and cognition. I strongly recommend the book."—Edward Gibson, Professor of Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

About the Author

Daniel L. Everett is the Chair of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Illinois State University.
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Vintage; Illustrated edition (November 3, 2009)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0307386120
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0274805372
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 10.4 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.15 x 0.63 x 7.96 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 598 ratings

About the author

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Dan Everett (1951) was born in Holtville, California. He worked in the Amazon jungles of Brazil for over 30 years, among more than one dozen different tribal groups. He is best-known for his long-term work on the Pirahã language. He has published more than 100 articles, as well as 13 books on linguistic theory, life in the Amazon, and the description of endangered Amazonian languages. His book, Don't sleep, there are snakes: life and language in the Amazonian jungle (Pantheon), was selected by National Public Radio as one of the best books of 2009 in the US, by Blackwell's bookstores as one of the best of 2009 in the UK , and was an 'editor's choice' of the London Sunday Times. It was also a featured BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. His book, Language: The cultural tool (Pantheon), was a New York Times Editor's Choice .

His book from the University of Chicago Press is: Dark Matter of the Mind: The Culturally Articulated Unconscious. In this book, whose primary audience is intended to be professional cognitive scientists (especially anthropologists and linguists), he develops a theory of tacit knowledge and culture that proposes a model of embodied empiricism.

His next book, How Language Began: The Story of Humanity's Greatest Invention, published by Liveright Publishers (US) and Profile Books (UK), is due out August 2017.

A documentary of his life and work, The Grammar of Happiness, was released worldwide in 2012. It is available through the Smithsonian Channel in the USA. The Grammar of Happiness has now won first prize for Human Sciences at the Jackson Hole Film Festival. It won the Young Europeans Jury Award at the FIPA Film Festival in Biarritz, France. It is a finalist for best science film of 2012 at the Pariscience Film Festival.

A play based on Everett's life, Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes, premiered in London in the spring of 2016. Another piece of performance art based on Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes, was performed in Berlin, also in late spring 2016.

Everett is currently Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

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