Daniel Everett had lived in the Amazon jungle for years with the Pirahãs (pronounced pee-da-HANS) and had grown fluent in their language, when his
entire understanding of their culture was overturned by a salad. He had hungered
for some fresh lettuce after a steady diet of fish and wild game, and had asked
the missionary plane to bring him a salad the next time they flew in to drop him
some supplies. As he sat enjoying his greens, a Pirahã man walked by and peered
at his bowl. "Pirahãs don't eat leaves," he said. "This is why you don't speak
our language well. We Pirahãs speak our language well and we don't eat leaves."
Everett was floored by this summary judgment. He'd demonstrated his mastery of their language again and again. And what did his culinary taste have to do with his linguistic skill? When he finally understood what the man was saying...
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