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Blog criado por Bruno Coriolano de Almeida Costa, professor de Língua Inglesa desde 2002. Esse espaço surgiu em 2007 com o objetivo de unir alguns estudiosos e professores desse idioma. Abordamos, de forma rápida e simples, vários aspectos da Língua Inglesa e suas culturas. Agradeço a sua visita.

"Se tivesse perguntado ao cliente o que ele queria, ele teria dito: 'Um cavalo mais rápido!"

domingo, 10 de fevereiro de 2019

Pirahã language: the linguistic anomaly




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Linguists, led by Chomsky, were able to describe human languages with astonishing details. From a handful of thoroughly studied human languages, they were able to devise a theory, i.e. Universal Grammar, which could explain all possible human languages with all their hidden features and peculiarities. Every single language fits in there nicely. They were able to account for all the differences that exist among languages and how they are effortlessly learnt by children of 4. We were able to know more about language than ever before. 

Then came along Pirahã, the language that defies all the logic of modern linguistics, and the snake in Chomsky’s grass. Nothing that has been said about how language operates is found in Pirahã. It’s a sort of a linguistic anomaly that constitutes a counterexample to the basic tenets of Universal Grammar. For starters, it is an isolated language, it has no kinship to any other language, it is not in any recognized language family, it has a drastically different structure than other languages and so it’s so difficult to learn, it makes a fat joke about the difficulty of Mandarin. It stands out as one of the strongest evidence for Linguistic Relativity, which states that the mother tongue determines or influences one’s worldview. But how does this pose any problem at all for  the Universal Grammar paradigm? Maybe we should hear what Daniel Everett, the scholar who first discovered and thoroughly studied this language, said about Pirahã. 

Upon gaining a reasonable understanding of Pirahã and its linguistic features, Everett concluded that "universal grammar doesn't seem to work, there doesn't seem to be much evidence for [it]. And what can we put in its place? A complex interplay of factors, of which culture, the values human beings share, plays a major role in structuring the way that we talk and the things that we talk about." If I may paraphrase Everett, there is no such thing as Universal Grammar. The language presents a problem to current linguistic theories of universal grammar because it allegedly lacks all evidence for recursion, an essential property of human language, including embedded clauses and quantifiers. Other peculiarities of Pirahã according to Wikipedia include:
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"Daniel Everett, over the course of more than two dozen papers and one book about the language, has ascribed various surprising features to the language, including:
  • One of the smallest phoneme inventories of any known language and a correspondingly high degree of allophonic variation, including two very rare sounds, [ɺ͡ɺ̼] and [t͡ʙ̥]. 
  • An extremely limited clause structure, not allowing for nested recursive sentences like "Mary said that John thought that Henry was fired". 
  • No abstract color words other than terms for light and dark (though this is disputed in commentaries by Paul Kay and others on Everett (2005)). 
  • The entire set of personal pronouns appears to have been borrowed from Nheengatu, aTupi-based lingua franca. Although there is no documentation of a prior stage of Pirahã, the close resemblance of the Pirahã pronouns to those of Nheengatu makes this hypothesis plausible. 
  • Pirahã can be whistled, hummed, or encoded in music. In fact, Keren Everett believes that current research on the language misses much of its meaning by paying little attention to the language's prosody. Consonants and vowels may be omitted altogether and the meaning conveyed solely through variations in pitch, stress, and rhythm. She says that mothers teach their children the language through constantly singing the same musical patterns. 
Everett (2005) claims that the Pirahã culture has the simplest known kinship system of any human culture. A single word, baíxi (pronounced [màíʔì]), is used for both mother and father (like English "parent" although Pirahã has no gendered alternative), and they appear not to keep track of relationships any more distant than biological siblings.

According to Everett in 1986, Pirahã has words for 'one' (hói) and 'two' (hoí), distinguished only by tone. In his 2005 analysis, however, Everett claimed that Pirahã has no words for numerals at all, and that hói and hoí actually mean "small quantity" and "larger quantity". Frank et al. (2008) describes two experiments on four Pirahã speakers that were designed to test these two hypotheses. In one, ten batteries were placed on a table one at a time and the Pirahã were asked how many were there. All four speakers answered in accordance with the hypothesis that the language has words for 'one' and 'two' in this experiment, uniformly using hói for one battery, hoí for two batteries, and a mixture of the second word and 'many' for more than two batteries.

The second experiment, however, started with ten batteries on the table, and batteries were subtracted one at a time. In this experiment, one speaker used hói (the word previously supposed to mean 'one') when there were six batteries left, and all four speakers used that word consistently when there were as many as three batteries left. Though Frank and his colleagues do not attempt to explain their subjects' difference in behavior in these two experiments, they conclude that the two words under investigation "are much more likely to be relative or comparative terms like 'few' or 'fewer' than absolute terms like 'one' ".
There is no grammatical distinction between singular and plural, even in pronouns."
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This discovery opened new doors in linguistic research. The developmental psychologist Michael Tomasello, argues that "although many aspects of human linguistic competence have indeed evolved biologically, specific grammatical principles and constructions have not. And universals in the grammatical structure of different languages have come from more general processes and constraints of human cognition, communication, and vocal-auditory processing, operating during the conventionalization and transmission of the particular grammatical constructions of particular linguistic communities."

Some linguists argue that some of the properties of Pirahã have been misanalyzed and that others are actually expected under current theories of universal grammar. These include Pesetsky et all. (2009) who sketched a reply in which they dismantle the argumentation that used Pirahã against universal grammar. Find their paper [here]. However, none of them were able to disprove Everett's argument against universal grammar and Pirahã's lack of recursion. 

The Pirahã discovery received huge popularity in the press and made of it an interesting development in the field of linguistics. For instance, check what The Guardian made of this matter [here].  Same goes for the New Scientist [here]. Chicago Tribune commented that Everett "fired a volley straight at the theory when he reported that the Brazilian tribe he was studying didn’t use recursive [sic]." The Times of London characterized Pirahã's lack of recursion as an 'astonishing find'. 

To get a complete idea about Pirahã and how it rebuts Chomsky's Universal Grammar, you may want to read Everett's own book about it. It's a complete volume titled Language: The Cultural Tool. If you want to read the book find it [here].


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sexta-feira, 28 de setembro de 2018

Is This Smart Drug The Most Powerful Brain Enhancer in the World?




(NBC NEWS) Welcome To The Future -These were the opening words of Dr. Raqif who appeared on The Doctors Show to talk about a highly advanced brain supplement that is sending shock-waves through the medical community.

Major pharmaceutical companies were up in arms after The Doctors referred to it as “Viagra for the Brain”. This ground-breaking pill is called Reviva Brain and many experts believe it could be the most powerful brain enhancer in the world.

It first came into the spotlight about 3 years ago when the creators of the “Limitless” movie cited Reviva Brain as their inspiration for the fictional drug NZT-48. Soon after, it garnered widespread use amongst students, athletes, and business executives.

Specifically, men and women between the ages 18–35 benefited the most as the effects were amplified due to the ingredients’ reaction to a gene called NRXN3 in the human brain.

Reviva Brain, which has no recorded side effects in any clinical trials, was soon the target of several major pharmaceutical companies who claimed it was too powerful to be sold without a prescription. Other critics in academic circles insisted that Reviva Brain provided an artificial edge for its users and was unfair to those who weren’t taking it.

This led to it being banned from quiz shows like Jeopardy! and at many top universities such as Cambridge. Facing legal pressure from Big Pharma, the creators of Reviva Brain were eventually forced to halt production of the Limitless Pills.

Fortunately, after 3 years of litigation and clinical studies showing its safety, the FDA has approved Reviva Brain as one of the first approved cognitive enhancers and the ban was finally lifted. The creators of Reviva Brain are now allowed to resume selling online.

Its reappearance has thrilled users around the world - people who genuinely suffered during its absence. “My ability to think and focus more than doubled when I was able to buy Reviva Brain again. The pill’s return prevented me from dropping out of college,” a premed student told us.



PORTAL DA LÍNGUA INGLESA has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-partly internet websites referred to in this post, and does not guarantee that any context on such websites are, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.
In some instances, I have been unable to trace the owners of the pictures used here; therefore, I would appreciate any information that would enable me to do so. Thank you very much.
Is something important missing? Report an error or suggest an improvement. Please, I strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact me!
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World’s First Flying Car To Go On Sale Next Month


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As if any proof were needed that we now live in the film Blade Runner, from next month you’ll be able to pre-order one of the world’s first flying cars.

Yep, that means that in the not-too-distant future you’ll be able to whizz around the skies, Jetson style, in a vehicle that can transform between a normal (well, as normal as it can be) road car and a flying car in less than a minute.

They’re made by a company called Terrafugia, which belongs to Volvo, and it’s called a Transition. It can fly for up to 400 miles and can reach a top speed of 200mph. That’s pretty quick, by anyone’s standards.

There’s not a definite price on it yet, but you can safely assume that if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford one.

According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, they’ll be taking pre-orders on them starting from October.

So, what can we expect from it?

Well, it’s hybrid electric powered and has all of the normal things you’d expect from a car.

That said, what it does provide that my battered Ford Fiesta doesn’t is a parachute system, fold out wings, and a ‘boost’ mode aimed at giving you a bit of extra oomph when flying.



However, one thing that it does require that my old Fiesta doesn’t is a pilot’s licence.

It’s totally road legal, but you’ll need to be allowed to fly an aeroplane to take this thing off terra firma.

With that in mind, the company that makes it believes it could be of great use to pilots who can fly it to a small airport, then simply fold the wings in and drive it home. That’s an ambitious business model. Niche doesn’t quite cover it.

However, if you are in that small group of pilots who constantly thinks “I wish I didn’t have to get out of my plane to drive home” then this is the vehicle for you.

It can get up to an altitude of around 10,000 feet and weights just 1,300lbs.

After this, there are plans for the TF-X, a four-door version that they claim won’t require an airport for take-off and landing.

They say: “The TF-X won’t require an airport for take-off and landing, and it will drive on all roads and highways – providing the convenience of true door-to-door transportation.”

Chris Jaran, Terrafugia’s CEO, said: “Developing this new technology has allowed us to test several different mechanisms and generate process improvements along the way.

“We are at the critical point where we can implement the best design features based on years of flight and drive testing.

“This will improve function, safety and aesthetics for the optimal flying and driving experience.”

Just wait until one of these falls into the wrong hands.


PORTAL DA LÍNGUA INGLESA has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-partly internet websites referred to in this post, and does not guarantee that any context on such websites are, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.
In some instances, I have been unable to trace the owners of the pictures used here; therefore, I would appreciate any information that would enable me to do so. Thank you very much.
Is something important missing? Report an error or suggest an improvement. Please, I strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact me!
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segunda-feira, 24 de setembro de 2018

Do you readers know what A GUT REACTION means?




HAVE YOU EVER had been through that situation in which you see or read (or even hear) a sentence that you can understand every single word of it, but you cannot understand the whole meaning of what was said? If so, relax, this is supposed to be a normal situation, even though you may feel demotivated at some point. When some words are put together and used figuratively it can be really difficult to work out their meanings. I am talking here about idioms.

The situation described above happen quite often among the English language learners. One of the main reasons for the students to find idioms difficult to understand is due to the nature of the so-called idioms. Moreover, the imaginary situation involved in the idioms may demand more from the language user.

Some idioms have historical and cultural contexts, sound patterns, stories, popular culture, literature and so on and so forth. It is very important to know more than just words and grammar to understand idioms and slang.

For the next months, I will be writing about idioms in the English language in my next entries for this site. In order to do so, I will divide the idioms – with their definitions, examples and the like – into some categories.

Do you readers know what A GUT REACTION means?

A GUT REACTION is an immediate and instinctive response. That is a reaction that one has immediately and strong, without thinking towards something; instinct, intuition.  

EXAMPLE:

·        Her immediate gut reaction was to never write again.

·        I think she will go with her gut reaction.

·        My initial gut reaction was that the merger would result in a drop in stock prices, but the opposite turned out to be true.

·     “I usually follow my gut reaction, because it’s usually right. I don’t think about stuff too much. I just follow my instinct.”

·    Your gut reaction may be that this sounds terrifying or perverse. (Times, Sunday Times, 2012)

·      When cops go round to speak to people they often get a gut reaction, particularly detectives. (The Sun, 2012)

·       'I don't like decisions at the best of times and this is constant decision-making, so it's just having to go with that gut reaction. (The Sun, 2014)

·       Keanu Reeves once said: “I have a gut reaction to the material that I’m dealing with and if there’s something, like, Something’s Gotta Give, when I read this script, I was like, ‘This is one of the best scripts that I’ve ever read, period.’”



Bruno Coriolano de Almeida Costa é professor universitário, com 17 anos de experiência; graduado em Língua Inglesa; especialista em Ensino de Língua Inglesa (Lato sensu); tem certificação TEFL/TESOL e é mestre e doutorando em inglês pelo Programa de Pós-Graduação em Inglês: Estudos Linguísticos e Literários, da UFSC, Florianópolis.


PORTAL DA LÍNGUA INGLESA has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-partly internet websites referred to in this post, and does not guarantee that any context on such websites are, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.
In some instances, I have been unable to trace the owners of the pictures used here; therefore, I would appreciate any information that would enable me to do so. Thank you very much.
Is something important missing? Report an error or suggest an improvement. Please, I strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact me!
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terça-feira, 18 de setembro de 2018

[Conversation] What book changed your perspective on life?



What book changed your perspective on life?




PORTAL DA LÍNGUA INGLESA has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-partly internet websites referred to in this post, and does not guarantee that any context on such websites are, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.
In some instances, I have been unable to trace the owners of the pictures used here; therefore, I would appreciate any information that would enable me to do so. Thank you very much.
Is something important missing? Report an error or suggest an improvement. Please, I strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact me!
Your feedback is welcome. Please direct comments and questions to me at bruno_coriolano@hotmail.com
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