Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes Book Summary - Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes Book explained in key points
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Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes summary

Daniel Everett

Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle

4.6 (36 ratings)
13 mins

Brief summary

'Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes' by Daniel Everett is a captivating memoir of the author's life among the Pirahã people of the Amazon. It offers insights into the language, culture, and spiritual beliefs of this indigenous group and challenges our understanding of what it means to be human.

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    Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes
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    The Pirahã live in the Amazonian jungle and speak a language unrelated to any other extant language.

    We use language to conceptualize the world as we see it. Imagine not having a word for “worry” because no such notion exists. This is true of the Pirahã (pronounced pee-da-HAN). It’s not that their lives aren’t without hardships, they just conceive of the world differently.

    The Pirahã are hunter-gatherers who live along the Maici River in the Amazonian jungle of northwestern Brazil. The Pirahã language is the last remaining dialect of the Mura language group.

    The Pirahã are monolingual and probably moved to the area after their language developed. We’re confident of this because they use Portuguese loanwords, probably picked up from other tribes, to describe some of the native species of monkeys.

    It’s not an easy life in the jungle – the Pirahã are a tough lot. But they also happen to be among the happiest people you’re likely to meet.

    Anthropologists who have spent time with them were asked to assess them in terms of how much time they spent laughing and smiling compared to other cultures they had encountered. The carefree Pirahã reliably came out on top.

    The worldview of the Pirahã is perhaps best summarized by how they wish each other “good night.”

    They have several ways to say this and one of them is “don’t sleep, there are snakes.” While this is quite a peculiar way of wishing someone sweet dreams, it’s also quite matter-of-fact.

    First of all, poisonous snakes do slither about in the Amazonian jungle, and the Pirahã’s bedtime advice is their way of saying that if you don’t keep your wits about you, you won’t last long. Second, it shows us how they treat sleep; they may not sleep the whole night through, but they certainly don’t lie awake paralyzed by fear, either.

    Late-night conversations can be heard in the open huts, and the night air is regularly punctuated by laughter – a sign of the Pirahãn way of life.

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    What is Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes about?

    Don’t Sleep There Are Snakes (2008) tell us about the unique culture and language of the Pirahã, an indigenous people of the Amazonian jungle who don’t use numbers, have names for colors or bother with small talk. They also laugh and smile more than most other cultures. These blinks explain what languages can tell us about the human experience and, moreover, why we shouldn’t forget how many other cultures and languages besides our own exist around the world.

    Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes Review

    Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes (2008) is an immersive account of linguist Daniel Everett's transformative experience living with the Pirahã tribe in the Amazon Rainforest. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • With fascinating insights into a unique culture, it challenges our assumptions about language, cognition, and the human experience.
    • The book raises thought-provoking questions about the nature of communication, pushing us to rethink our understanding of language and culture.
    • Through and engaging anecdotes, Everett transports readers to a world they've never known and leaves a lasting impression.

    Who should read Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes?

    • Language enthusiasts looking to learn more
    • Anyone who thinks all languages are more or less the same
    • Citizens of the world looking to gain fresh perspectives on other cultures

    About the Author

    Daniel Everett is an American linguist and author who spent four decades living and working among the Pirahã. He is the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University in Massachusetts.

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    Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes FAQs 

    What is the main message of Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes?

    The main message of Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes is to challenge our assumptions about language, culture, and the human experience.

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    The reading time for Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just a few minutes.

    Is Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes is a thought-provoking book that challenges our understanding of language and culture. It's definitely worth a read!

    Who is the author of Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes?

    Daniel Everett is the author of Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes.

    What to read after Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes?

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