I think we're all familiar with the background. Piraha is said to contradict the principles of universal grammar because it lacks embedding, but embedding and recursion aren't the same thing. Other forms of recursion exist. Does Piraha appear to have any?

  • Can you explain the difference between embedding and recursion? Note that even if Piraha does not exhibit any syntactic recursion -within- single sentences, Everett gave examples where complex 'multiply embedded' concepts can be expressed with multiple sentences, ie, "The man has a dog that killed the cat that ate the rat..." -> "The man has a dog. The dog killed a cat. The cat ate the rat...."
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 15:00

1 Answer 1


I take the word "appear" literally, that is, it's a question about the evidence. Almost all of the publicly available evidence comes from Everett. You can consult the other works on listed Glottolog (please only consult those where it is probable that the author personally worked with speakers of the language); you can also consult Everett's thesis from 1983, which may reveal relevant data not generally discussed. Or you could start with Nevins, Pesetsky & Rodrigues (2009) 'Pirahã exceptionality: a reassessment' in Language 85, which will tell about the interepretation if not the data.

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