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Dean Discusses His Life-Changing Journey from Christian Missionary to Controversial Linguist

Academics

Dean Discusses His Life-Changing Journey from Christian Missionary to Controversial Linguist

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Research, News

Bentley University Dean of Arts and Sciences Daniel Everett discussed the documentary of his life living among the Pirahã people of Brazil in what began as a Christian mission and grew into an in-depth study of the tribe’s singular language and culture in which there is no God.

The film, Grammar of Happiness, was featured in The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science Film Showcase on February 13, 2013, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Boston. The program features clips and commentary by award-winning filmmakers and scientists from the 2012 Jackson Hole Science Media Awards.

Starting as a Christian missionary, Everett dedicated seven years over the course of three decades to living among the Pirahã people of Brazil. His research and conclusions of their singular language and culture -- which includes no words for numbers or colors, no sense of the distant past, no concern for the future and no need for God -- have challenged some conventional wisdom in modern linguistics.

The film aired worldwide in the 2012. It is a production of Essential Media and Entertainment, produced, co-directed and co-written by Michael O'Neill; co-produced by Pedro Novaes; and co-directed and shot by Randall Wood for broadcasters Smithsonian Networks, ABC Australia and Arte France. It won the prestigious Young European Jury Award at the FIPA festival in Biarritz, France in 2012 and was a finalist at the Pariscience Film Festival at the Paris Museum of Natural History in 2012.

About Daniel Everett: In addition to 14 years in university administration, Everett is an extraordinarily accomplished scholar, with much of his research centering on the study of the Pirahã people. He has published over 100 articles and 11 books. Slated for release this year, Shaping the Future of Business Education: Relevance, Rigor, and Life Preparation presents a best practice model of undergraduate business education that combines the intellectual power and uniqueness of a business education infused with a deeper understanding of arts and sciences. Recently released books include Language: The Cultural Tool, published by Pantheon Books, and Linguistic Fieldwork: A Student Guide, a textbook published by Cambridge University Press. His 2008 book, Don’t Sleep There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle, is published in six languages. Profiles about his research have been published in The New Yorker, New Scientist, GEO Magazine, Gehirn & Geist, Scientific American Mind and Science News.

Please click here to see a trailer for the documentary Grammar of Happiness.

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