Monday, May 23, 2011

People outside time

From The Times of India, 21 May 2011:

Outdated? This Amazonian tribe has no concept of time

London: Researchers have discovered an Amazonian tribe that has no concept of time or dates.

A team from the University of Portsmouth found the tribe, known as Amondawa people, in Brazil where nobody has an age and words like “month” and “year” don’t exist. Chris Sinha, who led the research, said it’s the first time scientists had been able to prove time was not a deeply entrenched universal human concept as previously thought.

“We can now say without doubt there is at least one language and culture which does not have a concept of time as something that can be measured, counted or talked about in the abstract. This doesn’t mean that the Amondawa are ‘people outside time’, but they live in a world of events, rather than seeing events as being embedded in time,” said Sinha.

The researchers spent eight weeks with the Amondawa researching how their language conveys concepts like “next week” or “last year”. They found there were no words for such concepts, only divisions of day and night and rainy and dry seasons. They also found nobody in the community had an age.

Instead, they change their names to reflect their life-stage and position within their society. For example, a little child will give up their name to a newborn sibling and take on a new one, the researchers said.

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