From fieldwork to linguistic theory: A tribute to Dan Everett

We had a workshop celebrating the career of Dan Everett, in the Singleton Auditorium, Brain & Cognitive Sciences Department, (43 Vassar Street, Cambridge MA 02139). MIT, June 8, 2023, 9am-6pm

All the recordings from the event can be found here

In National Geographic’s much-reviewed and discussed 2023 documentary “The Mission,” I am one of the main characters. It was an honor and a pleasure to be a part of this film, appearing at premieres in Telluride, Hollywood, and Hot Springs. The film is about the death of would-be missionary John Chau among the Sentinelese. I express my disapproval of missionary work and supernatural beliefs. But since I once was a missionary and once held those beliefs myself, I am careful not to condemn Chau’s motives, only his actions. I make it clear, as the last voice in the film, that if the Sentinelese do not desire contact with the outside world, we must respect that.

In Kino Lorber’s film, I am included as the subject of Tom Wolfe’s last book, Kingdom of Speech, and I express my admiration for Tom and his concern with the facts and his desire to take down phonies (as he saw them).

Some of Dan’s Important Work


  • Everett, D. L. (1986). Pirahã. Handbook of Amazonian languages, pp. 211-326. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Everett, D. (2005). Cultural constraints on grammar and cognition in Pirahã: Another look at the design features of human language. Current anthropology, 46(4), 621-646.
  • Everett, D. L. (2012). Language: The cultural tool. Vintage.
  • Everett, D. L. (2017). Dark matter of the mind: the culturally articulated unconscious. University of Chicago Press.
  • Everett, D. L. (to appear). Lessons From Peirce: On the Philosophy and Practice of Linguistics, Oxford University Press.


  • Everett, D., & Everett, K. (1984). On the relevance of syllable onsets to stress placement. Linguistic Inquiry, 705-711.
  • The onset-sensitive stress system of Piraha and Banawa; and the largest system of syllable weights known at the time
  • Everett, D. L. (1988). On metrical constituent structure in Pirahã phonology. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 6(2), 207-246.
  • Ternary branching in Pirahã phonology (at a time when most phonologists claimed that all phonological branching was binary)


  • Everett, D. L. (2005). Periphrastic pronouns in Wari’. International journal of American linguistics, 71(3), 303-326.
  • Periphrasis as a productive pronoun formation pattern in Wari; and Wari is a language without personal pronouns


  • Everett, D. L. (1996). Oro Win and Chapakuran: evidence for Greenberg’s Arawan-Chapakuran connection?’. Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas.
  • Working with native speakers, Everett identified Oro Win as a distinct language in the Tchapakuran family


  • Everett, D. (2010). Don’t sleep, there are snakes: Life and language in the Amazonian jungle. Random House.
  • Everett, D. (2017). How language began: The story of humanity’s greatest invention. Liveright-W.W. Norton.