CA asserts, for example, that the embedded clauses amply documented and described in the earlier work are not actually embedded clauses, but offers no account or even acknowledgment of the numerous facts that argue in favor of the old view over the new. Similarly, CA offers as an argument for the new view the absence of long-distance wh-movement, but offers no new account of the data that in earlier work motivated the claim that Pirahã has no overt wh-movement of any kind. Likewise, as we have seen, CA asserts that Pirahã lacks quantifiers, but offers no coherent evidence against the proposal that the words described as quantifiers in the earlier work were described wrongly. In section 5, we have suggested that the situation is little better with respect to CA's discussion of Pirahã culture. CA simply asserts that Pirahã grammar has properties that, if true, would place it outside the pale of grammar and culture as we know it and would demand a special explanation for Pirahã's seeming uniqueness.Everett replies in "Cultural Constraints on Grammar in PIRAHÃ: A Reply to Nevins, Pesetsky, and Rodrigues (2007). He protests their efforts to provide comprehensible glosses for his 2005 sentences, objecting that considerations like what "the best free translation, the least exotic translation" is are irrelevant to the final analysis, which should rely solely on the truth conditions for the word's use, and that in any event "armchair linguists who wouldn't be able to pronounce a single Pirahã word" are in no position to give such glosses. Glosses like "cloth arm" are superior to glosses like "hammock" (which is what the compound in question means), because they help inform the reader about the complexity of Pirahã morphology. He also offers some interesting evidence on why he now analyses what he had previously termed a "nominaliser" (and had glossed as such in 2005) as a marker of old information. His core objection seems to be that such efforts as Nevins et al's are bound to fail because not all languages "translate fairly well into one another", and in particular, Piraha cannot be translated well into English; the comprehensible translations they propose don't have the same truth conditions, and the "literal" "translations" (yes, I think that was worth two pairs of scare quotes) that he sometimes gives (eg Everett 2005:624: “Smallness of cans remaining associated was in the gut of the canoe”; what would the truth conditions for something being "in the gut of the canoe" be, I wonder?) don't exoticise the language so much as attempt to render its genuine exoticism into English.
The debate looks like an argument about where the burden of proof lies: for example, does Everett need to provide more than two examples of how the truth conditions of Piraha "ba´aiso" differ from those of English "whole" (supposedly; the anaconda skin example works just fine for me in English, presumably implying that my word "whole" does not in fact mean the same as Everett's word "whole"), or do his critics need to go learn Piraha before they can question his claims about the meaning of "ba´aiso"? Are his critics justified in assuming that, in the absence of contrary published evidence, a given Piraha structure will have a familiar counterpart? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Incidentally, Everett's response provides another interesting example of differing truth conditions for a sentence in English. In his idiolect, apparently, the fact that, when outsiders come,
"They say hello and the Pirahãs say hello back. They ask if there are any fish and the Pirahãs say that there are fish or are not fish. Many Pirahãs can communicate at a rudimentary level in Portuguese. But they lose the gist of conversations very easily and often after someone has left they ask me to interpret... The best speakers of Portuguese among the Pirahãs speak it about as well as I do French. I can say a few things and find a bathroom, but I am not ready for any conversation of any depth at all."is so perfectly compatible with all Piraha being "monolingual" that he can actually offer it as evidence for the claim.