You may have seen a story in the press about the Amondawa (known to Wikipedia as the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau), who allegedly have (if you read BBC News) no “abstract idea of time,” or (if you’re foolish enough to read the Daily Mail) “no concept of time” (and, for good measure, “nobody has an age”). I was hoping Language Log would do something on the actual story, but fortunately Stan Carey has filled the breach with this excellent post; core point:
One of the authors, Chris Sinha, Professor of Psychology of Language at the University of Portsmouth, anticipates romantic misinterpretations when he stresses that the researchers are “really not saying these are a ‘people without time’ or ‘outside time’”. … What the authors are saying is that the Amondawa do not map time onto space or motion, the way we do in countless everyday metaphorical phrases like in a while, on Tuesday, behind/ahead of schedule, looking forward to, approaching Christmas, etc. There is, the authors say, a widespread assumption that this “linguistic constructional space-time mapping” is universal.
Read the whole thing. And thanks for doing the legwork, Stan!