FromÃ‚Â Celeste Biever’s “Language may shape human thought” (New Scientist: 19 August 2004):
Language may shape human thought Ã¢â‚¬â€œ suggests a counting study in a Brazilian tribe whose language does not define numbers above two.
Hunter-gatherers from the PirahÃƒÂ£ tribe, whose language only contains words for the numbers one and two, were unable to reliably tell the difference between four objects placed in a row and five in the same configuration, revealed the study.Ã‚Â
For one, two and three objects, members of the tribe consistently matched GordonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pile correctly. But for four and five and up to ten, they could only match it approximately, deviating more from the correct number as the row got longer.
The PirahÃƒÂ£ also failed to remember whether a box they had been shown seconds ago had four or five fish drawn on the top. When GordonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s colleagues tapped on the floor three times, the PirahÃƒÂ£ were able to imitate this precisely, but failed to mimic strings of four or five taps.