Geographical use: the Amondawa tribe in the Amazon forest
The Amondawa tribe was discovered by anthropologists in 1986. In 2011 researchers from the University of Portsmouth and the Federal University of Rondonia in Brazil have begun to analyse the idea of time as it appears in Amondawa language.
the Amondawa recognise events occuring in time, it does not exist as a
separate concept. The Amondawa language has no word for "time", or
indeed of time periods such as "month" or "year". The people do not
refer to their ages, but rather assume different names in different
stages of their lives or as they achieve different status within the
But perhaps most surprising is the team's suggestion that there is no "mapping" between concepts of time passage and movement through space. Ideas such as an event having "passed" or being "well ahead" of another are familiar from many languages, forming the basis of what is known as the "mapping hypothesis".
But in Amondawa, no such constructs exist.
When the Amondawa learn Portuguese - which is happening more all the time - they have no problem acquiring and using these mappings from the language.
The team hypothesises that the lack of the time concept arises from the lack of "time technology" - a calendar system or clocks - and that this in turn may be related to the fact that, like many tribes, their number system is limited in detail.
In other words, while the Amondawa may perceive themselves moving through time and spatial arrangements of events in time, the language may not necessarily reflect it in an obvious way.