LINGUIST List 11.1908

Mon Sep 11 2000

Disc: New: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Lotfi, New Discussion: Is our linguistics 'thing'uistics?

Message 1: New Discussion: Is our linguistics 'thing'uistics?

Date: 9 Sep 2000 16:01:48 EDT
From: Lotfi <>
Subject: New Discussion: Is our linguistics 'thing'uistics?

Dear Linguists,
Indo-European languages are known to have a strong tendency to
nominalise: the speakers of such languages hunt for 'things' in
their roundabout. Then people catch 'a cold' (they don't simply
'cold' as they cough or sneeze). You don't 'camera'. Instead,
you take 'a picture' by 'your camera'. And right now, you are
reading your messages on LINGUIST. They're not 'LINGUISTing you',
nor you 'LINGUISTing' anything or anyone. Linguistic determinism
presumably wants us to approach such a tendency as a part of our
world view: nouns are typically more permanent and less dynamic
than verbs. Then a nominalising language encourages one to view
the world as more static and less transient than what it actually
Within the field of linguistics, we've been looking for an
explanation/description of 'language' (something out there, or
something (again 'something') inside). Even those conversationalists
among us are still more concerned with 'speech' rather than
'speaking'. If linguistics were born in a less 'noun-dominated
culture'(advocates of the doctrine of linguistic determinism assure
us there are some), how different would our theories of language be?
Is it ever possible to have a 'verb-dominated' theory/science of
language? (Just imagine how different it would be if one could
translate a linguistic notion, say 'word', into a less nominalised
language: perhaps 'sounds' word together in order to mean. Or perhaps
the concept 'word' itself is culturally biased as we expect words to
refer to 'things' outside!) More generally, is our linguistics today
a 'nominalised' science of language? Are ALL linguistic 'things'
necessarily 'things'? Does it make any sense to have a less nominal-
ised science of language? If yes, is science universal or culture-
bound? If no, does it mean some cultures are more 'science-compatible'
than others?
Best regards,
Ahmad R. Lotfi,
Chair of English Department
Azad University at Khorasgan.
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