LINGUIST List 11.2130

Tue Oct 3 2000

Disc: Book Reviews and Their Purpose

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Andrew Carnie, RE: Disc: Book Reviews & Discussions
  2. jose luis guijarro, RE: 11.2101, Disc: New: Book Reviews and Their Purpose
  3. Jerry Packard, Book Reviews and Their Purpose

Message 1: RE: Disc: Book Reviews & Discussions

Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 00:38:17 -0400 (EDT)
From: Andrew Carnie <>
Subject: RE: Disc: Book Reviews & Discussions

Dear All,

I thought I'd better pipe in about the LINGUIST lists official line
on book discussions.

As Ron Sheen noted, we strongly encourage discussion (including 
book authors if they so desire and their response is appropriate), 
of reviews. We do this because we feel the electronic medium allows
us to provide a service that print sources cannot. We try to further
discussion by getting multiple reviews of the same books.

This said, readers should know that book reviews and subsequent discussions
are treated somewhat differently than other messages to the list. 
All issues to the list are moderated, but we pay careful attention to 
reviews, and book discussions. The reasons for this should be clear:
An author's tenure, promotion, job or future publication prospects can
be affected by the positive or negative response to their book. For this
reason, reviews are more heavily moderated and edited than other 
parts of the list. (This of course does *not* mean that all reviews
are positive! We frequently publish negative reviews. It simply means
we are more careful about it)

Geoff Sampson's comments are well taken. However, as many book authors
can attest, I have frequently rejected responses to reviews that
are too heated, and have either insisted they rewrite them, or reject
them outright. So, it should be known that there are some safeguards
in place (although not as many as in a print journal). Admittedly,
this means relying on either my judgment or that of my co-moderators and
our editors. We, being human, occasionally make mistakes and due to the
instantaneous nature of this medium, they are generally ones we can't
fix. Nonetheless, looking back at the past two years worth of discussions
about reviews, the few discussions we've had have been for the most
part, insightful and further the discipline.

Since I am addressing the list, I would like to publically thank all the
Authors who suggest our list to their publishers, to the publishers,
volunteeer reviewers and discussants. We greatly appreciate having this
as part of LINGUIST.

If you decide to buy a book reviewed on the linguist list, please
let the publisher know that you saw it here!

Andrew Carnie,
Review Editor & Moderator,
Asst. Prof. 
Dept of Linguistics
University of Arizona.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: RE: 11.2101, Disc: New: Book Reviews and Their Purpose

Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 21:26:16 +0200
From: jose luis guijarro <>
Subject: RE: 11.2101, Disc: New: Book Reviews and Their Purpose

Hola, buenas!

Ron Shien thinks that authors and editors should be willing to discuss the
ideas they put in their work in public debates. And he think it's a pity
that they refuse to do so.

I, for one, have always been astonished at the sudden contagious power of a
non fundamented idea that somehow begins to circulate at the right time. It
is a very interesting process akin to that of epidemiology (see Dan Sperber
for a full treatment of the phenomenon ). If Ron's wishes (and mine!) would be
fulfilled, this would indeed prevent not well documented ideas to expand and
become contagious myths that are very hard to eradicate (like, say, the
"communicative approach" to second language teaching and its descendants).
This sort of debate could act as a vaccin, more or less...

However, G. Sampson belives that this move is better not attempted. At first
I thought I would jump in just anger at his reluctance, but the reasons he
gives strike me as very VERY plausible and not particularly undesirable. He
is quite right, for instance, in believing that the passion we sometimes put
in debates (that after all do not question long and difficult work) would
centuplicate if ever some unknown correspondent would "dare" to question our
very hard achieved conclusions, fundamented or not. After all, we are just
human beings!

So, in this debate, I wish things were as Ron wishes them to be, although I
understand that they cannot be like that, unless we become angelical
scientists. But that would be a boring situation, would it not?


Jose Luis Guijarro Morales
Facultad de Filosofia y Letras
Avda. Gomez Ulla, 1
11003 Cadiz (Espa´┐Ża)
Tel. +34 956 015526
Fax. +34 956 015501
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 3: Book Reviews and Their Purpose

Date: Tue, 03 Oct 2000 13:53:23 -0500
From: Jerry Packard <>
Subject: Book Reviews and Their Purpose

I disagree with Sheen and Mukherjee and agree with Sampson on the issue of
whether critical book reviewers have a right to expect a response from the
author. I feel authors should feel themselves to be under no obligation to
respond to criticisms of their works. In producing the work the author has
made his or her position known, and if there is danger of misinterpretation
or if the author feels like defending a certain point, he or she is
certainly free and encouraged to respond, but need not feel compelled to do
so. The problem cited by Sheen of the potential spreading of myth and
blight is addressed by the appearance of the critical review itself, the
validity of which enlightened readers are able to judge for themselves. In
some cases, the criticism may so far off the mark as to not merit a
response. Also, the number of points that could be criticized in a book can
be huge, and the amount of traffic generated by such discussions can be
enormous. In these cases responding to criticisms can become a full-time
job. I much prefer leaving the option to respond to the discretion of the

Jerry Packard
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Jerome L. Packard
Professor and Head		
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
University of Illinois		
2090-A Foreign Languages Building
707 South Mathews Avenue	
Urbana, IL 61801		
Phone: (217) 333-7057
Fax: (217) 244-4010
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue