LINGUIST List 11.353

Fri Feb 18 2000

Disc: Re: 11.286 Review of Dixon

Editor for this issue: Andrew Carnie <>


  1. RCLT, Message from R M W Dixon

Message 1: Message from R M W Dixon

Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 16:14:42 +1100
From: RCLT <>
Subject: Message from R M W Dixon

I don't normally mess with e-mail (and am not a subscriber to Linguist
List) but Angus Grieve-Smith's egalitarian review of my book THE RISE AND
FALL OF LANGUAGES was recently brought to my attention.
	It includes the odd comment: 'It is not clear from my interaction with
other linguists that Dixon's "Basic Theory" really exists, or that it can
record everything we need to record'. The second clause is something of a
non sequitur. If basic linguistic theory doesn't exist then plainly it can
record nothing at all! 
 I explain (page 128) 'The term Basic Linguistic Theory has recently come
into use for the fundamental theoretical concepts that underlie all work in
language description and change...' Almost all grammars are written in
terms of BLT - Foley's Yimas, Kimball's Koasati, Evans's Kayardild, among
very many others. BLT has been around for a long time, even though it only
received a name recently. (The term 'capitalism' only came into the
language in 1854 (OED) but capitalism itself goes back a fair while before
 If BLT doesn't exist then neither do the grammars by Foley, Kimball, Evans
and others. Yet these seem rather substantial on my shelves. Maybe they
don't, in effect, exist for the linguists that Grieve-Smith interacts with,
since I rather doubt that they have read them.
	It is said that a worker once approached the great Russian writer
Mayakovski and aggressively said: 'My friends and I don't understand your
poetry'. Mayakovski's reply was straightforward: 'You should choose clever

Siew Peng Condon
Executive Officer
Research Centre for Linguistic Typology
Institute for Advanced Study
La Trobe University
Bundoora Victoria 3083
ph: 	(03) 9467 3128
fax: 	(03) 9467 3053
Director:			Assoc Director:
Prof R.M.W. Dixon		Prof Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald
ph: 9467 3871			ph: 9467 3079
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue