LINGUIST List 13.2246

Mon Sep 9 2002

Qs: Psychophonetics, Re NY Times Article

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>

We'd like to remind readers that the responses to queries are usually best posted to the individual asking the question. That individual is then strongly encouraged to post a summary to the list. This policy was instituted to help control the huge volume of mail on LINGUIST; so we would appreciate your cooperating with it whenever it seems appropriate. In addition to posting a summary, we'd like to remind people that it is usually a good idea to personally thank those individuals who have taken the trouble to respond to the query.


  1. Val Belianine, Psychophonetics survey
  2. Christina Tortora, Rosenthal's NY Times "On Language" piece

Message 1: Psychophonetics survey

Date: Sat, 07 Sep 2002 07:38:28 +0000
From: Val Belianine <>
Subject: Psychophonetics survey

Dear Linguists,

I know all pros and contras against sound symbolism. But there is
something you can not doubt. All English sounds may be pleasant or
unpleasant, round or sharp, cold or hot. I am using Semantic
Differential to prove this theory of phonosemantics. I kindly invite
you to participate in the project SoundLetter. Your some 20 minutes of
time will make the new history of phonosemantics happen. Please go to

Thank you. 

Val Belianine, Ph.D. 
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Rosenthal's NY Times "On Language" piece

Date: Wed, 04 Sep 2002 10:03:01 +0000
From: Christina Tortora <>
Subject: Rosenthal's NY Times "On Language" piece

A short survey:

If anyone has
(a) read, and
(b) written a response to the "On Language" piece ("Corpus
Linguistics") by John Rosenthal, published in the August 18th issue of
the Sunday NY Times Magazine, would you be so kind as to let me know?
I am collecting data to see how many letters by linguists were ignored
by the Times. 
Please respond directly to: 

Thanks very much.

(In case you haven't read the Rosenthal piece):
It opens:

"Linguists can generally be divided into two groups: prescriptivists,
or those who hold that language is governed by fixed rules of grammar,
and descriptivists, or those who believe that patterns of actual usage
reflect the way the language is used." 

No response letters from any linguists pointing out the inaccuracy and
incoherence of Rosenthal's opening were published by the Times (two
response letters were publishedin the Sunday Sept. 1 issue of the
Magazine; the first is a neutral discussion of the use of 'whom' and
the second is a predictable incoherent rant about how barbarians don't
know the difference between nominative and accusative). I'm sure many
of us normally choose to ignore the "On Language" column, because it
is so consistently pointless and uninformed. The problem with the
opener of Rosenthal's piece is that it "informs" the reader of what it
is we do. We already suffer enough from the general public's
misunderstanding of our profession, without the Times' help. This is
why I find it hard to believe that no one wrote a letter; it's more
likely the Times chose not to publish any.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue