LINGUIST List 2.141

Tuesday, 16 Apr 1991

Disc: "mis-course", Nonstandard, Banned, Bantu, Structuralism

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , re: "mis-course"
  2. John Phillips, Re: Non-Standard Languages, Banned Languages
  3. "Ron W. P. Brasington", Re: Polynesian phonotactics query
  4. Julie Coleman, Banned Languages
  5. Herb Stahlke, Bantu pragmatics
  6. Vicki Fromkin, Re: Structuralism

Message 1: re: "mis-course"

Date: Sat, 13 Apr 91 09:09:09 CST
Subject: re: "mis-course"
 Misunderstandings on the net brought Tom Wachtel to ask (Apr. 8) --
"What are the rules that work in non-net dialog but apparently fail
on the net?"
 Briefly, I suppose, limiting non-net dialog for the present to
face-to-face and print-publication, we might explain as follows:
In face-to-face discussion we have non-verbal cues and opportunities for
customized feedback to keep understanding on the track.
And in writing for print-publication, we have a tradition of careful
rhetorical signals _available_ (if not always used) and vigilance for
clarity. Meanwhile, writing on the net resembles oral conversation
in so many ways that we may let our guard down
(our "guard" being those rhetorical signs, redundancies, and care
that we use in writing -- and revising and polishing! -- language for print.
 However: the net is not the only place where these misunderstandings occur,
as I have been observing recently with regard to a published article of mine.
In the article (in _Hispanic Linguistics_, 1 (1984), 97-114), I make some
(I believe) empirical observations about a phenomenon and, toward the end,
cite some efforts that have been made to explain it. The paragraph in question
is fairly peppered with expressions of tentativeness: "alleged borrowing",
"possible explanation, as suggested by", "interpolated, not documented",
"tempting to speculate--though difficult to confirm", etc.
And yet two commentators, well separated in time and geography,
have chosen to take issue with this "explanatory" material,
as if it had been stated with conviction as a main point of the article.
I don't see this as an isolated instance.
 So apparently something additional is at work here.
I think it may be (please note, I didn't say "is")
that property of the human mind that seeks closure and definiteness.
Specificity is much easier to deal with, consciously or unconsciously,
than "maybe".
 Probably Eric Burdon (1964?) sang in vain "Please don't let me be
 Next question?
Lee Hartman, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, ga5123siucvmb.bitnet
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Message 2: Re: Non-Standard Languages, Banned Languages

Date: Tue, 16 Apr 91 09:14:37 BST
From: John Phillips <>
Subject: Re: Non-Standard Languages, Banned Languages
Re: Teaching/studying non-standard dialects
Dick Hudson asks "Does anyone know of any school system in which speakers
of non-standard dialects are taught about their own non-standard dialect."
1. Swiss schools use and teach both standard high German and the local
variant of Swiss German.
2. The situation is much the same, socially and educationally, in
Wales, though the dialects there are much closer to the literary
language. There is a continuum between broad dialect and literary
Welsh, and teachers' speech, children's essays, etc., are likely
to be part way along this continuum, depending on the subject matter,
and degree of formality.

Re: Banned languages
Michael Kac notes that Irish was once banned in Ireland.
The use of Welsh was restricted for several centuries in Wales.
The Act of Union of 1536, whereby Wales was annexed to England,
declared the government's intention of 'extirpating' the Welsh
language, and barred habitual users of Welsh from holding
public office. The education acts at the end of the last
century continued this policy, specifying compulsory English-
medium education for all Welsh children. The older generation
in Wales still remember being punished if caught speaking
Welsh at school. None of this holds any more of course. Indeed
Welsh now has a limited amount of official status, since the
Welsh Language Act of 1967.

 John Phillips
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Message 3: Re: Polynesian phonotactics query

Date: Tue, 16 Apr 91 11:19:38 BST
From: "Ron W. P. Brasington" <>
Subject: Re: Polynesian phonotactics query
Articles you may find useful are:

Krupa. T. (1971) The phonotactic structure of the morph in Polynesian
languages. Language 47. 668-684.

Chretien, D. (1965) The statistical structure of the Proto-Austronesian
morph. Lingua 14. 243-270.

Ron Brasington,
Department of Linguistic Science,
University of Reading,
Whiteknights, Reading, UK.
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Message 4: Banned Languages

Date: Tue, 16 Apr 91 15:49 GMT
From: Julie Coleman <UDLE036%ASH.CC.KCL.AC.UKpucc.PRINCETON.EDU>
Subject: Banned Languages
Come to think of it my great-uncle (born c1909) used to be beaten at school
for using Irish. His parents were supposed to report him to the teacher if
he used Irish at home.
 Julie Coleman
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Message 5: Bantu pragmatics

Date: Tue, 16 Apr 91 10:09 EST
From: Herb Stahlke <>
Subject: Bantu pragmatics
Someone wrote last week asking about work on pragmatics in Bantu languages, and
I seem to have deleted the message in a fit of digital housecleaning.

We have a candidate, Mulamba Kashama, who successfully defended his
dissertation last week on the topic "Apologizing, Complaining, and
Complimenting in Ciluba, French, and English: Speech Act Performance by
Trilingual Speakers in Zaire." This is an unabashedly functionalist approach
that even uses social sciences experimental design methods. He did a very
nice job of it, both methodologically and pragmatically.

I'm not sure he is one BitNet (it's not automatic here), but I'd be happy to
pass a message on to him.

 Herb Stahlke
 Ball State University
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Message 6: Re: Structuralism

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 91 15:01 PDT
From: Vicki Fromkin <>
Subject: Re: Structuralism
Dear Michael -- "Taxonomy" is not a pejorative term unless it is used
as a term for "theory". D'Abro's "The Rise of the New Physics" has an
exdellent introductory chapter on the development of any science --
observation as first stage, classification as second, and theory as third.

Re empiricism -- Bloomfield as one of many during that period in linguistics
and psychology -- turned against his earlier views (e.g. he states in LANGUAGE
--" in 1914 I based this phase of the exposition on the psychologic system
of Wilhelm Wundt (a mentalist, vaf)" and supplanted this with an anti-mentalist
and mechanistic and empiricist and behaviorist view (transplanting Wundt with
Watson as his psychological mentor). And it is interesting to note the
similarities between the mechanism of Laplace formulated in the early part
of the 19th century and destined to live a few scant years in physics (with
the developments of the theory of relativity and quantum theory) which was resu
rrected by Bloomfield in language. In a recent paper which appears in
THE CHOMSKYAN TURN (Asa Kasher, editor - 1990 - Blackwell) I include a quote
from Laplace and one from Bloomfield. My husband is convinced that LB's
is plagiarized but we know that's not so.

I have my fingers on all this stuff right now because I just finished teaching
a course in the history of linguistics.

Oh yes -- another thing -- evidence to support a theory is not proof in the
sense of a mathematical proof -- and of course there is no such proof in
an empirical science. In addition, and you know all this much better than I
do Michael, a mathematical proof is a deductive procedure not an inductive one.
And therefore should not be seen as a parallel to a discovery procedure. Noone
can deny the importance of rigor -- but that is not the question. VAF

[End Linguist List, Vol. 2, No. 141]
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