LINGUIST List 2.393

Friday, 9 August 1991

Disc: Military Funding of Linguistic Projects

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  1. "Bruce Fraser", Military Money
  2. "Michael Kac", Re: Military Uses of Text and speech

Message 1: Military Money

Date: Mon, 05 Aug 91 16:21:12 EDT
From: "Bruce Fraser" <sed91ln%BUACCA.BU.EDURICEVM1.RICE.EDU>
Subject: Military Money
Back during the 1960/70s, the military was willing to give
money to linguists to have them worry about organization of data
bases, natural language retrieval systems, content analysis, command
and control systems, and the like. As far as I know, linguists were
permitted to work on their research and publish it as they wished and
the military used whatever the results they could as best they could.
Under these conditions, most linguists found nothing untoward about
accepting military money: it was open, the results were available to
all, and the work was scholarly. The attitude then was that the
results might be used in areas not anticipated by the researchers, but
that there was no responsibility to guard against this. I haven't
followed military funding in the past 10 years, but I suspect the
situation hasn't changed. There is a certain irony in the fact that
the success of the MIT Linguistics Department in the early years--both
research funding and graduate student support in and out of MIT--was
directly related to military funding.
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Message 2: Re: Military Uses of Text and speech

Date: Thu, 8 Aug 91 17:15:55 -0500
From: "Michael Kac" <>
Subject: Re: Military Uses of Text and speech
In re Koenraad de Smedt's perplexity as to why DARPA should be funding
research of no obvious military value:
Such support is not unprecedented. In the 1950's and early 60's, both the
Navy and the Air Force supported a lot of basic research -- the latter being
the underwriter, for example, of the UCLA Syntax Project that was ultimately
written up as Partee, Schachter and Stockwell's The Major Syntactic Structuresw
of English. One theory as to why these agencies were supporting research of no
immediate value to them has it that their main purpose was to try to buy the
goodwill of the scientific community. If that was indeed their purpose, the
Vietnam experience would suggest that they didn't succeed.
Michael Kac
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