LINGUIST List 2.520

Mon 16 Sep 1991

Disc: Chomskyite

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  1. Geoffrey Russom, Re: 2.505 Queries
  2. Vicki Fromkin, Re: 2.505 Queries
  3. Laurie Bauer, Chomskyan/-ite

Message 1: Re: 2.505 Queries

Date: Sat, 14 Sep 91 11:34:12 EDT
From: Geoffrey Russom <>
Subject: Re: 2.505 Queries
On "Chomskeyan" vs. "Chomskyite" (derogatory). One analogue might be
"Luddite," etc., which has overtones of aggressive fanaticism. Does
"Marxist" share derogatory connotations of "racist" and "sexist," do
you think? The flattering suffix certainly seems to be "(i)an."
Followers of critical theorists and appreciative works on creative
writers use this one very often nowadays: e.g. Derridean (Derrida),
Marivaldian (Marivaux). There is a somewhat pedantic tendency to
take the root back to its underlying or historically antecedent
form when applying this affix: e.g., my name is "Russom" but if I
ever had theoretical disciples they might refer to my style of
metrics as "Russholmian"!
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Message 2: Re: 2.505 Queries

Date: Sat, 14 Sep 91 11:18 PDT
From: Vicki Fromkin <IYO1VAFMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 2.505 Queries
re the NY Times ~[sept 10 article on Brain and Language and reference
to me as Dr. Vicky (sic) Fromkin, a Chomskyite linguist at U.C.L.A. --
I found Michael Kac's query amusing and reminiscent of the days when
Communists called followers of Trotsky's position Trotskyites and the
followers of Trotsky called themselves Trotskyist. Since labels are
unfortunate under the best of circumstances I prefer not to call myself
either one. But the article is correct in suggesting that I do indeed
agree with Chomsky re language as NOT being derivative of more general
cognitive abilities but result of an autonomous, independent neural
basis. It is hard to account for the Christopher case, for example, as
reported on by Neil Smith and discussed in the article, or Laura as
discussed in Jeni Yamada's book with a 'general cognitive ability'
notion of language. (Sounds like the cognitive linguistic debate all
over again.)
I doubt whether Sandra Blakeslee, the writer of the article, was aware of
the -ite/-ist difference. At any rate she wasnot aware of what my
position really is or so the article made it seem since what she says I said
does not really reflect what I said or believe. Incidentally
the diagram of the Damasio memory model on p B5 is really way off also. For
those interested, it is a most interesting model and is concerned with
all aspects of memory. It is also important to realize that the model does
not suggest an isomorphy between the neuronal convergence zones and the
linguistic grammar -- which can be a very complex mapping.
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Message 3: Chomskyan/-ite

Date: Mon, 16 Sep 1991 12:09:47 EDT
From: Laurie Bauer <>
Subject: Chomskyan/-ite
I agree that to me -ite has more pejorative connotations than -an (or -ist or
-er, to broaden the field slightly) (so perhaps we can avoid the British vs.
American debate in this case :-)), but if you look in e.g. 'The Barnhart
Dictionary of New English' or Websters '9000 Words', and in particular consider
the citations, it is hard to tell whether such a feeling is general or whether
you are imposing it yourself. Barnhart, for example, lists Birchite, Naxalite,
Powellite, McLuhanite, Friedmanite, Devlinite, Castroite, Leavisite,
Zinovievite, Zhdanovite, Paisleyite, and while the citations in many of these
entries are compatible with the pejorative reading, the citation for Devlinite
('We must, in the next year, get together, all of us, Paisleyites, Devlinites,
civil rights groups, students, Orangemen, I.R.A. men, the lot...') is not what
you would expect to find if they were being condemned. Perhaps some of these
terms become lexicalised despite their negative overtones? The OED lists no
alternative for Paisleyite. The OED says of modern personal -ite formations
that 'these have a tendency to be depreciatory,being mostly given by opponents,
and seldom acknowledged by those to whom they are applied'. (See at -ite), but
Marchand (1969: 311) demurs (although -- oh no! -- he says it is less
dpreciatory in American English). Perhaps we should just agree with the OED,
and disagree about how strong the tendency is.
Laurie Bauer
Wellington, New Zealand
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