LINGUIST List 2.683

Fri 18 Oct 1991

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  1. Anthony Aristar, The LINGUIST List

Message 1: The LINGUIST List

Date: Fri, 18 Oct 91 14:41 MDT
From: Anthony Aristar <>
Subject: The LINGUIST List
Helen and I received the following messages over the last few weeks,
and we thought we'd like to show them to you, and perhaps start a
debate on the issues they raise, and what we could do about
them. We comment on them at the end of this message:
>From IYO1VAFMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU Tue Oct 1 13:56:57 1991
>Date: Tue, 01 Oct 91 08:29 PDT
>From: Vicki Fromkin <IYO1VAFMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
>Is there anyone besides me who is beginning to feel like
>Katherine Hepburn in Philadelphia Story when she said "I'm
>standing here on my own two hands and going crazy" when
>confronted by the LINGUIST messages each time one
>logs on? I find it fascinating that so many people are
>so involved and so willing to share their thoughts and
>information but if this goes on we will have to give up
>teaching, research, social life, eating, drinking
>in order to read LINGUIST. I know of some people who
>are now resigning from the list, and others who just erase
>everything. Just as I can't let a phone ring without
>answering, I find I can't (or hardly ever can)
>not read a message. But this is all getting to be too
>much. I am of course as guilty as anyone but I think we
>need to use a little self control or the LINGUIST NET
>will be counter productive and we will send our poor
>editors into a state of depression. VAF
>Date: 02 Oct 91 11:15:04 EDT
>From: Ron Hofmann <>
>Subject: List split
>Stock splits are supposed to signify successful operations,
>& I think it may be time to consider splitting LINGUIST. Anthony
>& Helen have been doing a wonderful job, but their success breeds
>bigness. I know I would prefer to see several lists, one devoted
>entirely to conferences, an other devoted to jobs announcements,
>plus a general one for everything else. What I am not interested in
>I can simply not subscribe, & my mailbox is less full, & less time to
>delete the unwanted subjects.
>The 'logs' are getting so hefty that I fear some networks (like mine)
>will refuse to carry them soon. LOG9109D was more than 5000 lines long
>(1 week)
>I suspect there are many others who would welcome such a
>split, & it ought to make the work load on Anthony & Helen less: the
>jobs list need not be moderated at all, & maybe the conference list too.
>Maybe Anthony will take a straw vote?
> ...Ron Hofmann
>Date: Mon, 7 Oct 91 21:08:45 CDT
>From: nm1Ra.MsState.Edu (Natalie Maynor)
>Message-Id: <9110080208.AA26330Ra.MsState.Edu>
>I just deleted a huge bunch of LINGUIST messages unread
>because I saw how long the clumps of messages were and realized that I
>just didn't have time to read them tonight (and can't save them until
>tomorrow because of the new mail I'll be getting tomorrow -- when I save
>things, saying to myself "I'll read these tomorrow," they always get
>deleted unread). Is it possible to send shorter "clumps"? Often I see
>interesting-looking topics in the list of messages at the beginning of the
>clump, but I can't take the time to scroll through six messages in
>order to get to number seven. I'm a believer in unmoderated lists
>because the flow of mail is steadier and I can delete single messages unread
>on the basis of subject header. If I'm the only one with this
>attitude, please ignore this note! LINGUIST is an *excellent* list --
>it's just that I find myself deleting it unread 75% of the time.
> --Natalie (
First of all, let us say that we empathize with all of you
who are having trouble with the volume of mail on LINGUIST.
Often even we don't have time to actually read all the
messages, only to skim them, sort them, and send them out.
And, from our personal perspective, this a great irony:
we began LINGUIST with the hope of participating in
stimulating intellectual discussions broader in scope
than those available at home. We didn't realize we
might have to choose between editing such discussions
and reading them.
But, on the positive side, the volume of messages is a
mark of success, one that ALL subscribers should take
credit for. As those of you who read several lists
probably realize, your submissions to LINGUIST are of
very high quality: substantive, well-informed, and
uniformly collegial in tone. We have had no problem at
all with flaming, posing, advertising, speechifying, or
irrelevance. Virtually everything submitted furthers
our primary enterprise, the academic study of language.
But that has meant (1) that virtually all submissions
are posted and (2) the discussion has attracted more and
more subscribers. At present we have about 1500
subscribers and receive 50-70 messages a day.
So we agree: something should be done. But what?
Below we offer our responses to the suggestions we've
received. But these are intended to open the
discussion, not to close it. Let us know what you
1. Breaking up LINGUIST into lists divided by sub
discipline (e.g. phonology, discourse, syntax, etc.):
We believe that this would defeat the main purpose for
which LINGUIST was set up, to initiate genuine cross
talk between linguists in different fields. A comment
made to Anthony when the list was first mooted was
that LINGUIST would surely fail because linguists were
not really interested in talking to people ouside their
own narrow areas. This has decisively been proved
wrong; and, from our point of view, one of the most
heartening facets of the discussion has been the
information-sharing across disciplinary lines.
However, to say that we don't want to break up LINGUIST
into sub-disciplinary lists is not to say that we want
to discourage the formation of other lists focusing on
linguistic sub-fields. Rather, we will do everything we
can to support special-interest lists, if any of you
wish to start one. And perhaps linguistics will
eventually have the kind of situation that exists in the
humanities: i.e., numerous special-interest lists, but
one large list, HUMANIST, on which general questions are
considered and cross-disciplinary discussion conducted.
2. Splitting off from LINGUIST an unmoderated sub-list
devoted to conferences: This is a very good idea (Thank
you, Ron). We do not, however, have the time or the
computing resources at our institutions to set up
another Listserv operation. Is there is anyone out
there who would like to take this on? If so, we will
forward conference postings to you, as well as offer
whatever advice and support we have.
3. Splitting off from LINGUIST an unmoderated sub-list
devoted to jobs: We have been told by other list-owners
that lists specifically aimed at job-postings usually
flounder, because those who subscribe to them have no
jobs to offer, and those who have jobs don't subscribe
to the job-lists. Unless there is some structure which
compels employers to post to the job-list, the job-list
gradually fades away. However, there may be some way
around this problem. (Perhaps combining the job and
conference lists would work?) And, certainly, if anyone
wishes to set up such a list, we will offer any support
we can.
4. Using moderation about submissions (VAF's
suggestion): Loath as we are to curb the free flow of
discussion, perhaps it is time to urge discretion,
particularly about query responses. So far, we've
posted all responses to queries--and, of course, many of
these have sparked discussions of general interest. But
if a query is highly specific, (e.g. personal contacts
in Rumania), or practical (e.g. texts for a course,
bibliography or software suggestions), respondants
should henceforth direct their replies to the sender,
not to the list as a whole. We do, however, urge the
original questioner to summarize all responses with of
general interest (e.g. text suggestions, bibliographies)
and post the summary to the list.
5. A steadier flow of messages: This is a reasonable
suggestion, and we may be better able to implement it
soon. Brian Wallace, a graduate student at Eastern
Michigan U., will soon be working with us 5-hours a week
as an editorial assistant. And the more hands we have
to help with the editing, the more likely we are to be
able to maintain regularity in "publication." The
number of messages, and the need to sandwich editing
into the interstices between other professional demands,
has meant that messages inevitably pile up from time to
time and then get sent out in clumps. However, perhaps
some of the current suggestions--as well as others which
you may yet send us--will help with the problem
underlying message "flooding," i.e., the sheer volume of
Thank you in advance for your suggestions--as well as
for the remarkable support, co-operation, and patience
we have received from you all year. We certainly do not
want this discussion of editorial problems to obscure
the fact that we find editing LINGUIST enormously
rewarding, primarily because of the caliber of LINGUIST
The Moderators
Anthony and Helen
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