LINGUIST List 2.90

Saturday, 23 Mar 1991

Disc: Cognitive Linguistics, French

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Vicki Fromkin, Re: Cognitive Linguistics
  2. John Goldsmith, Re: Cognitive Linguistics
  3. , Cognitive/Functional Linguistics
  4. "Daniel L Everett", Apology
  5. "JOHAN ROORYCK", Introduction to French linguistics

Message 1: Re: Cognitive Linguistics

Date: Thu, 21 Mar 91 10:17 PST
From: Vicki Fromkin <>
Subject: Re: Cognitive Linguistics
A couple of perhaps trivial comments. (Have still not gotten around to
sending my really IMPORTANT (hah!) comments on the cognitive/shmognitive

1) Re Popper and testability and aall that stuff. A quote fromquote from
Einstein shows he is no Popperian but I would doubt that anyone questions
his scientific credentials:

 "Science is the attempt to make the chaotic diversity of our sense
experience correspond to a logically uniform system of thought. The
sense experiences are the given subject matter. But the theory that shall
interpret them is mad made...(The aim of science) is the establishing of
principles which are to serve as the starting point of deductions...The scienti
st has to worm these general principles out of nature by perceiving certain
general features which permit precise formulation amidst large complexes
of empirical facts." (Now here's the anti-Popperian part. vf) It may well
happen that clearly formulated principles lead to conclusions which fall
entirely outside the sphere of reality at present accessible to our experience"

And of course the general theory of relativity was one of those theories as
were Maxwell's equations for over 50 years. One accepts a theory as 'true'
(if one is a God's Truth scientist) to the extent that the evidence presented
and the arguments in favor are stronger than an alternative view.

And I believe the arguments in favor of 'modularity' (that is, the view that
language is an independent, autonomous, genetically determined system (or
more correctly the human faculty to acquire and store and use language), not
derivative of some more general non-specific cognition, are stronger than
those which take the 'derivative' view. I strongly urge the doubters to
Books, MIT Press, 1990, which reports on a severely retarded (from birth)
child with little general cognitive ability but highly complex language
ability (which often is meaningless because of her general lack of knowledge
and understanding)as shown by such utterances as:

 "I told a big story and my voice, was kinda low. But it was NOT. It was
just in my regular voice. (creakiness) I had to (keep) my voice an the volume
down. I said, an' ,y an' oh, this other guy tells you a joke". It's a
little sad they have left. An I told the head leader they're not sure if
(they're) gonna set it for, for eight, eight our time which will be as )pauses
abruptly) our time an', the girl arrives where it's one, which is in school
right now."

 Susie Curtiss has also written extensively on the dissociation between
language and other cognitive abilities from birth, due to various neurological
and genetic problems. If anyone is interested in seeing specific localized
lesions sites for language and non language, look at the book by Hanna and
Press 1989.

Finally -- further support for Poser's view that "if you want to take a
strong anti-modular stand, you can't just find that SOME aspects of
language aren't modular and leave it at that... If it turns out that semantics
isn't modiular, that doesn't mean that syntax isn't..." etc. can be found
in an old paper by VA Fromkin and ES Klima, "General and Special Properties
of Language", (1980) in Signed and Spoken Languagew: Biological Constraintson
Linguistic Form. U. Bellugi and M. Studert-Kennedy, Eds. Verlag Chemie.
If anyone wants a copy I will send a reprint. (It's a general paper given
to open on of the Dahlem Conferences which included linguists and a lot of
non-linguists so it is rather unsophisticated linguistically.)

Vicki Fromkin
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Message 2: Re: Cognitive Linguistics

Date: Thu, 21 Mar 91 14:45:41 CST
From: John Goldsmith <>
Subject: Re: Cognitive Linguistics
Perhaps someone who follows Sydney Lamb's publications more closely
than I do can make more precise my recollection -- but Lamb
was publishing on what _he_ called Cognitive Linguistics
by around 1971, perhaps even in the late 1960s.
John Goldsmith
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Message 3: Cognitive/Functional Linguistics

Date: Fri, 22 Mar 91 00:24:34 EST
From: <>
Subject: Cognitive/Functional Linguistics
This will be my LAST contribution on this, promise.

The source of the problem, as I see it, is simply that some
people insist on assuming that one perspective on language,
out of many, is either the only correct one, or at least,
the point of departure that everybody must assume. And this
perspective appears to be some fashionable version of so-
called "generative grammar". This seems to mean that othe
r linguists are entitled to speak only insofar as they address
the issues that arise in this perspective, and non-linguists,
well, we all know about them....

My point is simply that many (indeed most) people who have
done serious work on language have not been linguists and that
most of the latter have never adopted this perspective. Moreover,
even if the numbers were otherwise, people should be free to pursue
whatever lines of research they want, call them what they want
(provided they do not steal existing labels), and, most important
of all, address the issues they think important.

It strikes as bizarre that someone would insist that functionalists,
or cognitive linguists, or whoever, should have to explain locality
principles before they can be taken seriously. Why not instead
try explaining the phenomena that these people do study in terms
of locality principles? Likewise, it is a simple fact that many
linguistic phenomena have either not interested linguists at all
or only after we were told about them by non-linguists. I don't
know the percentages, but I again remind people of Austin, Montague,
etc. And, so long as there are such phenomena and people willing
to study them, I say "Bully for them".

If, as part of the price, I sometimes have to hear something
stupid from a non-linguist, so be it. Have we never heard anything
stupid from a linguist?

I also do not see what people think they can gain by referring to
Popper. First of all, as anyone who has read his book carefully
will note, he himself admitted that falsification does not work.
Second, it is the business of people like Popper who figure what
makes science work; it is not the business of scientists to follow
the theories of philosophers or historians of science. Much as we
do not tell informants what to say, philosophers and historians
of science cannot tell us what to do. They can only learn from
observing us. Third, if, on the other hand, people want to learn
to emulate the natural scientists, then they should study natural
science, not second-hand distillations by philosophers or historians
of natural science. 

Finally, speaking now as a computer scientist, I have to say that
I have never yet heard anybody in that field trying to dismiss the
contributions of linguists (notably Chomsky, Kuroda, and Kuno) to
CS, the way that SOME linguists try to dismiss the contributions of
non-linguists to linguistics. I have also had some contact with
biologists, who have actually learned rather little from linguists
but tend to dwell on that little and are always eager to hear more.
I just wonder why there should be such an asymmetry.
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Message 4: Apology

Date: Thu, 21 Mar 91 08:51:10 -0500
From: "Daniel L Everett" <>
Subject: Apology
After rereading my last posting on functionalism, I realize that it
misrepresents me and is far too harsh. I have learned a great
deal more from the people I mention in that posting than it
might sound and I regularly recommend their writings to others.

I want to apologize to all readers who were offended by that last
posting. Think I better get back to research and stop reading
BBoards for a while.

Dan Everett
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Message 5: Introduction to French linguistics

Date: 22 Mar 91 12:35:00 EST
Subject: Introduction to French linguistics
To Margaret Winters and anyone interested in introductory French linguistics

I thought I had to make my quick observations a little more explicit by
providing more precise references. I already mentioned Albert
Valdman's introduction to French phonology and morphology.
The exact referecne of Annie Delaveau and Francoise Kerleroux' book
is Problemes et exercices de syntaxe francaise (1985), Paris: Armand Colin.
I should stress that the book does not presuppose any technical GB background.
It tries to develop discovery strategies that are common to any type
of formal linguistics. The overall background is GB, of course.
For morphology, there is a book by Claude Germain and Raymond LeBlanc
Introduction a la linguistique generale (1981) Presses de l'Universite
de Montreal. It is an introoduction to classical structuralist morphology
(what they call bloomfieldian), but it can serve as a source for the
introduction to terminology. Sergio Scalise's book Generative Morphology
was published in 1984 with Foris: Dordrecht. For morphology, a recent
book by Danielle Corbin might be useful (1987, 1988), but I cannot
check the references. It is published in Europe though, I think in Germany,
but I am not sure. This is not a handbook, though, but a thorough overview
of morphological derivation processes in French, as I recall it.
The title of Philippe Barbaud's article is Compounding in Romance: X-bar 
structure revisited. 
As for more recent books, I have a vague memory of seeing a copy of
a handbook in French GB syntax at the NELS meeting in Montreal which 
I think was edited or written by Yves Roberge. I hope Canadian linguists
plugged into the network can help me out here. It is very recent (1989, 1990),
but I am not sure it is adapted to an undergraduate curriculum. It might be
graduate level already, as far as I can recall.

For those of uswho do not want to teach formal French linguistics for any
reason, there is the book by Henriette Walter, Le francais dans tous les sens
(1988) Robert Laffont. This is a 'soft' linguistics handbook (I apologize
for the term) which gives an introduction to the history of French
>From Latin to French, the notion of substratum, lexical influences,
the latinization, gallo-romance OldFrench,then an overview of
the dialectal varieties of French and of the varietie of frencg in the world.
and also something on the social varieties of French. The book is not very
deep, but you can gice it as basic reading for an undergraduate class, since
the French is not to difficult, and supplement the information in the book
which is often toot simplistic, with further literature. At Indiana
University, Cathy Pons has developed an undergraduate course with
a bibliography of supplementary readings around this book.

Again I would like to add that Laurie Zaring has developed one semester
syllabi at Indian University
 for respectively syntax, morphology and phonology for
students who have had (the equivalents of) Kenstowicz and Kisseberth
and Radford (1981, 1988).

A last and self serving note: if colleagues have promising and motivated
undergraduate students in French with an interest in French linguistics,
I would like to ask them to ecourage those students to apply for
rgaduate work at Indiana University, since the department of French and Italian
has one of the only full fledged programs in (applied, historical, theoretical)
 French linguistics in the country.

Johan Rooryck
Department of French and Italian
642 Ballantine Hall
Bloomington IN 47405
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