LINGUIST List 3.255

Mon 16 Mar 1992

FYI: Online Spanish, Hayakawa & Bolinger

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  1. Antonio Moreno-Sandoval, On-Line Spanish Resources
  2. Geoffrey Nunberg, Hayakawa and Bolinger

Message 1: On-Line Spanish Resources

Date: Fri, 13 Mar 92 11:35:11 -0On-Line Spanish Resources
From: Antonio Moreno-Sandoval <morenoaOSCAR.CS.NYU.EDU>
Subject: On-Line Spanish Resources

Prof. Marcos-Marin has asked me for adding this extra information about
the monolingual corpus that is being developed by the Sociedad Estatal
Quinto Centenario: An oral corpus of a million words is now available;
Carmen Restoy is not longer involved in the project; and people
interested should contact Prof. Marcos-Marin BY SNAIL MAIL or FAX.
This is the address:

 Prof. Francisco Marcos-Marin
 Industrias de la Lengua
 Aravaca, 22 bis
 28040 - Madrid, SPAIN

 FAX: +34 -1 535 0129

Regards,
 Antonio Moreno
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Message 2: Hayakawa and Bolinger

Date: Wed, 11 Mar 1992 21:10:52Hayakawa and Bolinger
From: Geoffrey Nunberg <nunbergparc.xerox.com>
Subject: Hayakawa and Bolinger

Several people have written me to ask for a copy of the piece on Dwight
Bolinger and S. I. Hayakawa that ran as one of the language features I do
on the NPR program "Fresh Air." So I'm attaching it here. This aired on
Februrary 4.

Geoff Nunberg

	When former Senator S. I. Hayakawa died last week at 85, the San
Francisco Chronicle described him as "one of the nation's specialists in
semantics and linguistics," and the New York Times called him "a noted
scholar." That's probably overstating things a bit. But it was a life lived
by language, and it took him on a remarkable course. He was an obscure
professor of English in 1941 when he wrote a surprise best-seller called
Language in Action. It was a popularization of the curious theories of the
Polish-born philosopher Alfred Korzybski, who held that misunderstanding
and social pathologies are the results of a uncritical acceptance of the
patterns of "Aristotelean logic" that are implicit in our speech. The book
was not serious scholarship, and Korzybzki's theory of "general semantics"
has remained something of a cult. But Language in Action deserves credit
for awakening a lot of Americans to the insidiousness of totalitarian
propaganda, a decade before Orwell developed the theme in earnest.
	Language in Action taught a healthy skepticism about the mischief
that language could do. But as time went by Hayakawa's mistrust of language
seemed to deepen, to the point where he came to believe that some forms of
speech were too dangerous to be permitted. As president of San Francisco
State University, he came to sudden political prominence during the student
unrest of 1968 when he banned all campus speeches, and the national media
broadcast pictures of him jumping on top of a platform to rip out the wires
of an amplifying system being used at a rally of student strikers. He
became a symbol of hardnosed suppression of campus activism, a reputation
he parlayed into a Senate seat in 1976.
	After he retired from the Sentate in 1982, he devoted himself to a
campaign to make English the official language of the United States. That
was how I met him a couple of years later, when we found ourselves on
opposite sides in a Stanford University debate about the English-only
question. Perhaps he had mellowed by then, but I saw little of his
celebrated feistiness. He was courtly to me and polite even to the angry
students who tried to beard him in the question period. But the
deep suspicion of language remained. He spoke of the need to prohibit
foreign-language billboards and television programs. He warned that
language minorities could become breeding grounds for sedition and
political separatism. He seemed to have lost his earlier faith that people
in a free society would make the right decisions about language for
themselves.
	When Dwight Bolinger died last week just a couple of days before
Hayakawa, the loss was chiefly felt in the small field of linguistics. The
irony here is that Bolinger was the genuine article -- one of the most
distinguished semanticists of the age, with an uncanny ear for the nuances
of words. Of course Bolinger spent most of his life in academic cloisters
like USC and Harvard writing scholarly books and papers. So far as I know,
his only foray into electoral politics was to serve as president of the
Linguistic Society of America and some other professional associations. But
he also believed that language was too important to be left a purely
academic preoccupation. In a wonderful popular book called Language, The
Loaded Weapon, he wrote that the the manipulation of language was "the most
devastating form of social control [of our time]." At times the book sounds
like Hayakawa's Language in Action -- and in fact Bolinger is one of the
few mainstream linguists to have talked seriously about Hayakawa's work. The
difference is that Bolinger never lost faith that the remedy for abuses of
speech was more speech. He wrote that people had to "reassert the public
ownership of language;... [it should] take its place alongside of diet,
traffic safety, and the cost of living as something that everybody thinks
about and talks about."
	I don't know why Bolinger's popular writings never got the wide
audience that Hayakawa's did. It may be that he lacked Hayakawa's gifts as
a controversialist. It would be hard to imagine him interrupting somebody
he disagreed with, much less pulling the plug on them. Nor was he much of a
hand at the keening derision of the pop grammarians. He did the best he
could with civility and good sense, and I suppose he won as large a
readership as he could have reasonably expected. Maybe every age gets the
linguists it deserves.


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