LINGUIST List 3.305

Mon 30 Mar 1992

Disc: Antilinguistics, Endangered Languages

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. sf36, Re: Gethin's book
  2. John S. Coleman, Gethin's ANTILINGUISTICS; Reality of Rules
  3. Graeme Hirst, Re: Gethin's "Antilinguistics"
  4. , Endangered languages: Australia

Message 1: Re: Gethin's book

Date: Wed, 25 Mar 92 13:24 EST
From: sf36 <>
Subject: Re: Gethin's book

For those of you looking for Amorey Gethin's book *ANTILINGUISTICS*, here's
some relevant information: It's a 1990 book, published by

Suite 2
108/110 London Road
Oxford OX3 9AW

ISBN 1-871616-00-5.


Stiv Fleishman
Phil. Dept.
Univ. of Maryland, College Park
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Message 2: Gethin's ANTILINGUISTICS; Reality of Rules

Date: Wed, 25 Mar 92 10:59:38 ESGethin's ANTILINGUISTICS; Reality of Rules
From: John S. Coleman <>
Subject: Gethin's ANTILINGUISTICS; Reality of Rules

There is a very good review of Gethin's ANTILINGUISTICS by Geoff Pullum
in one of the 1991 issues of Computational Linguistics.

I like Stephen Fleishman's suggestion that it could be that:
> both the biological entities and
> processes and the formal entities and processes are real, albeit that the
> formal side is real and ideal?
I would suggest that the various aspects of language: biological, mental,
social, ..., and in my view Ideal too are complementary, rather than
contradictory. After all, what is the motivation for attempting to
promote one such aspect as more fundamental or important than the others?
The social level of description seems inappropriate for describing the
physics of speech production, though might be relevant to some kinds of
phonetic variability which is unexplained by physical or psychological
factors. Social constructs such as conversations, languages and promises
don't reduce easily to psychology. And the limitless productivity of
linguistic constructs such as centre-embedding doesn't fit well with a
theory of language which doesn't admit Ideals.

--- John Coleman
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Message 3: Re: Gethin's "Antilinguistics"

Date: Wed, 25 Mar 1992 11:00:30Re: Gethin's "Antilinguistics"
From: Graeme Hirst <>
Subject: Re: Gethin's "Antilinguistics"

See Geoff Pullum's excoriating review in "Computational Linguistics"
last year. (The June 91 issue, I think; sorry, I don't have it
available to check.) The bottom line: Gethin doesn't have the
faintest idea what he's talking about.

\\\\ Graeme Hirst University of Toronto	Computer Science Department
//// / / 416-978-8747
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Message 4: Endangered languages: Australia

Date: Sat, 28 Mar 1992 8:58:20 GEndangered languages: Australia
Subject: Endangered languages: Australia

Thanks to Martin Haspelmath for bringing to my attention the new book
on Endangered Languages, and for raising this very important issue. I
agree that linguists should be trying to place this issue in the public
eye. Here in Australia 200 years of white rule has reduced the number
of Aboriginal languages from over 200 to around 50 at the moment - and
quite a number of these are spoken only by old people. Complete extinction
of these languages in the next couple of generations remains a distinct
possibility, although Aboriginal people are now fighting back strongly
themselves. Recent allocation of funds by the Auustralian Federal Government,
and recognition of a network of Regional Aboriginal Language centres are
sound moves which will help to reverse language shift although the amount
of money allocated is very small and with some of the funds, the chances of
them being being hijacked for other purposes (e.g. English teaching) are

Haspelmath says "we can probably do nothing to stop the extinction of
languages but we can do a lot to document the languages". While documentation
is important I think this view is too pessimistic about the chances of
reversing language shift. However we need to debate the best ways of achieving
this, challenge conventional wisdoms about language maintenance, and exchange
information about strategies that really work. I have a paper accepted for
the Laval International Congress of Linguists on these issues, but I am
uncertain of getting there because of funding problems.

Because physically meeting together is often a problem for people in Australia
because of isolation, both within the country, and from other countries,
other kinds of networks should be set up. For a while I was editing a
_Language Maintenance Newsletter_ as a forum mainly for Australian news,
but including reports from overseas; this has unfortunately folded. I'd
like to revive this or participate in the establishment of something similar.
On the pattern of the network haspelmath describes for Europe, perhaps
something could be set up for the Western Pacific. It could perhaps start
on email and develop into a hardcopy newsletter if the capacity is there.

Patrick McConvell, Anthropology, Northern Territory University, PO Box 40146,
Casuarina, NT O811, Australia
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