LINGUIST List 3.391

Sat 09 May 1992

Disc: Chomsky, Bloomfield

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Vicki Fromkin, Re: 3.386 Chomsky, MAC Concordance
  2. , 3.386 Chomsky citations
  3. , Chomsky's citations

Message 1: Re: 3.386 Chomsky, MAC Concordance

Date: Wed, 06 May 92 10:56 PDT
From: Vicki Fromkin <IYO1VAFMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.386 Chomsky, MAC Concordance

It seems to me that for whatever reasons, the fact that there are so many
references to Chomsky by non-linguists (let's ignore the linguists for
now) shows that the field is at least recognized as a legitimate
area of intellectual inquiry -- (after all, even Oxford decided a few
years ago that they should have a Professor of Linguistics -- after
a long debate to be sure) This is a cause for exhaltation -- not snyde
remarks or comparisons to Stalin and Mao. And linguists of whatever
stripe or theoretical persuasion should recognize that our newly
recognized status is due to a great extent to the advent of generative
grammar and Chomsky. For various reasons I have met a number of Nobel
laureates over the last ten to fifteen years, and each one on learning
I was a linguist asked "Do you know Noam Chomsky?" and each remarked
at some point that he thought Chomsky was one of the great intellects
in history. A much better response than being asked "How many languages
do you speak?" While that may still be the layperson's view of our
field, it is no longer the view among scientists and academicians across
the board. Vicki Fromkin
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Message 2: 3.386 Chomsky citations

Date: Thu, 7 May 1992 15:30 EST 3.386 Chomsky citations
From: <>
Subject: 3.386 Chomsky citations

This is not as juicy, but to my mind more remarkable. Up until the late
80's, almost every book (not article) on general linguistics seemed to have
a citation for Bloomfield's Language.
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Message 3: Chomsky's citations

Date: Fri, 8 May 1992 11:41:21 PChomsky's citations
From: <>
Subject: Chomsky's citations

Jacques Guy likens the huge number of citations to Chomsky to the ritual
references to Stalin and Mao in the USSR and China respectively. That analogy
strikes me as wholly implausible. Stalin and Mao wielded absolute power in
their respective domains. There is little evidence that anywhere near a
majority of the world's linguists are, in any sense of the term, 'Chomskyan'.
(Consider the Linguist List postings, for example -- they run five-to-one in an
anti-Chomskyan direction.)

If Chomsky is the world's citation champ, it can hardly be because linguists,
psychologists, philosophers, and so on feel pressure to show him allegiance. I
would be willing to bet that the great majority of citations to Chomsky are
attacks on his ideas. These ideas have become so influential (which does not
mean 'accepted') that many scholars, like Jacques Guy, feel the obligation to
cite them in an attempt to show how they are misguided

 --fritz newmeyer

PS: Despite whay Guy writes, Brian Newton's 'Generative Interpretation of
Dialect' was, indeed, a generative interpretation of dialect.
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