LINGUIST List 3.405

Fri 15 May 1992

Disc: Languages, citation

Editor for this issue: <>


Directory

  1. , Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts
  2. Geoffrey Russom, Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts
  3. "Michael Kac", Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts
  4. Kathleen Hubbard, Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts
  5. , Citations

Message 1: Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts

Date: Wed, 13 May 1992 07:46 ESTRe: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts
From: <MORGANLOYOLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts


I would like to address the issue of "Who speaks languages?"

It seems to me that this is a big problem. While linguists study structures
of various kinds, language teachers study literature, and, if they're lucky,
pedagogy (very few graduate schools offer any theoretical orientation to
teaching to literature students, which is where most college language teachers
come from). Thus many college language teachers must teach without background
(and with resentment, for some) while they research in a different area
entirely. When some linguists teach languages, they teach structures, not
speaking. Thus, when taking an unusually-taught language under the auspices
of a linguistics department, all we did was talk about structure, we never
learned to speak it. Talking about language was thrown out many years ago
as a way to learn to speak!

Neither group, unhappy literature teachers nor structure-happy linguists,
are likely to improve the image of language learning in this country.

Leslie Morgan
MORGANLOYVAX
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts

Date: Wed, 13 May 92 09:11:22 EDRe: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts
From: Geoffrey Russom <EL403015brownvm.brown.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts

The folks concerned with speaking a lot of languages would include
those directing the Mormon missionary effort and those who run the
schools for diplomats (etc.) assigned to a variety of foreign postings.
Such people are very clever at developing language skills in their
students but in part because they are remorselessly practical (i.e.
anti-theoretical). It strikes me that the popularity of language
instruction by the intuitive method may explain in part why knowledge of
grammar (any sort of rudimentary grammar) is no longer very common in the
general population. Lots of people get a dose of English grammar in
middle school, but I wonder if that sort of thing will stick when it
simply seems to tell you (or even to misrepresent) what you know already.
If only seventh-grade grammar teachers could convince their students that
it is interesting to see how systematically you behave without knowing it!
But this is the age at which one's children may raise their voices in
protest if you seem to be lecturing them about an area in which they lay
claim to adult competence....

 -- Rick
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 3: Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts

Date: Wed, 13 May 92 19:52:27 -0Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts
From: "Michael Kac" <kaccs.umn.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts

In answer to Michael Sikillian's query:

I like the analogy between linguists/language and statisticians/data. From
a somewhat different, though related, point of view, here is another that
I think is apt.

Many people must do calculations of various kinds now and again (even given
the mechanical aids we now have). There is a tendency among the laity to re-
gard mathematicians as little more than skilled calculators; but mathema-
ticians are not mere calculators -- rather thay are (to a degree) investi-
gators of the underlying principles of, e.g., the number system (and hence
of the methods of calculation).

One particular respect in which I think the analogy is a good one is this.
Many mathematicians, though not all, are highly adept at calculation. And
many linguists, though not all, are (a) polyglots, and (b) more than routine-
ly adept language learners. And the converse holds as well: there are goiod
calculators who aren't much good at math and there are good language learners
who can't fathom linguistics (I know whereof I speak, believe me!)

I suspect, though I am not sure, that you could take this even further. My
experience suggests that most linguists get interested in the field as the
result of a second language learning experience -- or at least that such an
experience has an important influence on them. And I suspect that it's also
true that many mathematicians developed their interest in the beginning
from thinking about what they were doing when they did addition, subtraction
etc. Since this is advanced as an empirical claim (carefully hedged), data
bearing on it is/are most welcome.

Michael Kac
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 4: Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts

Date: Tue, 12 May 92 16:00:30 -0Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts
From: Kathleen Hubbard <hubbardgarnet.berkeley.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.402 Queries: Language-Speakers, Syntax, Texts

About "who speaks languages": on the one hand I'm just as frustrated as most
linguists with the question "how many languages do you speak", but on the other
hand I think it's vastly incorrect to say "linguists are concerned only with
formalized grammars and symbol systems". The fact that some of us *aren't*
concerned primarily with these issues is why the recent discussion on rules
is for us so baffling. There are still some of us who are concerned with VERY
GOOD DESCRIPTION of languages and Language. Not that writing grammars or
dictionaries will get us grad students jobs...but there are a good number
of us who are both fluent in contemporary theory and comfortable with large
amounts of detailed language data. Sometimes we speak one or more of the
languages we're studying; often we learn *about* the languages such that we
end up with a very different kind of working knowledge than the native speaker
has. Many of us for whom careful data-gathering and analysis is a high
priority can readily translate bits of the languages we work on, but wouldn't
be much good in a conversation. I really feel that the two tasks are
different -- I wouldn't make a very good simultaneous interpreter, and someone
who would probably can't tell you the structural things that I can about the
language in question.

Perhaps this is obvious to the more experienced linguists out there...but
it's been rattling around in my head after a couple of conferences where I
met (1) great theoreticians who control very little data (2) great descrip-
tivists who care very little about recent theoretical developments AND
(3) a healthy number of people, especially grad students, who cared about
both. It seems those in the latter category are trying to be BOTH collectors
of raw data AND statisticians, in the analogy that's been offered. Any
thoughts on this?

Kathleen Hubbard
U.C. Berkeley
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 5: Citations

Date: 12 May 1992, 20:28:47 CST Citations
From: <Margaret.E.Winters.GA3704.at.SIUCVMBtamvm1.tamu.edu>
Subject: Citations

I'd like to thank Mark Durie for bringing up the `mysterious'
silence about linguistic work published before `modern times'.
I think the answer lies in something he said himself - students
are not being told to (or led to) read anything much these days
which dates from before 1981. I am just completing a course in
the history of linguistics where MA students are learning for
the first time about Saussure, Bloomfield, Prague approaches,
all of which might with legitimacy be taken up in so-called
core courses in theory without any reduction in the value of
these core courses.
 Margaret
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue