LINGUIST List 3.417

Wed 20 May 1992

Disc: Citations

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Vicki Fromkin, Re: 3.414 Linguists & Linguistics
  2. , Re: 3.413 Citations
  3. Eric Schiller, Re: 3.405 Languages, citation
  4. , Chomsky citations
  5. bert peeters, Chomsky said it...
  6. "John Nerbonne", Re: 3.413 Citations

Message 1: Re: 3.414 Linguists & Linguistics

Date: Sat, 16 May 92 15:02 PDT
From: Vicki Fromkin <IYO1VAFMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.414 Linguists & Linguistics

re citations, prechomsky linguists, john goldsmiths comments and other
such things.

UCLA has been teaching the history of linguistic theory at both the under
grad and graduate level. The last time I taught the course was 1991 --
and surveyed from Greeks through Saussure, and then in more depth
20th c fellows like Sapir, Boaz, Bloomfield (and co.), Pike, Firth,
Troubetzkoy, etc etc. We also teach 20th century phonology and 20th
century theories. Many important books have been published in this area such
as Anderson's splendid book on phonology, Eli Fischer Jurgensen's encyclopedic
volume on phonology etc. Our students are not all that ignorant but
like in other sciences and disciplines students do learn the paradigmatic
theories of their period. While it is good for students to have as ann
assignment the job of analyzing data according to, say, Bloomfield or
Halliday or Sapir or Swadesh or..... this is not crucial for their on going
research. What is crucial is that they know tghe importance of looking at
what has been done to gain insights and so as not to reinvent the buggy whip.

Relating current theory to alternative theory(s) has been going on for
a long time. John, I also published on Firth way back in 1964 (and remember
that the British School was the theme of Terry Langendoen's dissertation)
attempting to show how and why generative phonology could and should incor-
porate some of Firthian system-structure prosodic concepts (my very first
article in Language). And I wrote the paper when I was already a died-in-
the wool generativist.

Incidentally, another interesting point about Chomsky and his contributions
to our field. His Cartesian Linguistics initiated a renewal of interest
in the history of linguistics as the many many excellent volumes now
published attest, including the two series of publications of very early
works. Conrad Koerner has contributed mightily to this and we should all
be grateful for all our historians. But the Chomsky volume did this
to a certain extent because of those who disagreed with his views and
began to publish rebuttals. Which I think illustrates the fact that sometimes
the questions one asks are at least as important as the answers one provides.

I love the quote from Steve Anderson about the need for linguists to
stand on the shoulders not the toes of the giants who came before us.

Sorry to be so wordy. Vicki Fromkin
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Message 2: Re: 3.413 Citations

Date: Mon, 18 May 1992 10:34 PDTRe: 3.413 Citations
From: <>
Subject: Re: 3.413 Citations

Talmy Givon is also someone who is quite a prolific writer yet not
cited as often as Chomsky. I would be good to remember that one reason
for Chomsky's influence in other fields is that he has always published
two kinds of books: one type for linguists (e.g. Barriers), and one type
for a more general audience (e.g. Language and Responsibility). It
would be no surprise if those of us who publish only with linguists in
mind are not influential outside our field.
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Message 3: Re: 3.405 Languages, citation

Date: Mon, 18 May 92 16:45:14 CDRe: 3.405 Languages, citation
From: Eric Schiller <>
Subject: Re: 3.405 Languages, citation

Margaret.E.Winters writes:
"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,

What about Panini? And has anyone noticed how closely Chomsky's
handling of nominative case resembles that of Boethius of Daccia
(fl. 1274). In designing a case theory for autolexical syntax
I have been deeply influenced by both of these scholars, though
I did gain some insights from Fillmore (1968) too.

I think that these fellows had far more useful stuff to say about
case (or Case, or Kase, or Khase - whatever) than most of the GB
literature of the past two decades.

Eric Schiller
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Message 4: Chomsky citations

Date: 19 May 92 8:05
From: <>
Subject: Chomsky citations

 It is curious that someone should have suggested that Chomsky publishes
more than any other linguist. I don't have any statistics to offer, but I'm sure
that there are scores of linguists that publish more than Chomsky (e.g.
Jackendoff, Langacker, Comrie, S. Anderson, Hawkins, Dressler, to mention
just a few prominent names, in addition to Wierzbicka and Swiggers).
 The real difference is of course that not everyone reads (or even notices)
what all these people have to say, but everyone reads everything Chomsky ever
writes -- so the mistaken impression could arise that he actually publishes
more. Even his M.A. thesis became a kind of classic, and his 1992 paper
"A minimalist program for linguistic theory", which doesn't look as if it was
intended for wider circulation, must be around in thousands of copies by now.
 My favorite explanation for this unique situation is that many people see
Chomsky not as one linguist among others, but as a living legend. (Imagine
Marx or Freud were still alive and publishing regularly!)

Martin Haspelmath
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Message 5: Chomsky said it...

Date: Sun, 17 May 92 9:39:08 ESTChomsky said it...
From: bert peeters <>
Subject: Chomsky said it...

> Date: Fri, 15 May 92 10:05:58 EDT
> From: Geoffrey Russom <>
> The view from "intellectual backwaters like Paris" (to
> add another Chomsky citation) seems somewhat restricted geographically.

I'm getting more and more interested in Chomsky's often rather provocative
labels (such as the one above) and statements (such as the one broadcast
recently on sci.lang according to which if something exists in English,
Italian and French/Japanese (2 different versions) it must be universal).
Could anyone provide bibliographic details? Thanks!
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Message 6: Re: 3.413 Citations

Date: Wed, 20 May 92 09:47:52 +0Re: 3.413 Citations
From: "John Nerbonne" <>
Subject: Re: 3.413 Citations

I've been reading the discussion following the announcement that Chomsky is
currently one of the most frequently cited individuals anywhere, ranking near
Shakespeare, Cicero and St.Paul, which is a bit surprising---but I'm even a bit
more surprised at lots of the remarks.

Granted that C's normally quoted without being deeply understood, and often
without even being read, but this has to be true of all the biggies--who reads
Cicero anymore? And how many Aristotle citations betray an understanding of
what's distinctive in his thought? So I suspect the question originally put
(by Alexis Manaster-Ramer) was a bit tongue-in-cheek--why should we suspect that
Chomsky is understood just because he's cited a lot?

I think the answer to why he's cited often is obvious. Chomsky's cited often
because his work--over 40 years--very nearly defines the field of contemporary
linguistics, not only in its scientific ambitions and content; but even in the
way it is viewed as relating to neighboring disciplines (what makes it exciting
and important to nonlinguists); and even, most remarkably, in the way the field
divides into competing theoretical approaches (was the REAL genius in "Remarks"
or "Lectures"?--but this is Fritz Newmeyer's theme). So his work is cited
within linguistics as a base on which to explain one's own ideas, and outside
linguistics, as a representative of what's been defining and exciting in our
field. Chomsky's cited as elegantly arguing for the important of mathematical
foundations, and for concisely showing why they are irrelevant (in different
intellectual contexts, to be sure).

I even think that the undercurrent of animus I detect in some of the replies to
Alexis's question is finally attributable to Chomsky's importance. We as
linguists define our ideas in part via their relation to Chomsky's--and not only
in order to ease their presentation, as suggested above. We do this also
because we find it interesting and valuable to engage the ideas of the most
important thinker in our field, and to dispute them. The recent very
interesting exchange on this list between Helge Dyvik and others on whether
linguistic rules should be viewed as norms was in part interesting because it
turned up holes in the view of linguistics as an essentially psychological
investigation--a view that's certainly inspired a great deal of useful research
(even it turns out ultimately to be less than comprehensive), but a view, again,
which Chomsky has most forcefully advanced.

A metaremark: even if this is the most civilized net-list I've seen, still, it
is a net-list, so I'll anticipate the ad hominem replies lot of us find
ourselves involved in (like this one, yes). So: I've never met Chomsky, do not
work directly in areas involving his current grammatical ideas, and had to go
back 10 papers to find my last citation of Chomsky (two fairly tangential ones
originating with a coauthor).

--John Nerbonne
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