LINGUIST List 3.42

Thu 16 Jan 1992

FYI: Linguistics on the BBC

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  1. , Linguistics on BBC

Message 1: Linguistics on BBC

Date: Wed, 15 Jan 92 23:02:40 ESLinguistics on BBC
From: <>
Subject: Linguistics on BBC

On March 30, BBC is supposed to air on its "Horizons" program a
documentary about the recent activity on so-called "long range"
comparison of languages. I am chagrined to report that the
producer, who I have spoken to about this, intends to presents
only one critic of this kind of work, whereas numerous "long
rangers" on three continents have been filmed. Moreover, the
only criticism that is supposed to be presented (as far as
I could find out, and I did press the point) is by somebody
at Penn who is supposed to be proposing some kind of statistical
argument that some of the "long-range" comparisons could be due
to chance (or something like that). Finally, as far as I can
tell, the show is heavily weighted in favor of those who believe
that they have already succeeded in demonstrating the monogenesis
of the world's languages and even in reconstructing (some of)

Needless to say, I am saddened by this prospect, and am wondering
if anyone out there (esp. linguists in the UK) has any idea how
to try to talk BBC out of this travesty.
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