LINGUIST List 3.421

Wed 20 May 1992

Disc: Linguists, Human Subjects

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Melody Sutton, Re: 3.405 Languages, citation
  2. Martin Volk, Re: 3.405 Languages
  3. Larry Horn, Words to live (and rock) by [Linguists in the Mass Media
  4. Cook V J, Re: 3.403 Human Subjects
  5. mark, Re: 3.399 Human Subjects

Message 1: Re: 3.405 Languages, citation

Date: Sat, 16 May 92 11:34 PDT
From: Melody Sutton <IZZYHA2MVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.405 Languages, citation

Michael Kac's mathematics analogy is interesting and appropriate. I would
extend it even to mathematicians who can't figure the tip on a dinner bill
without a calculator, and linguists who are only fluent in their native

Unfortunately , this analogy is useless for the many people who
understand neither
field. Like the rest of you, I have had my share of "How many languages
do you speak?" Similarly, as an undergraduate math major, a common
reaction was "Oh, so you're going to be a CPA like your mother?"

Melody Sutton
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Re: 3.405 Languages

Date: Sun, 17 May 92 20:08:43 +0Re: 3.405 Languages
From: Martin Volk <>
Subject: Re: 3.405 Languages

In the context of "Who speaks languages?" let me comment on how one becomes
a linguist.

Michael Kac writes:

> 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.

This might be true for many linguists. I would like to generalize this

It seems to me that many linguists have entered the field because at some
point in their lives they have had trouble with using language or with
communication in general.

This could have been while learning a (first or) second language.
This could have been because of growing up in a multi-language environment
or because of a physical handicap such as stutter. Linguistics then
serves as a (formal) tool to compensate for this deficiency.

I can vividly remember how I struggled with German punctuation rules in 6th
grade and how I felt relieved when I began to understand the structure of
sentences and how this knowledge could be applied to find the correct spot
for commas, etc. This started my interested in linguistics and that is how
I ended up as a (computational) linguist.

I'd be very interested to learn if there is more evidence for my hypothesis.

Martin Volk

* Martin Volk
* University Koblenz-Landau Tel (+49) 261-9119-469
* Institute of Computational Linguistics
* Rheinau 3-4 FAX (+49) 261-37524
* W-5400 Koblenz, Germany		 Email
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 3: Words to live (and rock) by [Linguists in the Mass Media

Date: Tue, 19 May 92 22:58:22 EDWords to live (and rock) by [Linguists in the Mass Media
From: Larry Horn <LHORNYALEVM.bitnet>
Subject: Words to live (and rock) by [Linguists in the Mass Media

In case you missed it, the following excerpts are taken from the current
(April/May 1992) issue of Lingua Franca, p. 5

 We've heard of some unusual career trajectories but our favorite
has to be that of Robert Leonard, who started his professional life as lead
singer of the fifties retread group Sha Na Na (photos show a sullenly handsome
guy in Saran Wrap-tight gold lam'e and a pompadour like a fallen souffl'e) and
ended up--you guessed it--as a theoretical linguist with a specialization in
Swahili...Leonard simply realized he would 'rather be a fifty-year-old
linguistics professor than a fifty-year-old rocker'."

 [And who of us would dispute that sentiment?]

The prosaic data: Bob Leonard's Ph.D. was awarded by Columbia U., thesis
title "The Semantic System of Deixis in Standard Swahili", and he's teaching
at Hofstra U. on Long Island.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 4: Re: 3.403 Human Subjects

Date: Thu, 14 May 92 08:55:27 BSRe: 3.403 Human Subjects
From: Cook V J <>
Subject: Re: 3.403 Human Subjects

I am not clear about the laws outside the UK but surely the problem with
using human subjects speaking is copyright? Unless you have clearance
fronm them use of theri words in an y 'published' form might contravene
their rights. Certaibly authors of 'authetntic' ,aterr/ materials have
faced this issue for soime time.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 5: Re: 3.399 Human Subjects

Date: Mon, 18 May 92 11:58:10 ESRe: 3.399 Human Subjects
From: mark <>
Subject: Re: 3.399 Human Subjects

When our graduate seminar in Linguistics of ASL was preparing to
videotape deaf native signers, at Berkeley in the late seventies,
our "informed consent" forms had to specify what uses we might
eventually make of the tapes and data and request the subjects'
assent to them. One aspect of that experience bears on the
question of adults with low literacy.

We all wrote our own forms. One member of the seminar focused on
the legal and contractual nature of the document and wrote a very
legalese text, in the formal style distinctive of laws and
contracts and incorporating many of the obscure and highly formal
archaisms often noted therein :-). (Example made up from memory:
"... Whereas the party of the first part may at some future time
herein unspecified desire to exhibit such tapes..."). Another
student, keeping in mind the low English skills of many deaf
people, wrote a form that tended to short, conversational
statements and questions ("... I may want to show parts of these
tapes to other linguists so I can tell them about the things I
find out about ASL. Is that OK with you? Please initial:
YES____ or NO____....") The consensus of the group was that the
second style was much preferable. It's perfectly possible to be
precise without being complex or obscure, and a document that your
subject can't understand runs a great risk of obtaining consent
without providing information.

I'm not sure how we handled the issue of subjects unable to
understand even a simple-English form, or whether it came up. We
may have had a certified interpreter explain it to the prospective
subject and discuss it to be sure the subject understood, while
videotaping this whole discussion, and having the interpreter
start by explaining that we WERE taping and getting the subject's
consent to that. This tape would then accompany the signed
(="signatured") consent form.

 Mark A. Mandel
 Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 965-5200
 320 Nevada St. : Newton, Mass. 02160, USA
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue