LINGUIST List 3.495

Mon 15 Jun 1992

Disc: Linguistics in trouble?

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  1. "Gilbert Harman", Princeton linguistics
  2. , Re: 3.490 Linguistics in trouble?
  3. Ron Smyth, Re: 3.487 New linguistics dept.
  4. "J. Jenkins and W. Strange 813 778 9357DLNAOAACFRVM.BITNET, 3.491 Linguistics in trouble?
  5. Akbar 'n' Jeff, Why we became linguists

Message 1: Princeton linguistics

Date: Sun, 14 Jun 92 16:01:20 EDPrinceton linguistics
From: "Gilbert Harman" <ghhPrinceton.EDU>
Subject: Princeton linguistics

This is just to make a slight correction to David Pesetsky's
remark: "In the US, in the past few years, new departments
and graduate programs have been created at Rutgers, UC
Irvine, UC Santa Cruz, Princeton, to name only the ones I
can think of at the moment."

We don't yet have a Linguistics Department at Princeton, nor
do we offer a Ph. D. in Linguistics. We do have a
Linguistics "Program," with faculty including R. Freidin
(Head), E. Williams, M. A. Browning, S. Soames, L.
Babby, and others. The University has been fairly
supportive of Linguistics; several of these are relatively
recent appointments (Williams, Browning, and Babby).

	Gil Harman
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Message 2: Re: 3.490 Linguistics in trouble?

Date: Sun, 14 Jun 92 18:23:51 CDRe: 3.490 Linguistics in trouble?
From: <>
Subject: Re: 3.490 Linguistics in trouble?

As a former linguist now doing something else (technical writing), I will have
to agree and, for the sake of argument, extend to an extreme position, Larry
Hutchinson's line of response, that it is not obvious that linguistics produces
anything of substance beyond more linguists. If it does, we would all love to
hear about it.

There was a time, in the late fifties and early sixties, when generative
grammar managed to convince many of us that it would help us discover something
substantive about the workings of the human mind, but that all seems like so
much hype in retrospect, as evidenced by the long discussion on Chomsky
citations, in which those who weren't bristling against Chomskyean hegemony in
linguistics were scurrying about trying to come up with something substantive
they could say had come out of that movement and failing pretty miserably.

I am afraid that to the man in the street who is footing the bill, creating
interest in yet more topics for academics to endlessly argue about to no
apparent avail is unlikely to create much of a positive impression. By and
large, I'd have to say that the flurry of interest in the sixties has long since
turned into a sort of colossal shell game in which the participants keep trying
to guess which shell the "true theory" lies under, only to have the "true
theory" change to the "revised true theory" under some other shell whenever the
audience got close enough to see that it was largely bunkum. Does anyone out
there really *believe* that we know anyhing substantially more about
the nature of language than we did 35 years ago ?

If they do, I certainly hope they will tell us what it is, as do, no doubt,
those linguists who are trying to enlist support for the continuance of
linguistics programs.

Andy Rogers
TIVOLI Systems
6034 W. Courtyard Dr., Suite 210
Austin, Texas 78730
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Message 3: Re: 3.487 New linguistics dept.

Date: Sun, 14 Jun 92 20:09:28 EDRe: 3.487 New linguistics dept.
From: Ron Smyth <>
Subject: Re: 3.487 New linguistics dept.

I find it extremely interesting that although most linguists abhor being
called 'grammarians' by the general public, they (we) think nothing of
identifying our theories as grammatical models, speaking of the grammar
of a language, and so on. 'Grammar' is a common word in linguistics; we
just hate what other people THINK it means.

So why don't we take a cue from various liberation movements and expropriate
the 'dirty' word for our own uses, and bring about a change in its currently
misconstrued meaning? I feel a bit odd calling myself a grammarian now,
but a few years of popularization should do the trick.

Ron Smyth
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Message 4: 3.491 Linguistics in trouble?

Date: Sun, 14 Jun 92 22:59:50 G3.491 Linguistics in trouble?
From: "J. Jenkins and W. Strange 813 778 9357DLNAOAACFRVM.BITNET <DLNAOAACFRVM.BITNET>
Subject: 3.491 Linguistics in trouble?

As an outsider (a psychologist) who has been intimately interested in
linguistics for 40 years, I presume to comment on this discussion. I think
linguists are among the brightest people I know. I find them interesting and
provocative. I also have found a small subset of them to be the most arrogant
and intolerant academics I have met...including even the philosophers. In
terms of the on-going discussion, I think Z Barlev and L. Hutchinson have
written most tellingly. Linguistics is not going to make friends and
influencepeople by "destroying young minds" in introductory courses to show
the superiority of the instructor. I have argued repeatedly that a good course
in linguistics , (and especially anthropological linguistics) does more for
one's understanding of other cultures and other languages than two years of
study in a foreign language (usually required in our universities).
Linguistics is "good for" a lot of applications. It is no sin to appeal to
application and to interest in "the nature of the mind" to generate interest
in a field. It surely IS a sin to put students down in an introductory course
and shut them out of the field for the rest of their academic experience.

Linguistics won its academic position as philology by showing that it could do
marvels in unpacking relations between languages and reconstructing "dead
languages". It fit the Zeitgeist that was scientific and evolutionary in the
last century. We know (and we ought to let others know) that it fits the
current Zeitgeist of cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and theories
of the addition to the practical work of second language
instruction, translation, formal modeling, and so on.

Isn't it OUR task to convince others that this is the case?

James J. psycholinguist.

Jim and Winifred (Bitnet: dlnaoaacfrvm)
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Message 5: Why we became linguists

Date: Thu, 11 Jun 92 13:15:30 PDWhy we became linguists
From: Akbar 'n' Jeff <orlandoczimmer.CSUFresno.EDU>
Subject: Why we became linguists

As a recent MA graduate in linguistics, it is interesting to reflect
on how we all got started in this thing called linguistics that brings
moans, smiles, and an occasional 'eeewww' when the subject is brought
up in any circle.

I started as a pre-med student at the University of California,
Irvine, with naive dillusions of becoming a medical doctor. After my
first quarter there, I quickly changed my mind on the advice of the
Biological Sciences department and with the welcome of the Humanities
department. I didn't know what I wanted to study, but I accidently
landed in an introductory linguistics class and I fell in love with
linguistics. I didn't realize that some of the greatest minds in the
field where there like Ken Wexler, Peter Cullicover, Mary Key, Robert
May, and many other well respected linguistists (this was circa
1986-89) as well as the late Tracy Terrell.

I didn't do very well as an undergraduate there, but the influence of
these people made an impression on me that created a drive to know
more about all the different aspects of linguistics. It wasn't until
I got to Fresno State University to begin my graduate work that this
drive turned into an obsession in trying to understand what language
in general has to do with the world in general. The only bad side
effects of studying linguistics is watching your spelling going down
the tubes :^)

It breaks my heart to see the State of California butcher our public
university and college systems here, and to see brilliant minds in our
linguistics department fall victim to poor political and economic
maneuvering. It is also a sad state to see linguistics departments
around the world close and fold due to a variety of reasons.

On more scholarly note, I am collecting language and expressions used
in electronic communications, such as this 'face' phenomena used in
live interaction and e-mail. If anybody has anything they would like
to contribute to my compilations, please feel free to e-mail me. I
also am interested in knowing what is in other peoples' 'electronic
lexicon' which from what I have seen looks like another language

Thanks to all the linguists out there for everything.

Orlando Cordero
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