LINGUIST List 3.513

Sun 21 Jun 1992

Disc: Free Indirect Discourse

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Directory

  1. Ron Smyth, Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?
  2. Peter D. Junger, Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?
  3. Michael Newman, Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?
  4. Geoffrey Russom, Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?
  5. Michael Sikillian/Annotext, Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr
  6. , 3.512 Sister Souljah and Linguistics

Message 1: Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?

Date: Sat, 20 Jun 92 17:59:23 EDRe: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?
From: Ron Smyth <smythlake.scar.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?

Ellen Contini-Morava's analysis of sister Souljah's remarks seems clear well-
supported. Does this kind of analysis hold up in court? Or does the law
prefer to stick to a contextless, literal interpretation of speech?
Ron Smyth
smythlake.scar.utoronto.ca
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Message 2: Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?

Date: Sat, 20 Jun 92 12:05:56 EDRe: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?
From: Peter D. Junger <jungersamsara.law.cwru.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?

 I am a law teacher, not a linguist, but after reading the
transcript I think it clear that the remarks by Sister Souljah were
intended as a statement of the rioters' thought processes and not as an
incitement to violence. Even if they were supposedly S.S.'s own
thoughts, they still would not be an incitement to violence. She never
said that whites or anyone else should be killed; she just said that if
blacks were going to kill, then why not kill some whites for a change.
One can, after all, believe that killing is wrong and still believe that
the killer killed the wrong person.

 There is an ancient law case where the defendant lifted up his
cane and said to the plaintiff, "were it not Assizes time, I would
trounce you"--or words to that effect. This was held not to be an
assault, because it was conditional, but it would have been an assault
if the words had simply been "I'll trounce you." (The raising of the
cane was also essential to the plaintiff's case--mere words without
physically threatening acts can never constitute an assault.)

 I think this case, which is know to every first year law
student, is squarely in point.


Peter D. Junger

Case Western Reserve University Law School, Cleveland, OH
Internet: JUNGERSAMSARA.LAW.CWRU.Edu -- Bitnet: JUNGERCWRU
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Message 3: Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?

Date: Sat, 20 Jun 92 18:48:54 EDRe: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?
From: Michael Newman <MNEHCCUNYVM.CUNY.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?

I am not sure whether I can stay linguistic on this question, so I will set off
my admitted prejudices on the matter at the outset. Lisa Williamson (aka Sr.
Souljah) has spent a certain amount of time around the Columbia Campus saying
anti-lots-of-people things that were clearly not indirect discourse. Among
the things that stuck in my mind, because I felt implicated, was a line like
one of the problems with losing all our black men was that "lots of us have
to marry faggots." I am not sympathetic with this person and question Jackson's
judgment in having her address the rainbow coalition at all. I can be counted
on, then, to see the worst. Here's the worst I can come up with.

First of all, it seems like this question-answer exchange was not felicitious.
Williamson did not answer the question; instead I think she gave a deliberately
ambiguous sort of answer that was perhaps both indicative of her thinking of
the gang members' view and perhaps simply empty jargon. "A week where you go
out and kill white people." what week? what white people? There was no real
reference to these NPs. What it was was [sic] simply buzz words. This kind
of buzz word-laced meaningless is typical of political fanatic talk (among
other varieties) and is precisely designed to be impossible to pin down; it is
therefore impossible to argue with. Have you ever tried to argue with a Moonie
or a Hare Krishna? It is the same thing, here. On the other hand I think it
would make a fascinating discourse study to examine talk of cults and cult-like
political groups. . . .

Michael Newman
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Message 4: Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?

Date: Sun, 21 Jun 92 06:19:52 EDRe: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?
From: Geoffrey Russom <EL403015brownvm.brown.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?

Interviewer: But even the people themselves who were perpetrating
that violence, did they think it was wise? Was that wise, reasoned
action?

Souljah: Yeah, it was wise. I mean, if black people kill black
people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?
You understand what I'm saying?

Sr Souljah responds to the question about the logic of the
rioters' actions by attempting to represent what she understands
to be their attitude as explicit logical reasoning. Mr. Clinton
has an opportunity to characterize her as advocating violence,
perhaps, because she brackets her indirect discourse with the phrases
"I mean" and "You understand what I'm saying?" If the logic in question
is what Sr Souljah means and what she is saying, then she's advocating
violence. But the phrases seem pretty clearly to serve as challenges to
the interviewer, whom Sr Souljah might well regard as deliberately obtuse.
"I mean" seems to signal an attempt to "break down" something the
interviewer (and the audience whose attitudes are projected by the
interviewer) will have trouble understanding. "You understand what I'm
saying?" tests to see whether the explanation has had any effect. This
reminds me of Marx's observation that working-class readers would find
CAPITAL easy to understand, since it dealt with their own conditions,
whereas bourgeois readers might never be able to understand it.
I'm also reminded of Chomsky's statement in re Orwell's problem that
even the clearest, best-supported analyses of political injustice
will be dismissed one way or another by the vast army of paid and
volunteer PR flunkies who are always active on behalf of those who
can reward them.

 -- Rick
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Message 5: Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr

Date: 20 Jun 92 22:06:54 EDT
From: Michael Sikillian/Annotext <76264.1323compuserve.com>
Subject: Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr

I think it is irresponsible to treat remarks like this as food
for analysis. While I do not agree with censorship, I think that treating
this racist discourse as ordinary material for study is plainly wrong and
inappropriate. To do it would only open the door to analyze *all* types
of racist/hate literature, thus glorifying it and giving it stature.

Michael Sikillian
Annotext

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Message 6: 3.512 Sister Souljah and Linguistics

Date: 21 Jun 1992 03:18:44 -04003.512 Sister Souljah and Linguistics
From: <GIVENsbchm1.chem.sunysb.edu>
Subject: 3.512 Sister Souljah and Linguistics

There is NO non-trivial linguistic content to this discussion. I protest this
use of Linguist.

			 Peace and Understanding
			 JA Given
			 SUNY

[Moderators' response: We certainly understand your position--in fact, we
had a long, troubled discussion over whether to post Contini-Morava's
message in the first place. The decision turned on whether
there is "linguistic content," not whether it's "non-trivial linguistic
content." Our policy has been, simply, to post material which
would be considered "linguistic content" to any subfield of linguistics,
without trying to judge whether it might be considered
trivial by some subscribers (discussions of Klingon and linguistics
in titles come to mind). Questions of interpretation, especially
legal interpretation, of texts such as this one are often explored
in discourse analysis (we recalled, for example, a special issue of
_Text_ on "Discourse, Racism, and Ideology"); and this influenced
our decision to post the message.

What worried us was that--unlike Klingon or linguistics in titles--
the linguistic content in this discussion was likely to become
merely the vehicle for the expression of political opinion. In the
end, we decided to post the message (with hortatory headnote)
as an experiment. If the message generates linguistic discussion,
we'll continue to post responses. If it doesn't, we'll cut off
the discussion and be more cautious in the future.

-Helen & Anthony]
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