LINGUIST List 3.526

Tue 23 Jun 1992

Disc: Free Indirect Discourse

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , cults and linguistics
  2. Herb Stahlke, Re: 3.513 Free Indirect Discourse
  3. Michael Sikillian/Annotext, 3.519 Free Indirect Discourse
  4. Letticia Galindo, Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?

Message 1: cults and linguistics

Date: Mon, 22 Jun 1992 08:51 EDTcults and linguistics
From: <RATHBRANDEIS.bitnet>
Subject: cults and linguistics

 :Michael Newman says, in reference to Sister Souljah's remarks:
 : (in 3.512: "Free indirect discourse...")
/.....................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
Has the "other NLP"--neuro-linguistic programming been considered recently
on this list? It seems to connect a few of the threads which have been running
lately, namely, the uses to which linguistics has been applied. One of the
founders is John Grinder, a linguist. NLP uses ideas of deep structure as a
real thing which can be manipulated through the use of the proper linguistic
structures, regardless of the semantic content. Speaking to one of the
"converted" is rather similar to speaking to a Hare Krishna. One never
escapes the structure of the language and communication is shut down in
favor of manipulative agreement-seeking and substanceless argument.
 What struck me about Michael Newman's posting was his suggestion
that a study of such uses of language be undertaken. So far, many
of the "cults" are very aware of what they are doing with language, even to
the point of making pseudo-scientific borrowings from linguistics on a
large scale. In some respects, NLP' at least, is a result of just such
studies as he proposes. Has anyone else heard of this, or is neurolinguistic
programming something not discussed in the polite company of linguists?

Rich Rath
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Message 2: Re: 3.513 Free Indirect Discourse

Date: Mon, 22 Jun 1992 08:17 ESTRe: 3.513 Free Indirect Discourse
Subject: Re: 3.513 Free Indirect Discourse

I most emphatically applaud the moderators' decision to post Ellen
Contini-Morava's discussion of Sister Souljah's remarks. As
unacceptable as I find the content of the remarks on moral and ethical
grounds, they represent, as several other postings have noted, a type
of discourse that merits careful analysis. In form, if not in
content, Sister Souljah's remarks are not unlike those of any
stigmatized group attempting to preserve and assert its own identity.

Whether you listen to fundamentalists, as on last Monday's public
television documentary, pre-Yeltsin Soviet Communists, white
supremacists, or Louis Farakhan and his followers, you find similar
private vocabulary and a ongoing redefinition of terms. I recall a
debate in a linguistics department in 1970 after the Kent State
shootings that dealt with whether "closing" the university actually
meant "opening" the university. I asserted then that such use of
language was sophistry, but perhaps it came out of similar frustration
and I was too harsh in my judgment. That language use was similar to
Sister Souljah's, provided the speaker had similar group involvement
and sincerity.

Orwell's famous essay is an early analysis of this sort of
language, and Bolinger's _Language: The Loaded Weapon_ is a more
recent one, but we linguists would not only do interesting work but
also serve our culture and society well to study and write both
sympathetically and critically about such use of language. The
popular press might even get a better opinion of what we're about,
although we might risk them confusing linguistics with the General
Semantics movement.

Herb Stahlke
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Message 3: 3.519 Free Indirect Discourse

Date: 22 Jun 92 11:25:55 EDT
From: Michael Sikillian/Annotext <>
Subject: 3.519 Free Indirect Discourse

Kathleen Hubbard states:
"How dangerous and short-sighted, to ignore all discourse that isn't
neutral", stating that all discourse is fit for linguistic discussion.
Bill McKellin makes a similar point.

I would suggest that there are two problems with that:

1- it assumes that linguistics is separate from society as a whole, and that
whatever occurs here is like a laboratory, clean and sanitized from the
wolrd outside. But I do not believe that is the case. An example: here in
New York City there were some academics who proposed that subway graffiti
was indeed an art form, and as such, the prople who did it were artists.
While I have no quarrel with that argument, since a lot of it *was*
beautiful, it also lead to a situation where graffiti ran rampant and every
train was covered with the spray painted art. What occurred was that the
glorification of the art form lead to its wide spread infliction on everyone
in the city. In brief, the intended effect may be to analyze discourse, but
the unintended effect may be inflammatory and glorifying of it.

2- do linguists have any moral responsibility for what they do, or is
everything neutral? There is a big difference between a chemist preparing
CO2 in a lab, and a linguist discussing hate literature. (Though I know a
lot of linguists probably do not acknoledge a difference). The analogy I
would make in this case is between a chemist researching toxins for
chemical warfare. Granted, intellectually, the material *is* neutral, and
does extend the frontiers of knowledge, but its probably use is not. I would
suggest that both a chemist and linguist need to take responsibility, not
only for the accuracy of their work, but from its likely results, however

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

Date: Mon, 22 Jun 92 14:01:38 MSRe: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?
From: Letticia Galindo <IDDLGASUVM.INRE.ASU.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.512 Free Indirect Discourse by Sr Souljah?

You are opening a 'can of worms' with this attempt to get feedback from 'object
ive' linguists regarding the lx analysis without letting personal/political/cul
tural orientations enter into the picture. You can analyze as much as you deem
it important for the purpose of argument but people will hear discourse and con
vey what they 'think' they heard or 'want to hear'which is the general approach
 by members of the media which is predominantly male, Anglo, middle-class alrea
dy creating an ethnic bias. SS's appearance on the TODAY show again rehashed th
e now controvesial quote where she gave the context in which it was said and ho
w the guy from the Post had misinterpreted her statement..that came from the so
urce itself. I think that in trying to analyze this piece of discourse and diss
ect it analytically, you cannot overlook the issues affecting cross-cultural
discourse, black-white strategies of communication/interpretation that are part
 of the larger picture surrounding this issue.
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