LINGUIST List 3.592

Sat 18 Jul 1992

Disc: Narrative Voice Switches; Physics and Language

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  1. Martin Wynne, Narrative voices
  2. Stavros Macrakis, Physics and language

Message 1: Narrative voices

Date: Tue, 14 Jul 92 16:13:03 BSNarrative voices
From: Martin Wynne <>
Subject: Narrative voices

Wynne Janis (Vol.3-559) asks for linguistic studies of
narrator/character voice switches.
I think the key work on this is 'Discourse in the Novel'
by M.M.Bakhtin in THE DIALOGIC IMAGINATION, (ed. Michael Holquist),
Austin, 1981. This is an original and groundbreaking study (preceded
only by Volosinov in 'Marxism and the Philosophy of Language', in which
Bakhtin had a hand.) Hirschkop and Shepherd, BAKHTIN AND CULTURAL
THEORY, Manchester University Press, 1989 includes various discussions
and an extensive critical bibliography.

I don't really know about works using different methodologies, and
I would be interested to hear about them.

Martin Wynne
Department of Linguistics and Phonetics
University of Leeds
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Message 2: Physics and language

Date: Wed, 15 Jul 92 15:49:12 EDPhysics and language
From: Stavros Macrakis <>
Subject: Physics and language

bert peeters <> says in 3.559 that a
physicist friend claims that physics is culture-neutral. Peeters

 I'm trying to tell him he is wrong.... could anyone come up with
 languages where there is no concept for the (physical) concept of

The linguistic argument won't get very far, since words such as
`mass', `force', `field', `energy' are technical and do not have
anything like their everyday meaning. (In fact, there were several
counter-culture-type books some years ago (e.g. The Dancing Wu Li
Masters) which claimed that Chinese philosophy foreshadows quantum
mechanics, and that the Chinese language is more appropriate for it;
bunkum according to all my physicist friends (including Chinese
ones).) Now to what extent is the modern understanding of physics
dependent on Western world-view? A vast question, but how do you
answer it? For that matter, how do you define physics in a
culture-neutral way? Do you accept the experimental method? etc.

Anyway, I suspect you can't make much headway on this from a
linguistic point of view. Perhaps the philosophers of science have
something interesting to say?

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