LINGUIST List 4.1056

Wed 15 Dec 1993

Disc: The Pragmatics of LINGUIST Queries

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Message 1: Pragmatics of LINGUIST Queries

Date: Tue, 14 Dec 93 14:18:12 ESPragmatics of LINGUIST Queries
From: <Alexis_Manaster-RamerMTS.cc.Wayne.edu>
Subject: Pragmatics of LINGUIST Queries

I thought it might be interesting to comment on something
that has been happening recently with some of my queries
on LINGUIST which might perhaps be of more general interest.
It seems that the so-called Gricean principles are if anything
TOO active, that is to say, people seem to read all kinds of
things into queries in the attempt to be helpful.

Having at various times been a subscriber to lists in history,
computer science, and cognitive science, I must say I have
never seen the kind of helpful response that every query,
no matter how abstruse, seems to generate on LINGUIST.

On the other hand, precisely because people are so helpful,
it seems that the authors of queries (incl. certainly me)
will have to be VERY precise in specifying what they want
or else risk being flooded with information they cannot
use.

For example, in response to my queries about whether anyone has
ever analyzed the Russian question marker _li_ (or
similar markers in other languages) as creating discontinuity
I have received tons of responses about OTHER analyses of
such constructions as well as numerous responses arguing
in detail that discontinuity is NOT the right analysis. However,
all I ever wanted to know is whether anybody had ever proposed
a discontinuous analysis, not whether it is right or whether
other analyses are better.

So, while I AM flooded with messages I can't really deal with,
I must say I am really impressed with the response. And I
guess I should add that it is particularly noteworthy, given
some of the acrimony that has occasionally taken place on
LINGUIST, that the responses come equally from every theoretical
and ideological persuasion I can think of. Can it be that
LINGUIST has succeeded where everyone else had failed, in creating
a sense of linguistics as a single discipline?
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