LINGUIST List 4.419

Mon 31 May 1993

Disc: The Event, Restrictions on abstracts

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , 4.394 The Event
  2. Alex Monaghan, Re: Abstracts

Message 1: 4.394 The Event

Date: Thu, 27 May 93 23:16:58 GM4.394 The Event
From: <ingriaBBN.COM>
Subject: 4.394 The Event

 Date: Thu, 13 May 93 07:26:33 EST
 From: Ronnie Wilbur <WILBURPURCCVM.bitnet>
 Subject: 'The Event'

 In the Spring-Summer 1993 alumni magazine, Rochester Review, in an
 article on Elissa Newport's work on ASL acquisition and its implications
 for language and mind, Kathy Quinn Thomas writes:

 "It is difficult, then, for outsiders to fathom the philosophic bloodbath
 that swamped the world of linguistics in 1957 with the appearance of
 Noam Chomsky's doctoral dissertation *Syntactic Structures*. It was an
 event that ever since has been known to linguists simply as The Event."

 We have witnessed the birth of new linguistic mythology! Note 'ever since',
 implying that many people have used this term over time, although it's not
 clear what data she might have had to say that, other than inference from
 whatever appeared in NYT (although I haven't checked with Elissa to see
 if any discussion of this topic transpired during the interview leading
 to the article.)

Ahem, you can get an idea of the level of research that went into this
when you realize that, although _Syntactic Structures_ did indeed
appear in 1957, it was not Chomsky's thesis. Chomsky's thesis, which
was essentially one of the chapters of _The Logical Stucture of
Linguistic Theory_, appeared in 1955, and was entitled
_Transformationl Analysis_. _Syntactic Structures_ was based on
Chomsky's lecture notes from a course he had been teaching at MIT.

And I, too, have never heard the term ``The Event'' used in this way.

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Message 2: Re: Abstracts

Date: Mon, 31 May 93 09:15:25 BSRe: Abstracts
From: Alex Monaghan <>
Subject: Re: Abstracts

>From am Wed May 12 15:46:41 1993
 To: linguistEDU.TAMU.TAMSUN
 Subject: Re: 4.360 Restrictions on abstracts

i was surprised at the exception taken by judith klavans to my relatively
mild (playful, even) comments on conference abstracts. i feel that some
of her assumptions demand a reply:-

>As one of the officials of the Association for
>Computational Linguistics, you should be aware that conferences
>are not money earners at all, and that we try hard to keep the
>quality of the papers high over time.

i am not now, and have never been, an official of the ACL. i have
never even attended an ACL conference, but i have read numerous
excellent papers in the published proceedings. i hope i won't have
to wait until judith retires before submitting a paper to ACL!
i am also well aware that academic organisations rarely make money on
conferences, but that commercial organisations (conference organisers,
travel consultants, etc) frequently make a killing at our expense.

>Perhaps what appears
>to you as re-hashed work is subtlety improved in ways which
>you do not appreciate.

perhaps it is impossible for conference reviewers to be aware of what has been
published elsewhere, or is even in press elsewhere. i have several colleagues
who have - reluctantly or otherwise - published almost identical papers in
different conferences: i thought this regrettable practice was well-known.

>Further, I object to your
>assumption that ours, or any other organization, is out for
>financial gain, with no regard to quality.

firstly, unless the ACL considers itself a "conference-organising company",
my remarks should not apply to it. secondly, if ms klavans really thinks
that no organisation puts profit above quality, then columbia must be
even more sheltered than i thought!

i suppose this constitutes fighting fire with fire: i did not expect to get
flamed by academics for criticising the conference situation, and i feel
very strongly that professional conference organisers (i.e. not the ACL!)
are taking academics' money and selling us dodgy goods. maybe it's our
own fault for rushing to all these conferences, but in any case i think
it's time we collectively did something about it. i'm sure others of you
out there have a view on this: let's hear it!

by the way, i applaud judith's remarks on abstracts, and sympathise with
the NELS committee.
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