LINGUIST List 4.649

Tue 31 Aug 1993


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  1. Keelung Hong, THE LINGUISTIC WARS
  2. Keelung Hong, P.S.--authorship


Date: Tue, 31 Aug 1993 09:38:45 THE LINGUISTIC WARS
From: Keelung Hong <keelungitsa.ucsf.EDU>

I want to write a positive review of Randy Harris's often-entertaining
Linguistic Wars, but (unlike John Lawler) the parts I know about independently
from Harris's representations don't inspire confidence. Like Chomsky, Harris is
willing to quote as someone's position what the author was writing about as
someone else's, e.g., the infamous Joos (1957:96) varying without limits in any
direction statement. It is probably true that Chomskians thought that was a
Bloomfieldian tenet expressed by Joos, although it was Joos's (I think apt)
characterization of Boasians (and in a text where Joos rejects the label
"structure" in favor of "description").

Or that Sapir was not the sort to sponsor a school (repeated). I think that I
have documented that he tried plenty, but World War I blocked his Canadian
efforts and the Depression his American ones. His failures don't establish that
he wasn't the sort.

Or that Pike and tagmemics (and stratificational grammar) are entirely missing
from the account, as if no attempts were made to develop
structuralist/Bloomfieldian syntax (though there are probably more practitioners
of tagmemics than of the newest of the new Chomskian syntaxes). And the
conventional reduction of "Bloomfieldian" to the excesses of Trager (criticized
by Bloomfield) again may be how many Chomskians were trained to see bogeymen,
but is not an adequate account of what Bloomfield or even neo-Bloomfieldians
were doing (in particular, the Pike-Hall-Nida wing was interested in meaning,
aesthetics, and mixing levels more than Chomsky1-n has been).

Personally disturbing to me is the implication (256, 308n20) that I recommended
not publishing his review in Historiographia Linguistica because it was too
pro-Chomsky (and that I want Chomsky dead!). From his review it appeared that
the George book was not about the history of linguistics (which Harris agreed
was the case). What history was in the review I also thought was wrong including
the both out-of-place and patently untrue gush that we all hope Chomsky is
decades from the twilight of his career. Rather than wishing him dead, many
people hope that his career will have a long, dim twilight, or that he will
experience the lack of attention that he recurrently claims is and has always
been his.

As for the reference to my work in Harris's review "complicating matters," I
objected to the choice of verb "vilify" in regards to my review of Newmeyer and
suggested several possible substitutes (like "excoriate") that are far from
bland. Harris contended that "vilify" does not connote "slander," so presumably
he did not intend my reading of the verb. I do not see how this concern
"complicated matters" --or for that matter that I have a "extemely low" opinion
of Chomsky. I consider Chomsky totally unreliable in representing what anyone,
including especially himself, said or did, so I have an extremely low opinion of
the validity and the reliability of what he says and writes about the past, but
this had nothing to do with recommending rejection of Harris's review. The book
and review were outside the journal's field and Konrad Koerner got it placed in
a more appropriate venue (Word).

Although these are peripheral concerns and the central case study of generative
semantics seems even-handed, I would like to know if participants find it so.

(And I agree with Lawler that endnotes are inexcusable and that the index is
incomplete. I could not, for instance, find where Harris quoted Joos or where
Barbara Partee parroted it.)
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Message 2: P.S.--authorship

Date: Tue, 31 Aug 1993 09:48:05 P.S.--authorship
From: Keelung Hong <keelungitsa.ucsf.EDU>
Subject: P.S.--authorship

I neglected to note that the comments on Lawler and Harris is from
Stephen Murray.
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