LINGUIST List 4.671

Thu 09 Sep 1993

Disc: The Linguistic Wars

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Helen Dry, The Linguistics Wars
  2. Barbara Need, LINGUISTICS WARS

Message 1: The Linguistics Wars

Date: Mon, 6 Sep 93 12:52:06 -04The Linguistics Wars
From: Helen Dry <>
Subject: The Linguistics Wars

Like several respondents, I greatly enjoyed _The Linguistic Wars_
and found its re-evaluation of the contribution of generative
semantics thought-provoking. In fact, the discussion of J.R.Ross's
work on island constraints has provoked this question, since
Harris gives Ross considerable credit for theoretical innovation
(unfortunately, I can't quote the book, since the copy I read was

Some years ago (1988?), thinking I'd lost touch with the latest syntactic
theories, I sat in on a grad. seminar on syntax taught by an
up-and-coming syntactician in one of the major linguistic programs
in the country. With the class, I worked through the van Riemsdijk &
Williams text, as well as numerous supporting articles. But I
realized pretty quickly that I knew more than I had thought, since
almost half of what the class was studying seemed to come
straight from Ross's work, which I had been intrigued by in grad.
school in the mid-70's.

Recently I mentioned this to 2 syntacticians--both recent grads of GB-
oriented programs--and got virtually the same reply, something like,
"But Ross's work was merely descriptive; it wasn't part of any
larger theory (...and therefore GB owes less to Ross than you

Obviously, Ross's work wasn't part of GB theory, but I would have
said that his theoretical contributions were highly significant, even
crucial, given the direction that GB syntax took toward universals and,
especially, universal constraints. Would any better-informed person
care to comment? [Better-informed than MYSELF, I should say. Both
the syntacticians are not only well-informed, they're also very fair-minded.
And they trained at different universities. So the fact that they
used almost the same words was striking. Has this opinion
of Ross's work become the received doctrine, perhaps enshrined in
some standard text?] At any rate, I'd be interested to hear others'
opinions, either of Ross's contribution or of the discussion of
Ross in Harris's book.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue


Date: Wed, 8 Sep 93 13:36:15 CDTLINGUISTICS WARS
From: Barbara Need <>

I enjoyed reading this book very much. My only complaint was that,
for someone who has NOT lived through the events described in the
book, the chronology was uncertain. I kept trying to tell myself
what year certain phases were happening, but then a citation from
some earlier time would pop up and I'ld be confused again.

Barbara Need
University of Chicago--Linguistics
(where they have the best parties!)
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue