LINGUIST List 4.786

Sat 02 Oct 1993

Misc: Natural Phonology, Linguistic Science, Ross

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Richard Wojcik, Re: Discredited approaches!
  2. Steve Berman, 4.771 Linguistic Pedagogy, "Haj" Ross
  3. Douglas Purl, Re: 4.777 Linguistic Science
  4. Larry Horn, Re: 4.777 Natural Phonology, Linguistic Science

Message 1: Re: Discredited approaches!

Date: Fri, 1 Oct 93 16:44:18 PDTRe: Discredited approaches!
From: Richard Wojcik <>
Subject: Re: Discredited approaches!

On first reading Peter Salus's characterization of David Stampe's Natural
Phonology as a "discredited theory," I was tempted to retort in roughly
the same way that Geoff Nathan did. After all, Natural Phonology never
got enough critical attention in the literature to merit a 'discredited'
label. But, on second thought, I realized that Peter Salus actually paid
Stampe a compliment. Certain things--child 'misspeech', in particular--don't
have a prayer of explanation under any 'credited approach'. To account for
what comes out of the mouthes of babes, you still have to turn to the
discredited approach. And that babbles volumes for The Master's theory.
 -Rick Wojcik
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: 4.771 Linguistic Pedagogy, "Haj" Ross

Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1993 13:31:54 4.771 Linguistic Pedagogy, "Haj" Ross
From: Steve Berman <>
Subject: 4.771 Linguistic Pedagogy, "Haj" Ross

Philip Swann <> writes in reply to Steven Schaufele's
claim that linguistics is the scientific study of language:

 1. Similar claims have been made about the whole range of
 social "sciences", but they have generally been rejected
 by philosophers and historians of science.

Does their imprimatur a science make?

 2. A rational, methodical and data-driven investigative style
 is not enough to define an activity as "scientific". Otherwise,
 as Schaufele suggests, practically everything we do becomes
 science: Why not cooking or gardening?

To the extent a recipe successfully "predicts" what comes out of the oven,
it is scientific; ditto with the "principles of planting" (also known as

 3. Consider the stock exchange, a semiotic system at a level of
 complexity similar to that of language. An enormous amount of
 effort has gone into trying to build scientific theories of
 price movements in the market. These efforts have failed, so
 it seems, because the market performs a random walk driven
 by greed and fear in a space that is detached from underlying
 economic reality. All the retrospective studies confirm that
 there is no way to predict the stock market. In other words,
 it has been demonstrated scientifically that the market is
 not open to scientific description. [I'm probably over-stating
 this a bit, but I hope the point is clear] I don't see any
 reason to doubt that other semiotic systems (language, music,
 art etc.) share this property.

Are you implying that a body of data can't be scientifically investigated,
and a theory built up around such investigation deserving of being called a
science, unless the data can be completely classified within the theory and
the theory can completely accurately predict the data states? Perhaps
there's rather a continuum of data and theory, and certain kinds of data
(e.g. those studied in physics) are more tractable, hence more liable to
subsumption within accurate theories. But if so, where do you draw the line
between science and non-science?

 Philip Swann
 University of Geneva

 --Steve Berman
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 3: Re: 4.777 Linguistic Science

Date: Fri, 1 Oct 1993 18:50:35 -Re: 4.777 Linguistic Science
From: Douglas Purl <>
Subject: Re: 4.777 Linguistic Science

The topic is vast and can easily degenerate into a barroom argument. It
is methodology that makes science, not content. Pure science (is there
such a thing?) deals with repeatable and observable phenomena. It scorns
undisprovable statements. At the heart of linguistics there is the implicit
duty at every turn to persuade others by means of observable phenomena and
statements that are subject to verification. As one moves towards
peripheral sciences there is an increasing reliance on persuasion and a
diminishing capacity to verify and disprove. The continuum is between
science and art, though the two are not necessarily antipodal.

Douglas Purl
University of Montana
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 4: Re: 4.777 Natural Phonology, Linguistic Science

Date: Fri, 01 Oct 93 22:51:10 EDRe: 4.777 Natural Phonology, Linguistic Science
Subject: Re: 4.777 Natural Phonology, Linguistic Science

I will probably be just one of many aging amateur historians of the field who
are impelled to write to correct a misattribution of Mark Mandel's. Quang
Phuc Dong of the South Hanoi Institute of Technology (see "Studies Out in Left
Field", edited by Peter Salus, Edmonton: Linguistic Research Inc, 1973 or
thenabouts) bore no genetic affiliation or causal connection to Haj Ross, but
was a wholly owned subsidiary of Jim McCawley. I would be the last to
denigrate Haj's contributions to the field, but lets have no revisionist
history here. I'm sure Professor Quang would back me on this.

 --Larry Horn
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue