Sun 08 Jan 1995

All: LINGUIST policies

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Policies

Message 1: Policies

Date: Sun, 08 Jan 95 23:00:13 +0Policies
From: <>
Subject: Policies

 Moderators' Message

A very happy 1995 to all our subscribers! As you can see, LINGUIST is
back on line--on the 8th, not the 5th as we had hoped, but we are now
up and running at our new address. Remember: those of you who post to
can continue to use that address. But those of you who used to post to
must change either to the ...tamvm1 address or to
The latter is our new editorial address. The ...tamsun address is now
worse than useless: the machine itself has been taken off line by Texas
A&M, so any messages sent there will simply disappear into an Internet
black hole. They will not be forwarded to us.

The new year's issues start with this issue: 6.1. However, the listserv
swallowed some of the issues we posted on Dec. 20 and is just now sending
them out. So you probably received some issues of Volume 5 (1994)
only today. This is not what we intended--indeed, we worked hard to clear
the mailer and post all the messages we had received before we shut down
on Dec 21. We realize that some of them had deadlines. However, listserv
malfunctions are simply not within our control. The Texas A&M sysop took
a long (well-deserved) (and, we hope, energizing) Christmas vacation. And,
until his return, the listserv would not free the issues we had posted.

And that, by a lightening transition, brings us to a few remarks on
maintaining free discussion on LINGUIST. As LINGUIST grows, it becomes
potentially more powerful--some might say "threatening"--by virtue of its
role as an information source. It's natural that controversial policies and
postings should generate concern; and last year we received a number of
complaints, protests, and editorial suggestions. We tried to respond to
every message individually; but we'd also like to publicly explain our
policies and our current thinking about some of the issues that arose.
If any of you care to respond, we can continue this discusson on LINGUIST.

* We received several requests that we check the accuracy of controversial
claims and allegations before we post them. However reasonable this sounds,
unfortunately it simply isn't possible.

LINGUIST processes 50-70 messages a day; last year we assembled and posted
1600 issues (as those of you with overfull mailboxes know!); and we get
over 1000 database requests a week, about 1/4 of which require some kind of
administrative interchange. We ask our 3 student editors to check messages
for civility (more on this below); but they don't have time to check anything
which is not immediately before them on the screen. So there is no way
that we can strive for the standards of accuracy of paper journals. And,
of course, we AREN'T a journal; we're a discussion list. The only
effective check on the accuracy of any posting is the discussion itself.
So the moral is:
 --read with a little scepticism
 --and, if you see an inaccuracy, post a correction

* The preceding applies, of course, to _professional_ content in postings;
we can't be responsible for the accuracy of anyone's claims about the number
of words for "snow." Nor--and this is the problematic area--can we check
claims about anyone's or any institution's decisions, opinions, or conduct.

We will make every effort to ensure that any such posting has professional
relevance, is temperate in phrasing, and (if at all possible) does not
mention names. We also try not to publicize controversies having only
personal relevance, since we don't want LINGUIST to become simply a forum for
private grievances. But more than that we can't do.

* About more widespread grievances: we have gotten many protests about cutting
off discussions that criticize specific schools of linguistics. Our problem
with some of these has been that the criticisms were anecdotal, (sometimes)
devoid of academic content, and sounded personally aggrieved (see above).
Also, adherents of the schools under attack were telling us they no longer
felt welcome on the list. So--not wanting LINGUIST to become a grievance
forum or a cause of unnecessary divisiveness in the discipline--we cut off
the discussions.

But we admit that there are good arguments on the side of free speech.
So we have decided at least not to cut off discussions abruptly. Instead, we
will warn "Next-to-last posting on X" before we send out a "Last posting"
message. And we will post any responses on X received in the interim.

Also, we'd like to reiterate that any discussion that could compare schools or
theories and stick to the academic issues would be VERY welcome. We are not
committed to protecting any school from _scholarly_ criticism; and, in fact,
we would tell any protestors that this is a discussion list, and if
they feel attacked they must defend themselves through discussion.

* About civility: we never intended to become a kind of electronic Miss
Manners, and, frankly, it often feels like a very strange role for your
uncouth moderators. However, we're committed to keeping postings civil
in tone because (1) more than one academic list has (literally) gone down in
flames--i.e., the list has disbanded because the discussions got too personal
and heated; and (2), as much as possible, we'd like everyone--not just the
brave or foolhardy--to feel comfortable entering a LINGUIST discussion. So
we do occasionally return postings with a request that the writer revise
toward a less-inflammatory tone. (We realize, of course, that what is/is not
inflammatory is a judgment call; and our judgment may be wrong.)

However, we have returned very few postings; and--interestingly--we have
NEVER received anything but cooperation from the writers.


So--as we've said before--we think LINGUIST subscribers, all 5700 of you,
are a remarkably reasonable, tolerant, and generous set of people. If you
have comments or suggestions about the editorial policies we've sketched
out above, we would like to hear them.

Have a very happy new year!

-Helen & Anthony
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