LINGUIST List 6.1285

Thu Sep 21 1995

Disc: Einstein & Saussure, Re: 6.1270

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <dseelyemunix.emich.edu>


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  1. ANNA MORPURGO DAVIES, RE: 6.1270, Sum: Einstein and Saussure
  2. James Anglin, relativity

Message 1: RE: 6.1270, Sum: Einstein and Saussure

Date: Wed, 20 Sep 1995 10:32:07 RE: 6.1270, Sum: Einstein and Saussure
From: ANNA MORPURGO DAVIES <morpurgovax.ox.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: 6.1270, Sum: Einstein and Saussure

For Jakobson's view that Einstein's relativity theory was
influenced by Winteler, the Swiss dialectologist, it is
worthwhile to read M. Kohrt, Phonetik, Phonologie und die
'Relativitaet der Verhaeltnisse'. Zur Stellung Jost Wintelers
in der Geschichte der Wissenschaft (Zeitschrift fuer
Dialektologie und Linguistik, Beihefte 470), Steiner,
Stuttgart, 1984, esp. 66 ff. It is all very doubtful.
Anna Morpurgo Davies
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Message 2: relativity

Date: Wed, 20 Sep 1995 13:23:43 relativity
From: James Anglin <anglint6-serv.lanl.gov>
Subject: relativity


As a physicist who sometimes sees bits of the Linguist List, courtesy
of his wife, I was surprised to hear that "Einstein ... acknowledged
[Winteler] as a primary source for some of his own insights." Perhaps
he did do this, but I am inclined to suppose that some offhand and
generous comment by Einstein has been exaggerated by a
Winteler-booster.

The reason for this suspicion is that the basic notion that "things can
be relative" was not one of Einstein's insights. It has been present
in physics since Galileo; Einstein's contributions were some much more
specific ideas. The Special Theory _of_ Relativity was a novel theory
_about_ a familiar phenomenon. It said that some things long thought
absolute, like time, were relative; but that other things long thought
relative, like the speed of light, were absolute.

Winteler's work may well have been original and profound. But I would
like to warn against the temptation, offered by the perhaps misleading
titles of Einstein's theories, to construe relativism, plain and
simple, as the fount of modern physics. Associates of Einstein with
relativistic ideas in other fields are thus not thereby likely to have
had any significant influence on his physics.

James Anglin			Change will soon be replaced
anglint6-serv.lanl.gov		by something new.
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