LINGUIST List 6.1424

Sat Oct 14 1995

Disc: Self-censorship

Editor for this issue: Anthony M. Aristar <>


  1. , Self-Censorship on the List
  2. Steven Berbeco, Re: 6.1393, Disc: Self-censorship
  3. Alan Dench, Self-Censorship on the LIST, Historical Data Sets
  4. Alexis Manaster Ramer, Re: 6.1390, Disc: Self-Censorship on the LIST, Cheating
  5. Sam Salt, Disc: Self-censorship
  6. Josh Rotenberg, Re: 6.1404, Disc: Self-censorship, Cheating

Message 1: Self-Censorship on the List

Date: Wed, 11 Oct 1995 20:41:00 Self-Censorship on the List
From: <>
Subject: Self-Censorship on the List

John Kingston wrote:
> What I find objectionable about many of these queries is that they
> could be answered by simply going to the nearest library; that is,
> the special expertise of subscribers to the list is not necessary in
> order to find out the answers to many of these questions.

I think I know what he means-- questions like "How many languages are
there?" or "What is phonology?" But let me take the opportunity to make a
different sort of point, that Internet (not just Linguist List) has the
potential to be a better linguistics library than the Library, but it needs
help to live up to its potential. Let me explain.

The nearest well-stocked linguistics library to me is an hour's drive away.
(Those of you who live, or have lived, in third world countries, know that
the nearest linguistics library is likely to be even more inaccessible
there.) Now I can order through interlibrary loan, photocopy services,
etc. an article *if I know it exists*, and I can order a book by mail *if I
know it exists*. Today I happened to go to that library, and browsed the
shelves. In two hours I found several recent publications on problems I've
been thinking about. But I can't drive up there all the time, and even
that library is not particularly well-stocked in some areas (e.g.
computational linguistics). What I need (and what our third world
colleagues may need even more) is an on-line bibliography resource, so I/we
can find out what is available. Now there are some such resources; the
LINGUIST WWW server has pointers to several. But they get out of date, or
otherwise incomplete. The Kornai bibliography of (mostly) works on
phonology is wonderful-- but it is, I believe, several years out of date.
There are also servers that maintain downloadable versions of *some* papers
(those the authors choose to submit) on *some* topics.

So what would be better? How about a free central bibliographic
clearinghouse where tables of contents of journals (and abstracts, or even
pointers to where a version can be downloaded, or copies ordered for a
fee). Several publishers do send TOCs to LINGUIST list now, but what if
all publishers of all linguistic journals (LI, IJAL, IPA, Computational
Linguistics...) and conference proceedings (BLS, CLS...) sent their TOCs to
a bibliographic server? (Or even their indexes of past issues!) Likewise
for book titles, and TOCs of books which were collections of papers.

There would still be room for value-added bibliographies (I believe some
now exist on forums like Compuserve, although I haven't tried them), in the
form of content indexing (e.g. keyword listings), etc.

Dream the impossible dream...
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Message 2: Re: 6.1393, Disc: Self-censorship

Date: Thu, 12 Oct 1995 14:55:01 Re: 6.1393, Disc: Self-censorship
From: Steven Berbeco <>
Subject: Re: 6.1393, Disc: Self-censorship

In my undergraduate years I learned the basic law:

o If you take data from many sources, it's research.

o If you take data from one source, it's plagiarism.

The internet is a bundle of information, and should be
treated as a (very) large encyclopedia. Kudos to the
students with the initiative to do their own research
out on the internet; fie on this one student who asked
the internet to do his research for him.

Steven Berbeco
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Message 3: Self-Censorship on the LIST, Historical Data Sets

Date: Thu, 12 Oct 1995 09:19:09 Self-Censorship on the LIST, Historical Data Sets
From: Alan Dench <>
Subject: Self-Censorship on the LIST, Historical Data Sets

On Self-Censorship on the LIST
Jack Wiedrick asks:

>"What I am looking for is a set containing three or more
>related languages (preferably non-IE), with 200-300 words for each
>language. ...I don't have the time
>to compile such a list on my own by looking through dictionaries..."

I rest my case,
Alan Dench
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Message 4: Re: 6.1390, Disc: Self-Censorship on the LIST, Cheating

Date: Thu, 12 Oct 1995 14:30:50 Re: 6.1390, Disc: Self-Censorship on the LIST, Cheating
From: Alexis Manaster Ramer <amrCS.Wayne.EDU>
Subject: Re: 6.1390, Disc: Self-Censorship on the LIST, Cheating

Having posted a fair number of queries and summaries on LINGUIST
myself at various times, I can only say that I have found the
information obtained as a result of my queries in almost all cases
to be virtually impossible to duplicate in any other way. Looking
for examples of rare phenomena, such as a borrowed word for 'ear'
for example cannot really be done effectively done any other way,
and this may well account for why others have not found such examples

I firmly believe that forums such as LINGUIST are a vital new
resource and that their importance lies in the way they FREE up
access to information. I have no doubt that any number of myths
and misconceptions that bedevil our field owe their origin to the
lack of this kind of forum in the past. Going back to my example
above, the borrowability of 'ear' (and other 'basic' body part terms),
it has always been too easy for people to assert that something does
not exist (and hence is impossible) and not to be effectively challenged
because it was difficult to find the relevant counterexamples and then
to disseminate them.

In a similar vein, of course, some of the discussions we have had
on LINGUIST (on Altaic, on mathematical models in comparative lx,
on sex discrimination in pronominal usage, etc.) are the sort of
thing which the preexisting forums in our field have been miserable
at and which I for one am grateful to the creators of LINGUIST for

One last example: the fairly recent discussion about the Eskimo
words for 'snow' we had on LINGUIST, in response I believe to a query
which some of the advocates of censorship, self or otherwise, would
perhaps not have permitted, revealed that many of us did not know
about the conclusive refutation of the myths on this subject, even
though this refutation was published in two prominent journals, one
of anthropology, the other of linguistics. I for one think it was
really good that as a result a large number of people have now hd
their consciousness raised on this matter, and also that we have
in the process once again learned just how difficult it is to fight
an established myth by "conventional", i.e., pre-Internet, means

Of course, I am certainly willing to stop posting queries on LINGUIST
if I am asked to.

Alexis Manaster Ramer
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Message 5: Disc: Self-censorship

Date: Fri, 13 Oct 1995 09:58:15 Disc: Self-censorship
From: Sam Salt <>
Subject: Disc: Self-censorship

Do I detect an element of the good old Anglo-Saxon work ethic being good for
you in the discussions that have taken place over this topic? There seems to
be an implicit assumption in some writer's minds that spending hours in a
library finding something is good for the soul.
To my mind the idea of having Internet, discussion groups etc is to help us
work more quickly and efficiently and share the knowledge we each have. If I
come across a topic new to me I find it very useful to send out a message
asking for a list of references. I may well get a reply from some one who is
expert in the field whereas hours in the library would yield a much shorter
list with no obvious way of knowing what is worth getting and what isn't. If
someone asks me for a list of references on some topic I know a lot about I
am only too pleased to help them.
As for students I would encourage them to use discussion lists sensibly to
find information. If I set a topic for a future tutorial I am much more
interested in them understanding what they read than in them spending
endless hours getting material in the first place. Yes there is a clear
place for students making good use of libraries and the journals we stock
but I see no value whatsoever in the time taken to get the material.
If you can get it quicker, faster and more efficiently then do it that way.
The test of a student is not making them use libraries to get information
but in whether they can understand the material they get once they have it.
Anyone running decent tutorial groups will surely be aware of this.
DW Salt
Head of Division of Computing
University of Derby
Kedleston Road
DE22 1GB

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Message 6: Re: 6.1404, Disc: Self-censorship, Cheating

Date: Thu, 12 Oct 1995 19:10:06 Re: 6.1404, Disc: Self-censorship, Cheating
From: Josh Rotenberg <>
Subject: Re: 6.1404, Disc: Self-censorship, Cheating

As someone who recently posted a question, I would like to add my two cents
in this discussion. My question dealt with Russian Morphology, and stemmed
purely from my own interest in the subject, though it does happen to be
related to what I am studying. I didn't particularly "ask" for an answer or
for the research to be done for me, but because of the wonderful responses
to both the question itself and plenty of references to consult, the
subject is now in some form or another part of a paper I am working on.

While I don't doubt that there are those who post questions simply to have
someone else do the research, discouraging people from using such entities
as the LINGUIST seems to go against the point of its existence. A question
like "Can someone give me a list of references to..." may be "cheating",
but it may also be that the person needs a stepping stone and can gain the
rest on their own. I like to think of the LINGUIST as another professor and
hopefully a source when I am not sure where to direct my inquiries. I do
appreciate the fact that I can ask a question if I have one, and those who
are so inclined are able and willing to reply with any information they see

Perhaps a more strict guideline of "suitable" questions is required, and,
as if I'm sure the moderators aren't busy enough, unfit inquiries can be
denied. But I can say that I, for one, in no way intended to "cheat" by
posting a question and am grateful for both the chance to ask and the
response I receive.

Joshua Daniel Rotenberg |
Russian Department |
San Francisco State University | | | |
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