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Title: Is Linguistic Terminology Always Appropriate?
Submitter: Jon Driver-Jowitt
Description: As a neophyte in linguistics at the University of South Africa I have found
the terminology perplexing. I realize that many terms are borrowed from
other disciplines, and have become entrenched, with implied meanings which
might differ from the literal. However, should it not be linguistic science
which is most concerned with, and leads, language and semantic accuracy?

The “linguistic” usage of the following English terms (in bold or
underscored) seem to differ from the literal, dictionary or logical use. A
suggested alternative, designed to evoke discussion, is in red italics
(inverted commas in plain text)

Lateralisation. In the linguistic context it is intended to mean that one
of the cerebral hemispheres becomes the predominant site of neurological
control of a specific activity.
For example right handedness is usually associated with left hemisphere
It seems to refer to the process by which dominant control is assumed. The
word is a misnomer in that the literal meaning is to make more lateral, and
implies the antonymic concept of medialisation (which does not exist). A
more appropriate term could be “asymmetrical cortical control”, which might
be “contra laterally effective”.

Top down seems intended to mean “whole-word recognition”. Could a better
term be “en bloc”?

Bottom up has nothing to do with bottom or up and seems intended to mean
“by assemblage”.

Expansion This word seems intended to mean a “correction” if one is
considering the replacement of an ungrammatical chain by a conventional
chain, in some circumstances, far from expanding the word it might be a
contraction, such as in correcting “feets” to feet. A term that might be
instead considered is “extension”.

Extension seems inappropriate (because it might even be a reduction). For
example children become reduced to the childs, when the plural rule is

Over-generalization could simply be termed “generalization”. (The term
“under-generalization” does not appear to exist).

The term “function word” is also difficult for me. All words have a
function, none more than others. Perhaps the best word has an analogy in
music. Words that come to my mind are “directives” or “conductives” or

Continuity referring to the possible extension of animal language into
human use seems an inappropriate term. Animal language has not continued
into humans; but instead has taken entirely new dimensions, perhaps by
evolution. “Lineage theory” might be an appropriate term

The term communicative competence is too loose to be of value. It seems to
mean “context-refined communication”.

Re-duplication. Why is this not simply “duplication?”

Linearity. It seems to mean a “sequencing” of words.

Behaviorism: Strictly speaking this word means the forming of an abstract
of behaviour.
Therefore it is an inappropriate word for the concept of the effects of
conditioning. Suggested is “Behavioristic” (pertaining to behavior),

Protowords. This implies that the utterance is a forerunning of a “word”.
In reality this word-symbol becomes obsolete and is discarded, never
developing into a word. Would not “token word” be better?

Holophrases also seems a misnomer. It is not a “complete” phrase.
However, it will develop and extend into a phrasal string and therefore it
can be considered a “protophrase”. (Protos = first).

Reduction implies “omission”. (I realize that the “omission” is a
convention used for another meaning). I am told that /pa/ involves
reduction of the unstressed second syllable. Since the unstressed second
syllable is never pronounced, it can’t be reduced, it must be omitted.

Object permanence is confusing to me. The very inverse is the case because
the object is not permanent or said in another way, what is permanent is
not the object. How about “virtual substantiality”?

String (of words). The analogy (I assume) is from “string of beads, fish
etc”. The word
used does not reflect the analogy. Perhaps “word-chain” would be better.

The extraordinary terms used in Language Theory are hard to credit.
Bow-wow theory could be called “onomatopoeia”. The pooh-pooh theory could
be called “reflexive” and the yo-ho theory could be called the
“spontaneous”. Is there any evidence that the yo-ho theory is any
different from the pooh-pooh theory?
Date Posted: 23-Apr-2007
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Language Specialty: None
LL Issue: 18.1234
Posted: 23-Apr-2007

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