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Title: Nature, Science and linguistics
Submitter: Annie Zaenen
Description: A recent position by Geoff Pullum et al. (see LINGUIST List issue: about starlings contained
the following passage: ''Within 18 hours, Nature declined to publish the
letter. (In our experience, this is what usually happens when linguists
write to general science journals like Nature and Science commenting on the
content of papers with linguistic content that have been published by
non-linguists.) ''

This is a rather annoying issue and maybe one that linguists should pay
more attention to.

I ignore how Nature operates but the American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS, has a section Z on
''Linguistics and Language Science''. Nevertheless linguists have very
little presence in the AAAS world. Section Z has very few members compared
to other sections (and most members are not 'straight' linguists but people
that most likely have a subscription to Science for another reason and a
subsidiary interest in linguistics.) The activities that Science organizes
also tend to be expensive for linguists (given there is little that is of
direct interest to them) but all this should not give Science (or Nature)
a license to misrepresent linguistic issues. Does anybody see a way to get
a better hearing from them given our low participation in their activities?

I was for three years on the nominating board of section Z but I haven't
figured out how the elected chair, the members at large and the Council
delegates might influence what appears in the Journal. Also these officers
rarely communicate with the linguistic community at large or, as far as my
experience goes, with the members of section Z. But there seems to be a
change in this pattern: the upcoming LSA Bulletin will contain a note from
the current steering committee drawing attention to the existence of AAAS
Z. The minimal thing we could do is bring up the publication issue with them.

Annie Zaenen
Date Posted: 16-Jun-2006
LL Issue: 17.1810
Posted: 16-Jun-2006

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