LINGUIST List 8.116

Mon Jan 27 1997

Disc: Analogy, Invented languages

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Stirling Newberry, Re: 7.1826, Disc: Analogy
  2. Mark Mandel, Signed languages vs. invented languages

Message 1: Re: 7.1826, Disc: Analogy

Date: Sat, 28 Dec 1996 05:58:09 -0500
From: Stirling Newberry <>
Subject: Re: 7.1826, Disc: Analogy

>LINGUIST List: Vol-7-1826. Wed Dec 25 1996. ISSN: 1068-4875.
>Subject: 7.1826, Disc: Analogy

>-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------
>Date: Sat, 21 Dec 1996 18:19:28 -0800 (PST)
>From: bwaldHUMnet.UCLA.EDU (benji wald)
>Subject: analogy blues
>Is linguistics a science? Ans: Yes, how dare you! Then why do we get all
>insecure and awe-struck when confronted with the methods and
>accomplishments of the "hard" sciences? Ans: lots of 'em: relative social
>prestige, size of grants, (claimed) pay-off (by trickle-down to "society"),
>undeniable beauty and "simplicity" of the logic that propels them. We
>still don't have a populariser who glorifies the logic we use yet -- maybe
>for good reason, something comparable to "people used to think the earth
>was flat but then somebody noticed about the horizon/the moon/the sun/etc
>etc .... and after sufficient DATA were gathered over the course of
>millenia, Kepler/Copernicus/etc etc ... and despite the lousy (cheap!)
>instruments of measurement at the time ..."). By the way, the strategy is
>that you start with what "people thought" and *it's gotta be obvious why
>they thought that*. Why "people" were wrong was because there were certain
>FACTS that they didn't know. Then science gets specialised.
>But I like the answer: yeah, let the hard sciences try being the observer
>and the object of observation at the same time, then we'll see --
>Heissenberg effect?

I am not sure what prompts Benji's response - while some sections of
linguistic research are amenable to using the hard sciences in them -
and lingusitics is not free to ignore the claims of hard science. The
era of science being the standard are coming to an end - science is an
expensive enterprise and now that there is no Cold War ot make it
clear to everyone why we must spend money on things they don't
understand - the funding for hard science is being slashed.

Instead the standard replacing it is rather much an economic one -
people value ideas more and more based on what others say about
them. This is all together more pernicious a standard and is far less
conducive to the search for knowledge and beauty in language.

I am not sure I under stand Benji Wald's complaint about data either -
no amount of data will change the natrue of linguistic research - in
that many of the things we wish to understand about language are not
mathematicisable - which is the cornerstone of hard science.

Stirling Newberry
Boston, Massachusetts

"The true artist has no pride, he realizes that arts demands are limitless.
Though he may be well regarded by others - he sees only darkly how far he
is from his goal, when a purer genius shall stand before him like a distant
sun." Ludwig vanBeethoven
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Message 2: Signed languages vs. invented languages

Date: Thu, 02 Jan 1997 13:56:25 -0500
From: Mark Mandel <>
Subject: Signed languages vs. invented languages

In 7.1757, Lisa Stevenson wrote

>I am putting together a reading list for an independent study
>course on invented languages, including Esperanto, sign language,
>twinspeak, and some science fiction efforts such as Klingon.

Sherman Wilcox responded in 7.1830:

> I'm concerned that the discussion has placed "sign language" in a
> broad category that has been labelled "invented language".

I wrote to Stevenson immediately on that point, as well as cross-
posting her query to SLLING-L, the sign language linguistics list.
I'm sorry I don't still have her reply to quote directly, but the
gist of it was that she meant specifically INVENTED sign languages
and codes, such as the numerous systems for manually coded English
(drawing on American Sign Language as a source of lexical
material): not ASL itself, nor comparable sign languages of other
deaf communities. She apologized for the confusion engendered by
her hastily-written message.

 Mark A. Mandel :
 Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 965-5200
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02160, USA :
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