LINGUIST List 8.867

Fri Jun 13 1997

Disc: Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Knud Lambrecht, Re: 8.764, Disc: Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent

Message 1: Re: 8.764, Disc: Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent

Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 18:26:05 -0500 (CDT)
From: Knud Lambrecht <>
Subject: Re: 8.764, Disc: Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent

I read Robert F. Barsky's reply to Postal's and Pullum's comments
about Feargul Murphy's review of his (Barsky's) book and found it odd,
to say the least.
 About three quarters of Barsky's reply do (does?) not deal with the
Postal-Pullum comments about Murphy's review for the LINGUIST but with
a review by Pullum for 'Nature' of Barsky's book. I can understand
that Barsky feels the need to defend himself against Pullum (who
wouldn't), but most of what he says is simply irrelevant to the issue
at hand. Postal & Pullum wrote a reply to Murphy, not to Barsky.
 But even granting that this was a welcome opportunity for Barsky to
reply to Pullum's 'Nature' review, I see no justification for the fact
that this reply deals almost exclusively with Chomsky's non-linguistic
activities, which were NOT at issue in P&P's reply to Murphy. P&P are
concerned with what they take to be inaccuracies being spread by
Murphy (and Barsky) about one specific issue: the politics of the MIT
linguistics department at a certain point in history. P&P mention
Chomsky's non-academic political activities only very briefly, and
only insofar as they are relevant to Chomsky the linguist: they
concern Murphy's strangely irrelevant remark that "Chomsky was at this
time simply very busy with other issues like the Vietnam War". (I can
only understand this remark, which is quoted by P&P as paraphrasing
Barsky, as insinuating that one ought not criticize Chomsky's academic
politics because from someone who has the courage to speak out against
the Vietnam War anything goes).
 The following comment by Barsky summarizes for me the tone and
tenor of his entire reply: "Pullum seems to want to tell all of us
what to do and how to think." This is not an argument, it's low-level
denigration. It reminds me of presidential debates. To quote Barsky:
"This is extremely unnerving."

	Knud Lambrecht

	Department of French & Italian
	University of Texas, Austin
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