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I Survived the Great Vowel Shift Message Board

I Survived the Great Vowel Shift

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Jul 26, 2006, 12:00pm Top

Good job, I enjoy the corny name. For the record, I'm a trained-as-but-never-was a linguist, now getting an MLIS.

Jul 26, 2006, 12:26pm Top

I suppose I'm a linguist-in-training, being as I will soon have a Bachelor's degree in it, but we'll see where grad school takes me.. I may end up in your same category. :)

And for some reason LT Groups won't let me change the picture. I was going to just put up an IPA chart, instead of this diagram from an article in that august journal of satirical linguistics, The Speculative Grammarian.

It gives me errors when I try to use PNG files, and it appears to accept other formats but then the picture is still the same on the group profile. I hope that's fixed soon.

Jul 26, 2006, 12:31pm Top

I'm not a linguist, but I've met Noam Chomsky a few times. Does that count? ;-)

About the photo, I couldn't get LT Groups to allow me to upload a picture at all on my group (Japanese Culture). I finally uploaded an image to PhotoBucket and linked to that. You might try linking to an online photo.

Jul 26, 2006, 1:04pm Top

I didn't have any trouble uploading pictures to either group I started, but I think it only accepts .jpg and .gif, and maybe .bmp as well. Also, I changed the picture once and thought it had remained the same, but it turned out my browser hadn't actually reloaded (even though it said it had).

Jul 26, 2006, 1:56pm Top

Pictures - I've managed to change Knitters Inc.'s picture twice now, so I don't know why it wouldn't change here. Perhaps something got changed when they went live? Might be worth mentioning on the blog or Google Group.

Jul 26, 2006, 2:17pm Top

I hope you allow aspiring philologists, too?

Jul 26, 2006, 3:05pm Top

Of course! Welcome, welcome.

Jul 26, 2006, 3:23pm Top

And sure enough, for some reason it wouldn't upload, but linking from a photobucket upload of the same picture did the trick!

Next order of business: Chamekke will tell us about meeting Noam Chomsky... :)

Jul 26, 2006, 4:19pm Top

hey, rikker: What's with the Chomsky bashing? And I've met him too. Or at least I've been in lectures and spoke to him afterwards. I've even got email from him.

Also, I was present when Move Alpha was spontaneously transformed (cough) into a dance. Back in the day.

Jul 26, 2006, 4:23pm Top

hey, rikker: What's with the Chomsky bashing? And I've met him too. I've even got email from him.

How geekish is that?

Jul 26, 2006, 5:20pm Top

I'm far too shy of linguistic knowledge to join the group - with just enough to laugh and say I love the name. But my compliments!

Only question: why is no one (so far) acknowledging Chomsky as a, uh, touchstone - cultural or cataloguing, for good or ill? ;)

Jul 26, 2006, 7:10pm Top

greenery wrote: "hey, rikker: What's with the Chomsky bashing?"

Hmm... I guess I came off too strong in the description. I can change that if it's too alienating. It was just a mild joke from a linguistics student who sort-of enjoyed but almost didn't make it through syntax. :)

As for my second reference, I was genuinely asking Chamekke to describe the circumstances of their meeting. That's all. No bashing intended.

Any chance of the Move Alpha dance making its way onto YouTube? :P

Jul 26, 2006, 8:24pm Top

gawd no. this was in graduate school, in the bar in the basement (really, they set up a bar for the grad students at the grad school at Princeton, and the name is (brace yourself) Debasement Bar.

And the person who can up with the dance was drunk at the time. He may not even remember. But I do.

Sidenote: my last message didn't post at first so I had to start again and recompose it. But then it turned out they both got posted. Can't wait until it's possible to edit/delete posts.

Jul 26, 2006, 10:03pm Top

I met Chomsky several times in a human-rights context (not linguistic) - at a couple of conferences, then again most memorably when I invited him to come to Canada to help raise public awareness of the brutal Indonesian occupation of East Timor. This was in the dark days of the early 1980's, when virtually no one had even heard of East Timor (or Indonesia, for that matter), and it was laughably unfashionable to be interested in the place or its people.

Chomsky interrupted his sabbatical and came up on his birthday to speak. He knew that I and the other young organizers were living hand-to-mouth, so he even offered to cover his own expenses. He was very kind. I've never forgotten it. Sorry if this sounds fangirlish, but I've never ceased to be grateful for the moral support and practical help he gave to us, and to many other activists struggling to bring global injustice to public attention.

In short, I've met few public figures who are even more compassionate and gracious in person than they are in public; Noam Chomsky is one of them.

Jul 26, 2006, 11:45pm Top

That's a great story! We must give the Noamster props for being a multifaceted, prolific, and socially conscious person, it's true.

Jul 27, 2006, 3:09am Top

I'm a fangirl of Chomsky's too, for the same reasons and more. I simply don't understand how people can pay so little attention to his political work. He really is one of the few great minds of our time, that incredible intellect and compassion in one human being.

Jul 27, 2006, 5:56am Top

Just curious--who exactly is it that pays so little attention to his political work? Linguists? I reckon that the general Jay Leno-watching populace doesn't know who he is, so they would not be paying attention to him in general, not just to his political work.

Is there anyone out there who loves his linguistic thoery and hates his politics? Loves his politics and hates his linguistic theory? Gets hungry when they hear his last name?

Jul 27, 2006, 11:04am Top

I like reading his linguistic work and pay little attention to his political work. But that could be because I'm not American (nor do I watch Jay Leno) but did study linguistics...

Jul 27, 2006, 11:56am Top

I'm not a linguist, so I was going to be silent about that side of things. (Chomsky did once give a thumbnail summary of transformational grammar while we were driving to a public event; that was very interesting.) I've since come to understand that many linguists find his theory at least partially outmoded, which doesn't surprise me since so much time has passed since it was first developed. My principal interest is in the man as a political writer.

Re: his fame, or lack of same ... I've met quite a few people who only know him on one area, whether politics or linguistics, and who are invariably astounded to learn of his prominence in the other one!

20languagehat First Message
Jul 27, 2006, 2:08pm Top

I like his political work and can't stand his linguistic work, which was the bane of my grad-school experience. His theories were misguided from the beginning, got even more complicated and self-justifying than Ptolemaic astronomy, and are finally becoming passe. But politically, his heart is in the right place, even if he's generally so over-the-top he's only preaching to the already converted.

Jul 27, 2006, 3:32pm Top

languagehat: I have to disagree with you down the line as far as Chomsky's contributions to linguistics are concerned. I'm not a syntactician -- far from it -- as I specialized in a field he doesn't much like -- but I have to acknowledge the brillance of his work. Before he came on the scene so much of linguistics was mechanistic and circular in reasoning (structuralism, anybody?). Universality in the way the human mind acquires and structures and manipulates language: that was the linguistic breakthrough of the last century.

Jul 27, 2006, 3:51pm Top

What I want to know is, has anyone here met Nim Chimpsky?

Any linguist with both fangirls and a chimp namesake can't be all bad, right?

Jul 27, 2006, 9:28pm Top

You succeeded in halting the conversation for 6 hours with that one! Maybe we're all just not done chuckling yet... :D

Jul 28, 2006, 10:43am Top

I feel bad for interrupting the conversation; I found some of the points quite interesting. I fit into the "armchair linguist" category myself (with a fair bit of spare reading these days focused on learning disabilities and literacy), so won't pretend to be able to completely keep up, but I never found structuralism necessarily mechanistic or circular in reasoning. I'd be interested in this particular criticism.

Jul 28, 2006, 12:50pm Top

I don't think you stopped the conversation, A_musing. Languagehat stated some opinions, and I stated some opinions. LH hasn't had time or isn't interested in pursuing that line of conversation, which is perfectly okay. We are all busy people, after all.

Structuralism was the dominant theory in linguistics before the Chomskian revolution (my term, not anybody else's). It was relevant primarily to studies of language change, and it went something like this:

If there is a lack of symmetry in the vowel inventory of a given language, the language will change to fill the hole..... Except when it doesn't.

Chomsky's theories were never much concerned with language change. He is far more interested in the fact that the human mind is hard wired for language, and that children acquire language in the same way no matter where they are and how many languages they are exposed to. This means also that the most basic structural units of language (how words are strung together) have an underlying universality. Children absorb language data and run it through the LAD (that part of the brain which handles language acquisition), which you might think of as a set of blueprints. At some point early in the process, kids become familiar enough with the basic blueprints to start experimenting with the data, extrapolating rules and making up sentences they've never heard. Which is where the 'transformational' of the early theoretical construct came from.

But maybe this is all familiar to you, in which case I apologize. Not my intention to lecture. On the other hand, there did seem to be some questions out there.

Also, this is a very fast and loose representation, lots of corners cut. A very good wider-audience book that goes into all this in a very readable way is Steven Pinker's The language instinct.

Jul 28, 2006, 2:49pm Top

Chomsky's transformations have become just about indispensable in linguistic research. My opinion is that they are a simple, reliable and accurate tool for defining and crossing the border between lexicon and syntax. The transformation is a brilliant idea skilfully applied and he deserves the high reputation it has earned him.

His ideas on the innateness of language suffer what I see as three quite basic failures to apply scientific method to what is--i hope all agree--a scientific problem. (These objections apply a fortiori to Pinker.) First, using one's own idiolect as a source of data. As a well from which to draw ideas, introspection is dandy. As a source of scientific data, it is hopelessly compromised.

Second, cherry-picking data. (If you disagree on that please just ignore it. I formed that impression years ago through close study of Chomsky's earlier work and have no intention of looking back through it for examples.)

Third, inappropriate mathematizing. (Chomsky's followers are more guilty of this sort of thing than he has been.) All science must ultimately be mathematized, but it is a capital error to theorize along those lines before appropriate mathematical models have been devised. Example: Zeno's paradoxes of motion, which stumped some awesomely intelligent people before calculus was invented. Now middle school students can resolve them easily (well, maybe not US middle school students).

Some of you may have heard of the paidologos project run by Jan Edwards out of the University of Wisconsin. They are doing detailed studies of child language acquisition in many languages, aimed at characterizing children's language disorders, but producing tons of data usable for other purposes. Those experimental data seem to indicate that the a priori theory of universality in child language acquisition may not survive prolonged exposure to cross-language comparison of how kids actually learn their mother tongues. For more information:


27argyriou First Message
Jul 28, 2006, 4:14pm Top

I haven't read very deeply into linguistics, though I have found that most people who don't consider themselves Chomskyists don't take Chomsky's theories seriously, though they are following his general line of inquiry. Essentially, language *is* innate, but the innate structures aren't what Chomsky said they were.

"All science must ultimately be mathematized, but it is a capital error to theorize along those lines before appropriate mathematical models have been devised."

No! No! No! In the behavioral sciences (and in some aspects of the general biological sciences), it is inappropriate to mathematize *at all*. A science is a systematic collection of true statements which provide predictive capability, but neither those statements, the links between them, nor the predictions need be numerical.

For example, it is possible to predict that certain sounds in words will be eroded to certain other sounds, but it is not possible to determine how many years (or generations) that will take in any particular case; and it's likely that it never will be possible. Linguistics is no less a science for that.

Jul 28, 2006, 4:14pm Top

It was my error not to make clear that there are other theories of language acquisition.

An overview of the various theories can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_acquisition

The articles isn't flawless and it's missing citations, but it does provide a pretty comprehensive list of theoretical schools.

Fogies' arguments have been addressed many times and in depth, to my satisfaction and the satisfaction of many linguists. I would venture to say even the majority of linguists. Pinker addresses all of them and a few more.

On the other hand, I think that there has been crucial work in language acquisition which provides a wider and deeper understanding of the language acquisition process. Bruner's theories on the importance of the social context (LASS -- Language Acquisition Support System) is perfectly compatible with the idea of a LAD (Language Acquisition Devise). We don't need to throw out the baby with the proverbial bathwater.

Theories like Bruner's supplement Chomsky's acquisition/ universality theories in the same way that sociolinguistics provides a broader and more comprehensive understanding of language as a social construct. The thing is, Chomsky isn't interested in that side of things and never has been. He says so openly.

Jul 28, 2006, 4:15pm Top

edit! edit! edit! if only I could fix those typos...

Jul 28, 2006, 5:55pm Top

I'll weigh in just a little bit here. I tend to agree with much of what Fogies said in message 26. I know when I was studying linguistics, it was pretty fashionable to laugh off Chomsky quite a bit and make clear that you were not one of his followers. But I always thought people went really overboard with this. I can certainly understand taking issue with many aspects of Chomskyan theory, and not adhering to his strict line, but you just have to give the guy a whole lot of credit for what nearly amounts to *making* syntax. Transformations really are indispensable, and as greenery says, it was a revolution.

Another book on the subject, which I'm actually reading right now so I can't give a real recommendation, is The Linguistics Wars by Randy Allen Harris. I'm about a third of the way through and so far it's pretty good. He basically outlines the history of the field and the "war" between generative and interpretive linguistics. It's not too dense for the layperson by any means, but a linguist, or at least someone with some background, will certainly get a little more out of it.

Jul 28, 2006, 5:56pm Top

I'll weigh in just a little bit here. I tend to agree with much of what Fogies said in message 26. I know when I was studying linguistics, it was pretty fashionable to laugh off Chomsky quite a bit and make clear that you were not one of his followers. But I always thought people went really overboard with this. I can certainly understand taking issue with many aspects of Chomskyan theory, and not adhering to his strict line, but you just have to give the guy a whole lot of credit for what nearly amounts to *making* syntax. Transformations really are indispensable, and as greenery says, it was a revolution.

Another book on the subject, which I'm actually reading right now so I can't give a real recommendation, is The Linguistics Wars by Randy Allen Harris. I'm about a third of the way through and so far it's pretty good. He basically outlines the history of the field and the "war" between generative and interpretive linguistics. It's not too dense for the layperson by any means, but a linguist, or at least someone with some background, will certainly get a little more out of it.

Jul 29, 2006, 12:31pm Top

I've been away, and I see I stirred up a hornet's nest. Can't say I'm surprised: there are a lot of Chomskyans out there (see above, re: bane of my existence), and they're passionately convinced that (whatever minor problems there may be with his theories) he revolutionized linguistic science and set it on the right path. Me, I remain convinced that what's sensible in his work was swiped from his teacher Zellig Harris; for the rest, he had as baneful an influence on linguistics as Freud did on psychology, basically dominating/wrecking the field for decades. I'd feel less bitter about it if the damage he did weren't so irreparable; it's one thing to spread a lot of wrong ideas -- time will take care of that -- but quite another to convince a generation or two of linguists that they didn't need to bother studying other languages; since all languages are basically the same, all you need to do is study your own and make appropriate transformations as needed for other variants of Basic Human. Thus the deep-rooted tradition of American linguistics, which emphasized the vital importance of fieldwork and helped immeasurably with both the understanding of the amazing variety of languages and the pressing work of helping record little-known languages, dried up at exactly the time when languages began dying out at a record pace. I can't bring myself to respect someone who's personally responsible for that, who's not only written papers and taught students but instilled the kind of factional spirit that led said students to "take over" linguistics departments throughout the land and marginalize or drive out traditional linguists. I was there, and I know. But pay me no mind; I'm an old fogey and haven't been professionally associated with the field for many years.

Jul 29, 2006, 6:42pm Top

languagehat -- my personal experience is that syntacticians don't discourage learning second and third languages. Quite the opposite.

On the other hand, they are not big on representative data sets, and are content with abstraction, sometimes to an extreme degree.

I don't think his theories will be 'disproved' or 'forgotten' -- and I also don't believe that he stole anything from Zell Harris. I would call that a disservice to both of them, actually. I do believe he is one of the best minds living.

But clearly we won't agree on this subject, so I'll let it go.

Jul 31, 2006, 10:48am Top

Sure, I'm happy to agree to disagree. My apologies if I seemed too vehement, but when I see a chorus of praise for the Great Noam I'm compelled to step in and offer a dissenting view. And I may have been a tad harsh with "swiped," but as you can see, it's not a subject about which I can be dispassionate!

Jul 31, 2006, 12:15pm Top

Linguists tend to be prickly (and I count myself as one such), so apologies necessary.

Jul 31, 2006, 12:53pm Top

Cool. So... anybody else studied any Caucasian languages?

Jul 31, 2006, 8:32pm Top

and, anybody else interested in sociolinguistics and/or language ideology studies?

Jul 31, 2006, 9:58pm Top

Although I'm hardly well-versed in either, I'm theoretically interested in both. Any recommended reading? Discussion points?

Aug 3, 2006, 3:05pm Top

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Aug 3, 2006, 3:16pm Top

argyriou: "No! No! No! In the behavioral sciences (and in some aspects of the general biological sciences), it is inappropriate to mathematize at all"

The ubiquity of meaningless quantification does not mean that meaningful quantification is impossible. I confronted this problem with some success in my statistical analyses of music performance (see An Eroica Project).

Aug 3, 2006, 4:31pm Top

Would you all please recall that "mathematical" is not a synonym of "numerical"? There are branches of math in which you can read a whole book and the only numbers you will see are the page numbers. Numerical models can be made wherever you have reliable consistent numerical data, but even where you don't you can build non-numerical mathematical models. Chomsky's famous rewrite rule "S = NP + VP" is clearly non-numerical.

(It is also nonsensical. He generalized it from a vast data set consisting of his own idiolect of English. There are languages other than English to which you cannot make it apply no matter how cruelly you force it.)

Aug 4, 2006, 6:10pm Top

Any other armchair sociolinguists out there?

I'm afraid it's been awhile since I really knew what I was talking about, but I do still have my undergrad linguistics club's "colorless green ideas ..." T-shirt sleeping furiously in the back of my closet.

Edited: Oct 25, 2006, 10:27am Top

You had an undergrad linguistics club??? I am SO jealous. ;)

Aug 19, 2006, 3:25pm Top

Okay, so it appears that none of us are as versed in linguistics as we would like to be... Is that why we're here? That's my reasoning. My undergrad was in history and Latin, but after learning Latin (which I hate) I realized that language is fascinating- though I haven't made it into Grad School yet- I am trying to learn as much as I can about linguistics, especially philology... Does anyone care to learn with me? Or at least engage this group in a scholarly discussion?

Aug 19, 2006, 11:07pm Top

jdisciacca wrote: Does anyone care to learn with me? Or at least engage this group in a scholarly discussion?

Absolutely! I am but a lowly linguistics major, three months from holding a Bachelor's degree. Not sure if I want to go to grad school in linguistics (yet, anyhow), but studying language is fascinating, and I believe I will end up working in some linguistics-related area.

By all means, start up some threads on different topics of interest, and we can solicit the input of the more experienced members. I will be happy to join in.

Aug 20, 2006, 2:01pm Top

We are both seasoned professionals in linguistics, so we will stay entirely out of this discussion. Have fun, y'all!

Aug 26, 2006, 3:36pm Top

We need the leadership of seasoned professionals...

48jcarpentercc First Message
Aug 31, 2006, 12:14am Top

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Aug 31, 2006, 12:20am Top

What do you think of Levi-Strauss? I know he represents a broader spectrum of anthropology, but he's always been one of my favorites...I wrote my (English Lit.) thesis using one of his ideas (bricolage).

Sep 10, 2006, 11:18pm Top

Just joined the group and read through the 49 prior messages. I hope the Fogies were not serious in saying they would not join the discussion anymore.

My knowledge of linguistics is less than rudimentary. What are some basic texts to read?

Sep 11, 2006, 12:49pm Top


Two kinds of people are called "linguist." One is a polyglot, who can translate, interpret and/or teach several languages. The other investigates language as human behavior. Think of the difference between Emily Post and Margaret Mead: both experts on manners, but their approaches to the subject contrast sharply; There was a suggestion a few decades back that the second sort be called "linguisticians" but that went nowhere.

In linguistics as in other heavily academicized fields of research, advanced students are totally into specialization. To ask a question that would interest such a person and get an answer you can use, you might have to know a lot about the physiology of the human ear, or mathematical logic, or how kinship can interact with age-distinctions, or the physics of vibrations, to give a few examples. An expert is way over your head on one of these specialties (and can be irritatingly plonking about it) and has mostly forgotten the now-obsolete stuff learned about the other specialties as an undergraduate. So your best source of general information about linguistics is the advanced undergraduates of whom several have already announced their presence in these messages. That's why we Fogies prefer to just lurk here.

A very good introduction to the phenomena one encounters in the study of language as behavior is a book that used to be a standard introductory text but is now three or four generations obsolete (I haven't even seen a copy for thirty years or more): A Course in Modern Linguistics by Charles Hockett. (Disclaimer: one of us used to be a student of Hockett's.) Chas was a natural teacher. He genuinely cared to make sure students had the clearest possible idea of what he was explaining them, and was really good at providing interesting ideas and examples. It is a good read as well as a good learn. But that book won't tell you much about how linguistic research is carried on now. We have tools he never dreamed of, to apply to sources of data he did not imagine, in quantities that would have staggered him. (Question for the undergrads in the group: what was your introductory linguistics textbook?)

Sep 11, 2006, 3:06pm Top


Thank you for your assistance. Though new tools and techniques may arise over time, the basic issues in any discipline do not change, so your input is important. I would rather have a doctor who graduated in 1965 but has removed 30,000 appendixes remove mine than someone who graduated last year, knows all the latest theories and has only removed one. Experience is what is built upon to create the new theories. The new makes sense only in relation to what it is based upon or in juxtaposition to.

Since I write and read a lot of poetry, I am curious about anything that might directly discuss the change in everyday speech over time and the change in "artistic" writing: poems, novels, etc. during the same time period. Am interested in the tension between the guardians of language and those pushing toward new ways of saying things, both in the literary realm and in everyday speech.

A lot of matters relating to linguistics interest me, but I have no tools, no "proper terminology" with which to frame my questions.

Edited: Sep 11, 2006, 8:46pm Top

This isn't a direct answer to your question, Poemblaze, but I recently met an English professor, Normand Holland, who has recently published his first 'scientific paper' in the study of how people respond to literature psychologically. He would really like an interest like yours. This might be of interest to someone like yourself. I found his website if you're interested:

Your interest in poetry sounds very interesting, and it is something I have not heard anything about in my study of linguistics or cognitive sciences. There is some discussion of language guardians, but I have not heard of anything about the tendencies of people to want to be guardians or pushing for change. Linguists tend to track change and its sources after the fact, as far as I can tell, minus the study of emerging languages.

My husband recently took an intro. linguistics course (to understand me ;) and they did talk about language guardians - however, it was to point out why being a language guardian is silly. They watched videos on it.

Just by way of disclaimer: I'm a doc student in communication sciences & disorders (my interest is in "psycholinguistics" if you want to get specialized). So I've done more than 1 appendix, but I didn't graduate it 1965 =) The 60's were actually a time of huge changes in linguistics. I hope my response is acceptable anyway!

Sep 11, 2006, 8:57pm Top

P.S. For Fogies, I never took an intro to linguistics (I dislike intro classes), but my husband's book was Language: Its structure and use. I haven't looked at it much myself, so I don't know much about it.

I spent forever trying to remember it's name by searching around... when I remembered it was in my "library" here. Duh.

Sep 12, 2006, 8:08am Top

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Sep 12, 2006, 9:17am Top

I'd say the basic issues of chemistry as alchemy and chemistry as pharmacology or any other 'contemporary' discipline are still the same. They are all quests to understand and manipulate the properties of the physical world.

Sep 12, 2006, 2:54pm Top

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Sep 12, 2006, 6:31pm Top

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Edited: Sep 13, 2006, 12:59am Top

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Sep 13, 2006, 1:07am Top

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Sep 13, 2006, 1:18am Top

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Sep 14, 2006, 10:41pm Top

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Sep 18, 2006, 1:35pm Top

I second the Fogies' recommendation of A Course in Modern Linguistics by Charles Hockett; it's an excellent book.

And I will point out that there's a difference between interaction in a classroom, where the teacher is paid to be patient and sort out your confusions and misunderstandings and enthusiastic but simplistic ideas, and a message board like this, where any experts are taking time off from what they should be doing and are less likely to respond well to being "challenged."

Edited: Sep 18, 2006, 2:34pm Top

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Sep 23, 2006, 1:03am Top

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Oct 10, 2006, 5:21pm Top

Everyone dozed off?

I rate Chomsky as a person and for his political contribution(s), but don't buy his linguistic stuff.

What I want to know is -

Who's read Ramachandran's stuff*, and how exciting is that?


* A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness : From Impostor Poodles to Purple Numbers and Vilayanur Ramachandran

67KilroyWasHere First Message
Oct 20, 2006, 11:36pm Top


I seemed to have stepped into this a bit late, but I thought I'd introduce myself--I'm a ling-major junior in college who's just starting the thrilling and completely not-at-all-terrifying process of looking at graduate school. I'm thinking of taking a year off before it, but that only helps so much.

Incidentally, my introductory text book was Language Files: Materials for an Introduction to Language and Linguistics. 9th edition, though.

68metaprosthesis First Message
Jan 26, 2007, 7:21am Top

wow. as a linguist, i would like to point out that, in fact, chomsky's work is still very much admired by a large portion of the syntax-oriented linguists in the mainstream. i am stating no personal opinion on the matter, just pointing out a fact. i find it a bit odd, given the preponderance of advance in the field and the ample amount of supporting evidence, however, that anyone still wants to debate the innateness issue. but i suppose that every scientist is always wrong, so an open eye is always directed toward new ideas.

what i really don't understand is the complaint (perhaps it was not a complaint?) about the highly technical and highly specialized nature of work in linguistics. are you upset if your mechanic knows more than you do about your car? are you upset if your doctor knows more than you do about infectious disease? this does not mean that they won't talk to you in a way that you can understand. linguists do not sit on lofty pedestals and look down on the hoi polloi. that spot is reserved for grammarians!

if group members are genuinely interested in an approachable introduction to the field, then the above mentioned The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker is a good place to start (though not a bible by any means). it is certainly true that most literature is either sub-field specific or incomprehensible to the unindoctrinated, but suggestions for specific fields can be provided to interested parties.

Mar 17, 2007, 11:39pm Top

I never got hungry before when I read his name, but now that you mention it....

I'm new to all this, trying to figure it out the mechanics, and am now trying to learn what happens when I reply to an old msg.

Does anyone here ever listen to/watch The Great Courses? (Why yes, I see from the sidebar popup that some do. Neat.) Recently I listened to The History of the English Language and loved it, although I hardly remember a word now.

I've liked three of the Great Courses, not liked two.

Mar 18, 2007, 10:52pm Top

Dear metaprosthesis,
I think Steven Pinker's book is good, but Mark C. Baker's, The Atoms of Language is what got me to see the advantage of seeing modern linguistics as useful. Before then I had read and more or less agreed with Roy Harris's view on liguistics. Some linguistics is as abstruse as mathematics, such as case grammar theory. But, I'm only a lay person.
Bob Campbell

Mar 25, 2007, 7:52pm Top

i certainly agree that baker's book is well-written, insightful, and a great starting point. i do think that it focuses a bit more on syntactic issues, while pinker's book seems a bit more oriented on acquisition and and innateness issues (also, baker's book is much shorter and thus easier to convince people to read ;)). but, yes, The Atoms of Language is a fantastic book by a keen linguistic mind. thank you for mentioning it.

Apr 3, 2007, 10:05pm Top

Hi! Is there room for an English major and translator, who is just in love with words? *blush*

I'm very far from being well-read and knowledgeable in linguistics, but I'm trying, I'm trying...

Anyway, just joined, maybe I can learn something from you guys ;)

Sep 21, 2008, 12:28pm Top

OK, basic disclaimer: I'm a Germanic philologist. In my case, that's the result of English major/German minor+ --> several linguistics courses and German courses in summer schools--> English MA with a master's thesis in linguistics--> MA plus a hodge-podge beyond that in Germanic Philology. I taught English and German in between there and at one point was so disgusted with what the school had as a grammar that I created my own grammar book.
I've played around with transformational grammar, tagmemics, and just about everything else, but I'm basically a structuralist with a strain of tagmemics, because it works well in both English and German. Except when I was a TA in grad school, however, my actual teaching has been in grades 7-12, both languages for a while, then straight German the last part of my teaching career. I've been retired for a decade now.

Still with me? I'm not going to suggest any books because I don't know what's current, but I do know what works in practice. I've been an old-fashioned heretic and discovered the avant garde coming up from behind me at least twice over the decades, but my basic philosophy has changed little. Language learning is about communication. Good teaching requires enthusiasm. However you teach grammar/structure/syntax, etc., it's more important that you can share your own enthusiasm than whether you're teaching transformational or any other system.

End of lecture 8-)

Sep 21, 2008, 3:57pm Top

I am curious to know (from lurking fogies and others in the English-speaking world) how much the work of Antoine Culioli and his "school" appears on your radar.

Also--since this might raise the delicate question of the scientific versus the cultural specificity of linguistics as a discipline--how one might explain the seeming contrast between English (roughly Chomskian, "for" or "against") and "continental" descriptions of the subject.

I realize that this is a broad brush, sweeping query, but any reactions, including personal and anecdotal, are welcome. Thanks.

Edited: Sep 21, 2008, 8:43pm Top

Writing as a bystander, I don't think that Antoine Culioli is very much on the Egnlsih-speaking 'radar screen'. Only one person in LT owns any of his books. Peeking at Worldcat, the one book I looked at ("Cognition and representation in linguistic theory") is mostly owned by academic libraries, and the ones at NYPL and BPL are non-circulating. Worldcat does show 158 copies.re are 158 copies of this, however

Group: I Survived the Great Vowel Shift

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