Hadley, Tim tim.hadley at TTU.EDU
Tue Jun 17 15:11:50 UTC 2003

I'm new on this list, so I've read this Vocabula thread with interest, and a little surprise. Interest, because I'm intrigued by the discussion of prescriptivism, grammar, and even the political views that accompany these issues. Surprise, on the other hand, at 2 things: (1) the lack of tolerance, on the part of some, for others' views, and (2) the attacks on persons, rather than ideas. 
I don't know Mr. Fiske, or what he has done (if anything) to generate such attacks against him. As I looked at his website, I found a number of things that I did not agree with, especially in the area of usage decisions. On the other hand, I found many things that I agreed with, especially his passion for language, which I share. I know that a prescriptive attitude (about anything) is offensive to some, but I am always a little surprised at how some non-prescriptivists, whose views are usually equated with openness and inclusion, have such little tolerance for views that do not agree with their own. In opposing prescriptivism, some non-prescriptivists have become just as prescriptive and offensive as the prescriptivists they oppose. (This is true, btw, in politics as well as grammar!)
I can't remember who on this thread made the request for "civil discourse," but I have to agree with that request. One can strongly disagree with another's views without attacking another's person. Reasoned discourse is the order of the day, no matter what the subject.
Tim Hadley
Texas Tech University

	-----Original Message----- 
	From: Dennis R. Preston [mailto:preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU] 
	Sent: Tue 6/17/2003 6:55 AM 
	Subject: Re: Vocabula

	One need go no further in associating a right-wing approach in
	general and Mr. Fiske's notion of language than his own self-damning
	assertion of his apparently innate ability to see the difference
	between right and wrong, true and false. The liberal-scientific
	position takes quite a different view of the world in general. What's
	so annoying to true believers is that we refuse to declare all-time
	truths and continue to muddle around seeking better answers.
	If I went on a chemistry discussion list (although it perplexes me
	why I might) and found that my beliefs were at odds with all
	professional chemists I could either 1) begin to at least question my
	belief about the chemical makeup of something, or 2), take a Fiskean
	position, and note that professional chemists didn't know
	doodly-squat about chemistry.
	But so it goes with linguistics, and since it is more "human" than
	chemistry (and considerably less "scientific" in the popular mind),
	it will always attract crackpots like Fiske.
	Dennis R. Preston
	Professor of Linguistics
	Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic,
	      Asian & African Languages
	Michigan State University
	East Lansing, MI 48824-1027
	e-mail: preston at msu.edu
	phone: (517) 353-9290

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