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.
Texas Tech University
From: Dennis R. Preston [mailto:preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU]
Sent: Tue 6/17/2003 6:55 AM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
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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