Mark P. Line
mline at ix.netcom.com
Mon Feb 10 01:50:43 UTC 1997
Victor Golla wrote:
> The "field" of 19th century colonial officers and gentlemen-amateurs
> is long gone, but the mystique of living "among the natives" lingers
> on and has insinuated itself into our discussion.
This sounds like you don't get out much. ;)
> In my experience
> some of the most fruitful encounters between linguists and languages
> take place in quiet academic settings in Europe and North America.
Particularly fruitful, in fact, if one's theoretical and methodological
paradigm includes the following postulates:
1. Language can be separated analytically from culture.
2. You can learn to understand (in the scientific sense) a language by
working bilingually with a native-speaker in structured interviews.
3. Native speakers in Western academic settings are excellent sources on
their language. In fact, they may even be _better_ than those in other
settings because of their better command of your working language and
their ability to learn your descriptive-linguistic framework.
Since I disagree with all three postulates, I find the kind of
"research" you mention very much less than fruitful. Been there,
> My own mentor, Mary Haas, got nearly all of her "field"
> with Thai in Ann Arbor and Berkeley, and even her Creek and
> work--carried out in Oklahoma--was done in offices, hotels,
> people's living rooms.
That's not any kind of field experience in my book. It's merely
descriptive as opposed to theoretical.
> A certain kind of anthropological linguistics--certainly any
> investigation of conversational interaction and public
> requires the intrusion of the linguist into local settings,
> in remote and physically demanding places. So do the
> functions of SIL.
Also the _non_-missionary functions of SIL, because their
at odds with the three lounge-chair-description postulates
> But most linguistic data gathering requires only
> a speaker and a linguist, a comfortable venue, and time to do
Depending, of course, on one's definition of "data". There are
accept introspective statements about the linguist's own L1 as
not everybody agrees. I don't think everybody agrees that your
lounge-chair "data" is always data.
> Tony Woodbury has suggested that not all "informants" are
> Some individuals have the capacity to generalize and
> abstract facts of their native language, and in combination
> linguist they create--co-create--deeply insightful analyses.
For some linguists, a native speaker who does that is not an
She's a linguist (perhaps amateur, and perhaps even more
happens to be a native speaker of the language in question.
(Mark P. Line ---- Bellevue, Washington ----
mline at ix.netcom.com)
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