Mark P. Line mline at ix.netcom.com
Mon Feb 10 22:00:54 UTC 1997

Frances Karttunen wrote:
> Please refrain from attacking Victor Golla and Benjamin Lee Whorf
> without benefit of knowing what they both have actually done.

I've obviously stepped on somebody's religious beliefs here. I've taken
somebody's name in vain, even though what I said is perfectly true (and
not contested here, in fact).

Buddha does not wear army boots.

> To Victor we owe an immeasurable debt for a professional lifetime of
> help through the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of
> the Americas, to say nothing of his work with Hupa.  Debate his ideas
> about the best venue for putting together a grammar of a language, but
> don't attack him in ignorance of what he has done.  Few of us have
> accomplishments to measure up to his.

The same is true of Ptolemy (the astronomer), isn't it?

How can science proceed if it is not possible to disagree with the
methodological postulates of one's predecessors?

When did I attack Victor personally, or do anything but debate his ideas?

I admit that I made some unflattering comments about Whorf, but that is my
prerogative. Why do you assume that it is not?

In another post, I also jested in the general direction of the kind of
classical "field" methodology that Victor is fond of, but that, too, was
no attack on Victor's person. And that, too, was my prerogative. Why do
you assume that it is not?

I guess you need to explain your objections more clearly. You've raised
all these questions ...

> As for Whorf, he did not spend all his time hanging out in his
> employer's office.

I know. I believe he did his Hopi "research" in a hotel room. He was also
a tourist in Mexico at least once, but you've already told us about that. 

> In 1930 he got a small amount of support and went to Milpa Alta.

In other words, he was a tourist whom somebody owed a favor. I'm glad he
collected some Nahuatl data while he was there. I assume it's still of
some use to Aztecists, although I gather that his analyses are not.

> It is to Whorf and the time he spent sharing the tough life
> of the returning Milpalteno refugees that we owe the initial flourishing
> of the art of dona Luz.

And _that_ is what makes Whorf's linguistic methodology beyond all
reproach? Could you elaborate?

Or do you merely want me to stop taking Whorf's name in vain?

> Whorf also made an egregious misanalysis of Nahuatl (see Lyle Campbell's
> and my edited version of his Milpa Alta field notes in IJAL), but it
> wasn't a stupid misanalysis.

I never said that anything about Whorf was _stupid_. I said it was
_amateurish_. Stupidity is excusable, amateurishness is not (at least not
when you're plugged into the professional regime). I also granted that his
work was well-meaning.

My point, of course, was to illustrate how armchair methodology can be the
cause of major descriptive blunders. Victor was saying how such
methodology was "just fine", and I chose to make public my disagreement. I
chose Whorf's Hopi episode as one of the most famous blunders due to
slipshod methodology (i.e. not actually _acquiring_ the language you're
trying to describe). Since he probably didn't acquire Nahuatl either, his
misanalyses of that language are no doubt due to the same cause.

-- Mark

(Mark P. Line   ----   Bellevue, Washington   ----   mline at ix.netcom.com)

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