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Karl Teeter kvt at
Thu Feb 13 16:20:44 UTC 1997

	Dear Tom and Friends:

	Deploring flames as I do (except for cooking) I am distressed to
	be seen as writing one!  The reasonable perspective if that the best
	to do linguistic research is in the cultural setting in which the
	is spoken. That is precisely the position that I sought to convey in
	reminiscence of field work.  It is true I did not SAY "the best way",
	said "desirable when feasible" and am sorry if my prose did not convey
	clearly my strong belief that the best way to do field work on any
	language is to live in the community and to learn the language.

I do think it nonsense that that is the ONLY way to do
effective fieldwork -- this position would throw out most of the field
research that has ever been done from the earliest times to the present!
If that is the correspondent's position he or they have a right to it and
to put it forth and defend it, and that is fine, and no flame.  I can also
explain why I consider it a nonsensical position (I have tried to do so
again just now), without writing a flame. The "flame" comes in when one
indulges in ad hominem personal attacks, and fellow readers of this list
know what I am referring to {if Whorf's (or anybody's) analysis is
inadequate one demonstsrates it by fact-based argument, not by the
comment that he did his field work in a hotel room}. I also regard
linguistics as one of the humanities, a human science if you will, and not
a social science, whatever a social science may be but, as my
mother-in-law used to say, "that's besides", so this remark is
parenthetical and not substantive. The jury will disregard that remark!

The whole thing started with Victor Golla's eloquent and eminently
reasonable communication a couple of weeks ago on this list, and maybe the
whole problem comes from the different sorts of experience we who do
fieldwork on native American languages have.  Not infrequently, as in my
case, one has to deal with a language which, thanks to our illustrious
pioneer colonizers, no longer functions in a society or culture. Those who
remember it live in a shack in the country or in the city, and live the
lives of poverty and desperation so common in that situation.  Field work
with Ishi was done in the museum of anthropology at Berkeley. What other
course was possible for Kroeber, Sapir, and those who tried to get what they
could? Kroeber travelled all over California on horseback with a steno
notebook in his jacket pocket, and interviewed native Americans wherever
he could find them. Will those of you who insist that the only way to
study a language in the field is to become a part of a community comment
on this problem?  I say you do what you can, what, in the words of
Garrison Keillor "needs to be done", and forget about puristical ideas
about the only decent data being genuine primitive data and the like.
Now forgive my caricature, and go back to recording your observations in
boundnotebooks with a fountain pen.

In fact, apologies all together and if this is a flame let's work
together to put out the fire! The fact is I sat down to my e-mail this
morning to add to the bibliographical notes in my alleged flame message,
and Tom, you done derailed me (that's rural eastern, not ebonics). What I
meant to say was this.  Yesterday I characterized Bob Dixon's book as "far
and away the best book on field work".  On consideration, I feel I might
well have added "within the last decade or so", because I am constrained
on further thought to cite Rosalie Wax, "On Doing Fieldwork," UChi Press
1971, a wonderful book about anthropological field work in general which
explained to me what I had been doing before I had figured it out.

As for the discussion on the list of fieldwork, orignallyo
initiated by a message from Nancy Dorian, it lws going well until last
week and there is a lot more to say.  Permit me to repeat the sentence
with which I ended my much-maligned communication: So okay, folks, more
reminiscenses and fewer flames.  Your colleague, kvt

 On Wed,12 Feb 1997, Tom Payne wrote:

 > Karl Teeter recently posted a message in which he suggests
 > that contributors to this list refrain from "flames." He
 > then immediately caricatured a very reasonable perspective on
 > descriptive linguistics as "nonsense."
 > The reasonable perspective is that the best way to do
 > linguistic research is in the cultural setting in
 > which the language is spoken.
 > Lest some view Professor Teeter's flame as somehow
 > "proving" that the reasonable perspective is wrong (which
 > he didn't claim, but may be construed to have claimed), I
 > and so forth...
> Thomas E. Payne
> Department of Linguistics
> University of Oregon
> Eugene, OR 97403
> Voice: 541 342-6706
> Fax:   541 346-3917
> ______________________________________________________________________
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