Fieldwork today or cultural theft ? or theory or...

Mark P. Line mline at
Thu Feb 13 22:13:59 UTC 1997

> > > I do not see why capitalist society's copyright laws should be
> > > relevant
> > > in the case of lg and grammar.

> >It is relevant because it is the way _Western_ socities deal with
> >proprietary information.

> But it is not the way capitalist society deals with language.

You elided the important part of my response above, and you seem to miss
the point.

My point is that every culture must be allowed its own concept of property
-- intellectual and otherwise -- and that you are failing to do so.

The Western concept is exemplified in our copyright laws, and they don't
consider language as property. That's fine for us.

The Maori concept is exemplified in some Maori-NZ treaty law and a court
ruling or two, and they DO consider their native language as property.
That's fine for them.

You and others here are arguing about the Maori position using the Western
concept of property, not the Maori concept of property. Such an approach
is completely ethnocentric, and pretty fruitless in my view.

So the answer to your question of why I brought up the matter of Western
ocpyright laws is that they exemplify the Western concept of property
(particularly intellectual property), and that it is THIS concept which
you and others are attempting to apply ethnocentrically to the Maori
position on their ownership of their own language and culture.

> >The Maori deal with proprietary information in a
> >different way, but their way is no less valid for them than our way is for
> >us.
> Of course it is not. The Maori way just haven't been on the list yet,
> only the Maori term for it ("taonga").

Maybe because Peter had a hard time getting a word in edgewise among the
ethnocentric "rebuttals" to his position and my deflation of those

On the other hand, I don't expect Peter to be able to communicate to us
effectively the Maori concepts behind their position within the finite
time and bandwidth available on this list. Since this is Peter Keegan and
not Joe Blow off the streets, I'm willing to accept his presentation of
the Maori position at face value until such time as I can learn Maori and
get to understand the deeper cultural foundations of their policies.
You're not constrained to give him the benefit of the doubt as I have
done, and he's not constrained to try to make Maori culture plausible to
you in this venue.

> >That's the point I was trying to make. You cannot make the
> >ethnocentric argument
> (... several ethnocentric arguments listed)
> I seriously try avoiding ethnocentric arguments ( = avoiding saying "you
> should use my values", instead trying to evaluate each argument in its
> own value setting).

Good. Your earlier "rebuttal" to Peter, that his position was "flawed"
because language is not "property like land or money" was certainly an
ethnocentric argument, but nobody's perfect. I assume you recognize this
ethnocentricity for what it is now, and that you continue to try to avoid
it. Otherwise, I'll have to keep bitching at you. [Only kidding.]

> >Descriptive salvage of a soon-to-be-extinct language
> >which the speakers do not wish to maintain only benefits that common
> >heritage documentation you mentioned, not the community where the language
> >used to be spoken.
> You forget the next generation!

No, I merely give other sociolinguistic situations higher priority. I'm
sure there are a few cases in which the 3rd generation wants to revitalize
the language, and in many of those cases the linguistic knowledge will
have been irrevocably lost. I would still favor working towards the
abatement of speaker attrition in a community over descriptive salvage of
a language that is extinct or cannot be saved from (perhaps temporary, in
some cases) extinction. But those are just my own personal priorities
talking, and not everybody is gonig to follow them.

> That I did (cf. below) (and I am still waiting for an elaboration why he
> is reluctant to share his language with others)

I didn't know he was. Did he say he was?

-- Mark

(Mark P. Line   ----   Bellevue, Washington   ----   mline at

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