noonan at CSD.UWM.EDU
Mon Jan 8 19:24:54 UTC 1996
This is in response to a posting that had been sent out last week on
Funknet concerning reading instruction in Massachusetts. The posting
bore my name and contained a note written by me.
I would like to apologize to my colleagues in Massachusetts and to David
Pesetsky in particular for a letter, which David had sent privately to
Edith Moravcsik, being posted on Funknet together with an injudicious note
written by me. I had sent the letter with my note privately to some
friends, and it was not my intention that the letter and/or the note be
served up for public consumption. In addition, I would like to point out
that the views attributed to David on the note accompanying the letter are
not necessarily his and that the quotation marks in my note do not reflect
a quotation from anything David had written to me or to Edith Moravcsik.
I should also like to say that characterizing anyone's beliefs as `silly',
as I did in my note, serves no useful function in a public forum: again I
should like to emphasize that I did not intend my remarks for anyone but
the four people to whom my original note was addressed.
Since my note seemed to imply complete disagreement with the position
taken by the Massachusetts linguists, perhaps I should explain briefly
what my position on the issue at hand really is.
I have argued for years with my colleagues in literature against
the view that meaning is a mere construct of the reader/hearer and cannot
be said in any way to inhere in text/speech. There are many arguments
against the `social constructionist' view, but the simplest one derives
from the observation that linguistic communication is overwhelmingly
successful, whereas the social constructionist view would predict
While I believe a simplistic social constructionist view to be
wrong, I also believe its opposite, a simplistic decoding view [as Mark
Durie recently characterized it on Funknet] is wrong too. [I don't want
to imply in any way anything about what Mark believes or doesn't believe
concering this issue.] It was this simplistic decoding view of meaning
that the Massachusetts linguists seemed to be endorsing in their letter,
though perhaps this was only a rhetorical stance. I believe the truth
here, as is so often the case, lies somewhere in the messy middle.
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