grammaticalization Don't misrepresent Kuhn

Mark P. Line mark at
Mon Feb 27 17:39:32 UTC 2006

Diane Frances Lesley-Neuman wrote:
> I think that in linguistics and in phonology this is a big problem. I
> used to get a lot of pressure not to read--just get in there and crack
> phonemes. It is part of the crisis of linguistics as a science--which I
> find to be quite Balkanized, and waters are tricky to navigate.  When
> that hurdle is overcome there is the aspect of competition and
> professional jealousy--a minefield for a newcomer in the field.

I think that the apparent crisis of linguistics as a science looks a lot
less dangerous if we realize that not all linguists are actually
practicing science, nor even want to practice science -- even if some of
them may think and say otherwise.

If those linguists who *are* practicing science are in crisis (I don't
think so), then that's one thing. But if it's merely the fact that some
linguists are actually practicing philosophy of language (at best) or
armchair casuistry (at worst) but not science, then there's not really any
crisis as far as the science is concerned -- just the historical
happenstance that the community of science-practicing linguists is a
smallish subset of the academic discipline overall.

If we ignore academic turf boundaries (what a concept) and consider the
community of all researchers studying human language by means of the
scientific method (i.e. regardless of whether they consider themselves
linguists, cognitive scientists, psychologists, neuroscientists or
whatever), then that community is obviously quite large -- and still not
particularly in crisis, as far as I can see.

So the short version of this is that it's the turf that is in crisis, not
the science. That, in my opinion, is as it should be.

-- Mark

Mark P. Line
San Antonio, TX

> --
> Diane Lesley-Neuman, M. Ed.
> Linguistics Department
> Institute for Cognitive Science
> University of Colorado at Boulder
> Quoting jess tauber <phonosemantics at>:
>> I spoke with Kuhn about a decade before his death (in 1996), and he was
>> not
>> only rather unhappy with the way his earlier work had been distorted and
>> extended to areas like business, but also wasn't sure he was exactly
>> right in
>> the first place anymore. But this is from misty memory. It reminds me of
>> what
>> happened to Einstein's 'relativity' in the social sciences and
>> humanities.
>> Shows what happens when someone else runs with your football.
>> Seems to me that 'paradigm shift' is more like an earthquake or someone
>> popping your balloon. Cumulating force imbalances lead to
>> stresses/strains
>> which can be ignored only until something gives either by itself, or
>> because
>> someone helps the process along. If you're lucky you are young enough
>> and far
>> enough from the main eruption to survive without too much need to turn
>> your
>> own work on its head.
>> As for communicating more- maybe within any subdiscipline and school.
>> But it
>> isn't hard to find people ignoring both established and new findings of
>> someone else's. Nor do people often delve back into the past to bother
>> to
>> find out if they're reinventing the wheel (AGAIN). Insularity/isolation,
>> rather than multidisciplinary interfacing, is the norm in the publish or
>> perish world (speaking as a member of the latter realm). Who has time
>> and
>> resources for anything else?
>> But storming the gates of heaven is always loads of fun.
>> Jess Tauber
>> phonosemantics at

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