post from Dianne Patterson, U.Arizona
tgivon at uoregon.edu
Fri Oct 22 21:33:52 UTC 2010
Dianne Patterson has asked me to post this for her:
I'm afraid I can't quote anything of interest in the literature, but I
second Tom Givon's private experiences. I have a BA in Philosophy, a
Masters in Linguistics, and a PhD in Psychology.
I've worked on language acquisition, animal-language issues, done
fieldwork in a remote region of Mexico, and spent the last 10 years
doing neuroimaging work.
I have found that academics in Psychology, Speech Sciences, Biology and
think many linguists associated with the old School Chomskian
perspectives are out of touch with real data and out of touch with how
research is conducted.
This cultural divide is too bad, since I honestly believe linguists
might be able to contribute to these fields if they were a little more
willing to appreciate the perspectives, methods and hard work of people
in these fields. Instead, linguists often leave behind them a trail of
offended scientists by making a variety of poor choices in their approach:
-Asserting time and again the sort of quasi-religious dogma that humans
are "qualitatively different" than other creatures (this is NOT a
scientific hypothesis, it is not clear what it means, nor is it obvious)
-Assuming that only linguists have any insights into language...and
never bothering to learn what other disciplines might have to offer
(e.g., well vetted tests in Speech Sciences).
-Suggesting time and again that real data from real people is of no
And, if linguists are interested in data:
-Assuming researchers who have worked long and hard and at great expense
to acquire data should just turn it over to the linguist who has
contributed nothing and/or offers VERY little (asking for a free ride is
not a good way to ingratiate yourself)
-Thinking of language disordered populations as resources to confirm
Chomsky's latests theories with (sorry, these are real people, not lab
rats. If you aren't interested in helping, then rethink your goals.)
I hope that training in linguistics and the attitudes that go with that
training can change, because otherwise other academics will just avoid
linguists, and that's too bad, because linguists have some unique
problem solving skills...and I the "True Believer" linguists give the
more reasonable linguists a bad reputation.
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