A question for Fritz

john at research.haifa.ac.il john at research.haifa.ac.il
Sat Oct 23 18:51:31 UTC 2010

Hmm. So you seem to be in a difficult position, that is, that you don't
agree with the premise but you are perhaps expected to agree? You obviously
haven't had too much luck getting support for the premise from funknet (the
only person who gave you anything was Shannon and none of her references
were about generative grammar)--have you gotten much from other sources? Have
you considered simply going with your immediate reaction, that is,
contradicting the premise of the article?

I would generally agree with your assessment that linguistics hasn't enjoyed
great prestige in the US for a while, but I think I might put the date a little
later, maybe the mid-to-late-70s. I have the impression that for a while there
was a lot of hope and expectation in other disciplines that the Chomskyan
paradigm would lead to much more than it has. Another factor is, I think, that
whereas during the days of structural linguistics there was a lot of admiration
for linguistics in the other social sciences in the sense that there was a
general feeling that social sciences should be more scientific and that
linguistics was doing a much better job of this than the other social sciences
(with the possible exception of economics), by the early 1980s at the latest
the other social sciences either gave up trying to be scientific or else
managed to do it in ways not modeled on linguistics. In that sense I think that
even the early prestige of the generative paradigm was in a certain sense a
continuation of the earlier admiration for structural linguistics.

What seems to have happened is that the methodology for scientific linguistics 
a la structuralism and generative grammar has turned out to simply not be
applicable to other disciplines. But generative grammarians seem to be either
not aware of this, or to assume that this is a temporary state of affairs, or
not to care, and thus to radically overestimate the general importance of their
program to academic research in general. This would seem to be the only
explanation for people like the author of this articles making premises which
aren't consistent with what's really going on.
Best wishes,

Quoting Frederick J Newmeyer <fjn at u.washington.edu>:

> John,
> That's a fair enough question. I was asked to provide commentary on a target
> article whose basic premise is that the field of linguistics enjoys
> 'tremendous prestige' among those in the humanities, social sciences, and
> cognitive sciences. My immediate reaction was that such has not been true
> since the 1960s. Since everything in the target article follows from the
> premise, I thought that I might wrap my commentary around whether linguistics
> really does enjoy 'tremendous prestige'. Hence my question to the List. And
> then I decided to expand my commentary to a separate survey article.
> --fritz
> ps: The authors of the target article tacitly equate linguistics with
> generative grammar, though I am not aware of other approaches to linguistics
> enjoying tremendous prestige among those in the humanities, social sciences,
> and cognitive sciences.
> Frederick J. Newmeyer
> Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
> Adjunct Professor, University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University
> [for my postal address, please contact me by e-mail]
> On Sat, 23 Oct 2010, john at research.haifa.ac.il wrote:
> > Particularly in view of the response which Fritz' posting has generated,
> I'd
> > like to ask him: Why are you looking particular for quotes from people in
> > theoretical rather than applied fields? What sort of a survey article is
> this?
> > Was this distinction made by the person who asked you to write the article
> or
> > is it your own idea?
> > Best wishes,
> > John
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > This message was sent using IMP, the Webmail Program of Haifa University
> >

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