Rosetta Stone acquires the rights to endangered languages

alex gross language at
Mon Jan 24 23:14:01 UTC 2011

Of course the main problem concerning Rosetta Stone has not
been remotely addressed here, nor did I expect it to be.

Had linguists continued on the intersecting paths of Whorf,
Sapir, Bloomfield, and Hayakawa during the Sixties, the
entire Rosetta Stone encroachment would have never come
about.  Descriptivist linguists showed sensitivity to Native
American languages and regarded them as views of reality
in many ways as valid as our own, creating a close unity
between Native American speakers and the scholars who
studied them. Our profession would then have been in a
position to explain to them why Rosetta Stone could not truly
help them.  And the aim of the Semanticist movement was
to create an ongoing and far-reaching critique of American
trends in politics, advertising, and religion, which could
have led to a heightened consciousness of the many ways
language can lead us astray and why simplistic tools like
Rosetta Stone are of limited use.

But instead the profession has squandered the enormous
prestige enjoyed by linguistics 50 years ago in pompous
and demonstrably false proclamations about universal grammar,
deep structure, and hard wiring, not to mention endless
feuding between angry factions over the details of this
monumental failure.

As I pointed out in an earlier post:

So-called "mainstream linguistics" ends up being on
about the same level of credibility as all those TV ads
for "Rosetta Stone." Just as they claim you can "learn a
language," without bothering to mention whether by
"learn" they mean read, speak, understand what is
spoken back to you, translate in either direction,
or simply pick up the general sense, so "mainstream
linguistics" stakes out vast fields of competence but
never comes remotely near actually achieving them.

Yes, Rosetta Stone has engaged in outrageously false
claims on behalf of its so-called method for a number
of years now.  But many mainstream linguists have
engaged in equally noxious rhetoric about the alleged
triumph of their supposed breakthroughs or about the
imminent advent of MT and automatic language systems
they have championed.  And they have continued to do
so despite  ample evidence to the contrary over at least
the last four decades.  And yet other linguists , who have
been perfectly aware that these claims were overstated,
have chosen to remain silent.

It is not the slightest bit surprising that the guiding
force of so-called mainstream linguistics stems from
the same era that also handed us the notion that man can
"conquer" the planet, that highways can "conquer" the
wilderness, that cities can "conquer" landscape, that
modernity can "conquer" traditional ways.  Indeed,
the main thrust of language study today is still centered
on the eminently falsifiable doctrine that language
itself can be conquered and open the way to some
ill-defined realm where deep knowledge of "grammar"
can give rise to deep knowledge of  reality.

All the best to every one!


The principal purpose of language is not communication but to persuade 
that we know what we are talking about, when quite often we do not.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Keith Johnson" <keithjohnson at>
To: <funknet at>
Sent: Thursday, January 20, 2011 11:50 AM
Subject: [FUNKNET] Rosetta Stone acquires the rights to endangered languages

> Hi Funksters,
> My subject heading is intentionally provocative, but this article  raises 
> a couple of
> issues.  Is it a good thing for Rosetta Stone to have an endangered 
> languages
> unit?
> Keith Johnson

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