dan.everett at MAN.AC.UK
Mon Aug 18 13:45:18 UTC 2003
On Monday, August 18, 2003, at 02:35 pm, Martin Haspelmath wrote:
>>> Of course it's fine if one defines one's terms, but if one is not
>>> content with just being understood, if one has the additional goal
>>> of improving linguistic terminology (so that at one point in the
>>> future, we'll have terms that we all understand in roughly the same
>>> way), then one should proceed as I suggested: simply not use a term
>>> that has been widely and prominently used in two different senses
>>> (because it will be very difficult to get other linguists to agree
>>> precisely which of the two senses should be abandoned).
Now, this is not a goal I could really ever find interesting "improving
linguistic terminology". I could be interested in something like
"improving communication among linguists", but not 'linguistic
terminology' per se.
The reason I have already given. No term can ever do all the work. All
need many ancillary qualifiers.
Further, the idea behind improving linguistic terminology could be that
this somehow gets us closer and closer to the truth of what we are
describing, closer to its 'essence' (if this is not the goal, then the
goal is just improving communication, which I am for too. But
communication is served by explaining each case individually better
than pruning back terms in an effort to get the 'universally valid'
terminological inventory, or some such).
But efforts to get at 'truth' or 'essence' are not helpful to me, not
useful in the Pragmatist sense. They are forms of platonic
essentialism, not a concept with wide currency any longer, at least I
So, I certainly would not think that a student of mine, for example,
had done a better thesis because she avoided 'iterative'. I happily
will continue to use iterative or repetitive, as the mood strikes me.
But I will, I hope, be very careful to define my terms.
I hope that we never settle on a terminology. But I do hope we can
communicate ever more effectively.
Daniel L. Everett
Professor of Phonetics and Phonology
Postgraduate Tutor and Postgraduate Admissions Officer
Department of Linguistics
University of Manchester
Department Fax: 44-161-275-3187
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