Comparative Siouan Grammar project

Rankin, Robert L rankin at
Fri Jul 4 15:25:05 UTC 2008

Just spent the week in Kaw City, so I'm only now getting around to doing anything but a cursory reading of my mail.  
> Rory writes:  I wonder if we aren't dancing around a difference in our fundamental conceptions of what language is about here. 
> Ardis writes:  People will be interested in this for the language and not the theory, . . .
I think what we're dancing around is our concept of what *this* projected volume is about.  We all have deep interests in one or another aspect of linguistics as a science, be it underlying syntactic or semantic structure, reconstructive methodology, language teaching, phonological economy, language use and society, or what-have-you.  That's well and good and nobody should apologize for it.  
My sole concern -- probably not expressed very well originally -- is in producing a treatment of specifically Siouan languages that will be easily intelligible to scholars 200 years from now.  (This is what I've always tried to convey to students writing dissertations on particular languages or language families.)  This places certain constraints on us all, and we need to concentrate on exposition using terms, concepts and abstractions that have stood, or will stand, the test of time.  Since my crystal ball is a bit cloudy, and I've seen a lot of rapid turnover in synchronic theories, I tend to be a bit conservative in these matters.  But if we all keep in mind the somewhat narrow goal of communicating to generations to come what Siouan languages are/were like, and recognize that not everything in current, cutting-edge linguistic theory is "built to last," we should do just fine without having to nanny each other.
And for you younger folk (i.e., everybody except Hu Matthews), most schools give more credit toward promotion, etc. for theory articles published in refereed journals than for papers published in the sort of anthology we have in mind anyway.  So where we address our truly theoretical concerns should be a pretty easy decision.  _Linguistic Inquiry_ and _Language_ are probably at the top of the list.

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