Incorrect information (cont'd)

Johanna Laakso johanna.laakso at
Sun Sep 9 14:12:28 UTC 2001

"Tiit-Rein Viitso" <viitso at> wrote:

> Dear colleagues,
> Before speaking about disinformation one must precisely define the concept
> of disinformation.
> I see four categories of disinformation.
> (1) Innocent duplication of incorrect popular data, no matter whether
> official or unofficial. E.g. the number of speakers of Livonian.
> (2) Incorrect references to the content of printed or unprinted matters of
> other authors, usually because of misunderstanding. Is there one who has
> never misunderstood what he has read or heard?
> (3) Conscious distorting of the content of other authors’ works, sometimes
> never seen by the critic. I know one person whose newest activity is
> criticizing active researchers using such a method; his critics and even
> achievements are ignored by his object linguists. No normal person disputes
> with a drunkard, a scoundrel or a madman, at least here in Estonia. How do
> normal persons behave elsewhere?
> (4) Playing an expert in problems that do not belong to the domain of one’s
> competence.
> So I must comment the following Kazuto’s authoritative statement:
> “At the same time, I would like to point out that the alleged existence of
> "the fourth grade" in Estonian is a myth supported by some leading FULL
> NATIVE-SPEAKER linguists.”
> Obviously "the fourth grade"  should be read as Q(uantity) 4; grades belong
> to the field of gradation, and only two grades can be distinguished there.
> The problem of Q4 as opposed to Q3 is similar to that of WRITER vs. RIDER in
> American English.
> The problem of the quantity 4 (only two grades have been distinguished in
> Estonian!) was raised after a perception test commited  by my good
> colleague, the late Mart Remmel, the brightest generator of linguistic
> problems in the Estonian linguistics in 1970’s and 1980’s, at the former
> Institute of Language and Literature (later degenerated to the Institute of
> Estonian Language). After discussions with my colleagues and my questionings
> of native speakers from different parts of Estonia, I formulated a general
> hypothesis that involved all possible contrasts of quantity3 and quantity 4,
> which, I hoped, were easy to prove or disprove by means of instrumental
> phonetics. Up to now two such attempts have been made. Unfortunately they
> prove nothing except that planning an entirely meaningful phonetic
> experiment may be amasingly difficult. By the way, now I know that even my
> questionings could provoke wrong answers.
> As countermyths are no better than myths,  I hope that Kazuto will publish
> the results of his measurements that prove that the theory as formulated by
> me was wrong, of course together with the description of the methods used.
> Otherwise I suspect that he has borrowed, without  a necessary reference,
> the “position” of a former (morpho)phonologist who has never understood the
> real problem.
> In 1976, in connection with a different problem, I was naive enough to
> express my gratitude to two older colleagues for expressing certain theories
> clearly enough to be refuted.  At least one of them was clearly felt
> offended. Concerning me, I have nothing against a real proof of the
> existence or nonexistence of Q4 as opposed to Q3 in the Estonian language. I
> still hope my theory can serve a good basis for that purpose. Good luck!
> Last, I must join Eugen Helimski’s warning, the topic "Disinformaten on
> Uralic" is too near to the topic "Unsolved problems of General Linguistics".
> .
> [previous message from Kazuto Matsumura omitted here - J.L.]

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