Sounds like Greek to me

Miriam E Ebsworth mee1 at
Fri Dec 12 16:43:34 UTC 2008

Dear AJS,

As I understand it the "psychotypology of languages" refers to inferred relationships among languages by often naive  individuals. I can see the intersection with folk linguistics as such perceptions are based on intuition rather than synchronic and diachronic analysis.

In a world where decisions regarding language learning are often made by politicians rather than scientists, this is an important discussion.


Miriam Eisenstein Ebsworth, Ph.D.
<MEE1 at>
Director of Doctoral Programs in Multilingual Multicultural Studies
New York University,635 East Building
239 Greene St., New York, NY 10003

----- Original Message -----
From: Al Haraka <alharaka at>
Date: Friday, December 12, 2008 9:45 am
Subject: Re: Sounds like Greek to me
To: lgpolicy-list at

> Damien and Robert,
>  I am by no means an expert, with my last linguistics courses over a 
> year 
>  ago.
>  Nonetheless, I thought professors in sociolinguistics referred to 
> this 
>  subset as "linguistic topology."  I am not sure if it is an 
> independent 
>  field of study or a hobby among really esoteric linguists.  However, 
> I 
>  took a class with Arabic professors on Contrastive (Linguistic) 
> Analysis 
>  (or whatever fancy name they had doctored), and the discussion of 
>  people's impressions on different dialects, the difficulty in 
> learning 
>  other languages, was studied under those respective headings.
>  I am not sure that helps.  Someone can correct me if they wish.
>  Regards,
>  _AJS
>  Damien Hall wrote:
>  > Robert asked about linguists' work on folk perceptions of foreign 
>  > languages. Miriam said:
>  > 
>  >> I believe that Dennis Preston has done substantial work on 'folk 
>  >> linguistics.'
>  > 
>  > He has indeed, but as far as I'm aware all his work under that 
> rubric 
>  > has been on American dialectology: eg the words that people use to 
>  > describe others' dialects ('nasal', 'Southern twang', etc), and the 
> fact 
>  > that listeners are able to place American accents on a North-South 
>  > continuum with a remarkable degree of precision (when played 
> sentences 
>  > spoken by ten speakers, given a map with a North-South line of ten 
>  > places on it, and asked to match speaker with place). I'm not aware 
> of 
>  > any work Dennis has done on folk perceptions of foreign languages, 
>  > though that, of course, doesn't mean to say that he hasn't done any!
>  > 
>  > Nevertheless, the question sounds like one that people in 
> educational 
>  > linguistics might well have some tips on. There's a list you cuold 
> ask, 
>  > accessible here:
>  > 
>  >
>  > 
>  > All the best
>  > 
>  > Damien
>  > 

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