Charles Randriamasimanana C.H.Rand at MASSEY.AC.NZ
Mon Nov 30 00:11:16 UTC 1998

Dear Wolfgang,

Thank you for your thoughtful response to my concern. I am very glad to
hear that you have done fieldwork in Madagascar. This is certainly

The one point I wish to take up at this stage relates to your last
paragraph, where you write:"But, I admit, everything depends on which
theoretical framework is
applied. The more autonomous (or modular) a language system is thought
to be the more it should be cleaned from idiosyncratic, social, or
cultural parameters; and: the more linguistically trained an informant
should be. The more "holistic" the framework is (or, the more a
communicative-cognitive (CoCo) perspective is taken), the more we have
to respect such parameters and to integrate them into the explanative
part of our framework. This perspective logically prefers linguistically
untrained informants."

Maybe what is really needed in linguistic descriptions --whether
'theoretically inclined' or (as you put it) 'holistic'-- at this point in
time is to provide somewhere in the published text(s) some details about
the informants (for example, where relevant, their socio-cultural and
regional origins along with level of education, etc). This will go some way
towards preventing 'abusive generalizations' later on by people who
re-interpret the findings made by the initial researcher(s). And at any
rate, such details would enable later researchers with the benefit of
hindsight to sort things out a bit more easily --which is far from being
the case right now.

Having said all of the above, I hasten to add that alas the inaccuracies
found in the published data do not  solely depend on the theoretical
framework used by the investigator. In fact, over the last two decades I
have seen quite a few different frameworks used, but this did not seem to
significantly impact on the quality of the linguistic data.  This is what
makes me suspect that many, many people may be in a mad rush to just finish
a paper! As a rule, it is also usually the case that 'local linguists'
--those native speakers who do linguistic work in the country where the
language is spoken are rarely  (if ever) contacted and very often they do
not even receive a copy of the Western researcher's findings!

And this is where I am ringing the alarm bell with the hope that open and
frank discussions of crucial matters such as the above on a forum such as
this one would help us improve the quality of the published data.



Charles Randriamasimanana, PhD in Linguistics
Linguistics, School of Language Studies
OMB 3.19
Massey University
Private Bag 11-222
Palmerston North
New Zealand

Telephone: (06)-356-9099, Extension 7059
Personal fax: (06) 359-3989

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