[Lingtyp] terminology

Gontzal Aldai gontzal.aldai at gmail.com
Wed Jul 25 11:25:06 UTC 2018

I do think it could be a good idea to try and create a committee (say,
within the ALT or the typological community) which would make proposals or
"suggestions" on terminology.


2018-07-25 12:59 GMT+02:00 Martin Haspelmath <haspelmath at shh.mpg.de>:

> On 25.07.18 11:51, David Gil wrote:
> But it's the nature of the scientific enterprise that one person's
> hair-splitting is another person's crucial distinction.  Ultimately,
> nobody's trying (or at least should be trying) to impose their terminology
> on anybody else; rather, what we should be doing is using reasoned
> argumentation to convince other people that one's proposed terminology is
> better, and to lead by example.
> Well, I guess one could find me guilty of "trying to impose my
> terminology" when I suggested that one should talk about agent/source
> coexpression (rather than "polysemy").
> Unlike other fields, linguists have no tradition of codifying agreed
> terminology, so there is no way in which a committee could impose a term on
> anyone. And David's parenthetical remark ("no one should be trying")
> suggests that linguists would not be happy to have such authoritative
> bodies.
> But then how do we improve the terminological situation? I mean cases
> where we all agree that there are conceptual distinctions that are worth
> making, but we don't have a way of agreeing on a term?
> How do we "work harder" to address Mattis's desideratum:?
> On 22.07.18, Mattis List wrote:
> We should all work harder in establishing a purely descriptive terminology
> in our field. Explanatory terminology should be restricted to the
> situations where we really know what happened.
> There have never even been conference workshops or plenary talks about
> linguistic terminology, as far as I know. We seem to think that the
> terminology will somehow sort itself out once we gain more knowledge.
> And when someone makes a proposal for a new term, people sometimes start
> objecting without proposing better solutions (I realize that "coexpression"
> does not immediately please everyone, but I have not heard an alternative
> suggestion).
> There seems to be a general reluctance to accept new terms, maybe simply
> because new words often sound strange when one first encounters them. I
> recently published a paper about "adpossessive constructions" (specifically
> about alienability contrasts, in open access, see
> https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/zfsw.2017.36.issue-2/
> zfs-2017-0009/zfs-2017-0009.xml).
> I first submitted the paper to "Glossa", where one reviewer objected to
> the neologism "adpossessive" (short for "adnominal possessive"), as well as
> other neologisms found in the paper. There were no substantive objections –
> s/he simply didn't see the need for these new terms. I refused to address
> this "reviewer's concern" because I find it important to enrich our
> terminology, and in the end the paper was rejected by "Glossa" because of
> my stubbornness.
> So I think it's really nice that LINGTYP is engaging in this kind of
> discussion of terminology, and maybe ALT might consider organizing a
> workshop or discussion of this topic at some point. After all, most ALT
> members are not committed to finding universal categories, so one could try
> to have some kind of standard set of terms even before solving all our
> problems (somewhat like the IPA, which is a standard set of symbols that we
> agree on even though we have not solved all issues in phonology, see
> https://dlc.hypotheses.org/1000).
> Martin
> --
> Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de)
> Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
> Kahlaische Strasse 10	
> D-07745 Jena
> &
> Leipzig University
> IPF 141199
> Nikolaistrasse 6-10
> D-04109 Leipzig
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Dr. Gontzal Aldai
Associate Professor
Department of Linguistics and Basque Studies
University of the Basque Country
Paseo de la Universidad, 5
01006 Vitoria-Gasteiz, Basque Country, Spain
gontzal.alday at ehu.es
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