[Lingtyp] terminology

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at shh.mpg.de
Thu Jul 26 13:33:59 UTC 2018

On 26.07.18 15:17, Maia Ponsonnet wrote:
> Several people have commented that other disciplines fare better than 
> linguistics and effectively adopt shared terminology. Can we have 
> examples?

For example astronomy, chemistry and biology:


> the categories/groupings we create, and the criteria upon which 
> we define them, are more important than the labels we give to these 
> categories.

Yes, talking about terminology makes sense only once we know we are 
talking about the same denotata, of course. It's true that we often have 
different concepts in mind and cannot explain them well, but there are 
also many cases where we agree on the concepts but use different terms 
(or vague terms that coexpress several clearly distinct concepts).

In these cases, outsiders (e.g. students, or interested nonlinguists) 
will be confused, and my experience is that very often I am myself 
confused. For example, when I read a linguistics paper, very often I 
don't understand what the author is saying until I see an example. So I 
find our terminology dysfunctional to a significant extent. Maybe this 
is unavoidable, but it seems to me that we should at least give more 
thought to this issue (and this is what we are doing right now! also 
with respect to metaphors... So thanks to everyone for contributing to 
the discussion!).


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

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lingtyp/attachments/20180726/40a182ef/attachment.htm>

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list