LINGUIST List 5.288

Sun 13 Mar 1994

Disc: Mainstream Linguistics

Editor for this issue: <>


  • Andreas Kathol, Re: 5.272 Mainstream Linguistics

    Message 1: Re: 5.272 Mainstream Linguistics

    Date: Wed, 9 Mar 94 15:48:00 ESTRe: 5.272 Mainstream Linguistics
    From: Andreas Kathol <>
    Subject: Re: 5.272 Mainstream Linguistics

    Berhard Rohrbacher writes: > Just for the record: GB-Linguistics does not constitute the "Mainstream of > Linguistics" - on the contrary, GB-Linguists are a minority, especially outside > the US and the Netherlands. Accordingly, jobs for GBers are exceedingly rare, > and many institutions might as well have "People working within the Principles > and Parameters framework need not apply" sign on their doors.

    I find these remarks extremely interesting in light of something that Chomsky said in 1982 in Huybregts & v. Riemsdijk, _Chomsky on the Generative Enterprise_, which I take the liberty of quoting from G. Pullum's 1991 _The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax_:

    "It also has to be emphasized, as you know very well, that this framework is only taken seriously by a tiny minority in the field, certainly in the United States" (p. 41) "I would like to see an equivalent of GLOW ["Generative Linguistics in the Old World", AK] in the United States, but I don't think it is ready for it now." (p. 42)

    If I interpret the above statements correctly, they seem to indicate a common perception among practitioners of PPA/GB, namely to think of their community as a small group of "defenders of the Faith" that is besieged by a sea of nonbelievers. As Pullum points out, that was a mistaken perception re. the situation in the US in the early 80s and I would contend the same holds for Rohrbacher's assessment of the status of PPA/GB outside of the US and Netherlands today. (Incidentally, should we take the fact that he exempts these countries as implicitly acknowledging that the largest market for formally oriented linguists, i.e. the US, is now firmly in the hands of proponents of the Chomskyan paradigm?) For the record, in Germany alone, where PPA/GB is supposedly a minority position, quite a few positions (including professorships) were awarded in recent years to PPA/GB linguists at the universities of Tuebingen, Stuttgart, and Potsdam.

    So, it would be very interesting to hear of one ("measly") example of an opening for a formally oriented linguistics position in which PPA/GB applicants have (actively or passively) been discouraged from applying, and where from the outset preference was clearly given to proponents of other formal approaches to grammar, such as LFG, CG, or HPSG, among others. I've always been under the impression that part of the reason that those theories have a relatively small active followership is precisely because academic employment opportunities for applicants with those credentials are truely absyssmal as compared with those for people of the PPA/GB persuasion.

    --Andreas Kathol


    Date: Fri, 11 Mar 1994 21:27:21 'MAINSTREAM' AS MEXICAN POLITICS?
    From: <>

    Why would, Martin Haspelmath, a German linguist in his 5/255 posting use the interesting figure of speech of linguistics (Lx) with being organised in the way Mexican politics (MP) is? The question is, is it a good metaphor? MP, being sui generis, is almost impossible to incapsulate in a one-page brief. But I will try.

    The ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) has been in power since the Great Depression. It has oscillated every six years from right to center to left and back but never has trucked with the Communists, indicating it has no political philosophy per se. Then, how has it stayed in power for 65 years? Voter apathy. The cadres of party faithful are picked up and wined and dined and delivered home in PRI vehicles after voting, even vaccinations are organised by the Party. The other smaller parties do not have the funds to do the same. Also, the Electoral College is made up of a majority of PRI members; so, voting anomalies never reach the courts. This is Realpolitik! PRI's current line is free trade while the opposition cries for either wild capitalism or renationalisation of the banks and industy. Who knows what will happened after 1995! Most smaller parties' followers abandon their leaders radical positions taken during elections and either vote for PRI or stay home. Voter apathy, again, is the key to understanding MP. To see PRI's address and telephone numbers in the yellow and white pages listed under 'Government Agencies' would not surprise the Mexican voter--she knows it is the truth. The above can be documented in Jorge Castaneda's articles in the New York Times.

    Taking the above into account, one asks 'is the Lx mainstream similarly put together?' The answer is obviously, NO! Lx may have its "Chiapas Zapatistas" from time to time (e.g. THE LINGUIST WARS by Randy Allen Harris, Oxford University Press now available) but 'mainstream' linguists are not apathetic and that is the point. They believe rightly or wrongly in the central dogma and the "Zapatistas" neither abandon their causes and stay home.

    If Haspelmath had used the metaphor that Lx is not unlike a monolithic, world-wide church with a pope-like figure writing bulls for the faithful followers of Innateness it would not have been an erroneous appraisal.

    Prof. R. M. Chandler)Burns Medical College Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon Monterrey, MEXICO