Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 11

Hi again, everybody! ‘Hall Of Shame’ continues!



Melbourne-based Jones sent his treatises on language to various linguists including me; I was the only one who was game enough to respond at any length! Jones’ ideas involve proposed novel, large-scale theories about the nature of language, strikingly different from generally-held mainstream ideas and developed on the basis of a very limited knowledge of the discipline. In Jones’ case this involved some acquaintance with Chomsky’s thought, which he had however seriously misunderstood. His structural and sociolinguistic terminology is very different from mainstream terminology and does not seem to relate closely to the latter; it is mostly left unexplained, as if it is supposed to be already familiar or readily grasped on first exposure (some amateur philosophers in Australia proceed in similar ways). This also applies to many of Jones’ proposed non-mainstream analyses and theoretical claims, which imply many unannounced and unexplained assumptions. He declines to explain his terminology, apparently believing that he needs to avoid mainstream terms in order to make novel points and that the onus is upon his critics to determine his meaning as best they may.


One ‘Chico’ appeared on an atheist bulletin-board, saying: ‘Nothing fails like prayer? As a linguist with a strong faith in the delusional linguistic common, as a positive phenomenon, (which actually works as an illusion), but fails miserably as a tool for value, this statement as to the failure of prayer, disturbed me deeply. As usual when confronted with linguistic phenomenon, I began a lengthy search into formulation of my conceptualization. I am happy to report, I found this statement to be absolutely truth, and have found the truth to be a linguistic positive, due to the fact, language is a delusional, illusion. It is not real, and therefore, requires failure to eliminate most all positives, and nearly all the negatives as well. It prevents sensory overload, and prevents drowning in linguistic immersion’. A request for clarification proved fruitless; ‘Chico’ responded: ‘The concept of illusion is greeted in the same manner as music, the concept of delusion is greeted the same as language. All four are illusion! This is a constant known as the four basics’. He ignored a further enquiry.


‘Forrester’, a contributor to skeptical bulletin-boards based in the USA, has adopted a peculiarly mixed stance in respect of Chomskyan linguistics. He rejects Chomskyan theories concerning Universal Grammar as not fully supported by the evidence, but he does accept certain features of UG (as he understands it) as applying to all human languages (and indeed, quite contrarily to Chomskyan views, to the communication systems of higher non-human primates also). He also argues (loosely) for a close link between the acquisition of these features and that of accurate perception and hence successful manipulation of the physical world, on the ground that UG reflects the relationships between entities in the world. This view seems to be at least overstated. One of the features of UG which Forrester accepts is the Subject-Verb-Object system of functional units in clauses. Interestingly, Chomskyans do not actually use these terms in their own versions of UG; instead of identifying some Noun Phrases as Subjects, they define the relevant NPs as the NPs involved in the basic clause construction NP+VP (= Subject-Predicate) and describe what other linguists call Objects as the NPs involved in the secondary construction V+NP within the VP. There are, of course, linguists (non-Chomskyan) who do talk in terms of Subjects and Objects (as basic functional units of clauses); but these linguists are often typologists and generally do not accept UG as genuine. Forrester himself clearly holds that ALL human languages actually have Subjects, Verbs and Objects; but this does not seem to be the case (‘ergative’ languages such as Basque resist analysis in these terms).


The proposed spelling reforms of ‘Tom Hardwyck’ (not his real name) have been featured in The Australian newspaper and elsewhere. His system is basically phonemic, with all the usual issues (of which he is apparently unaware; he writes as if he were the first to consider these matters). Hardwyck’s attitude to scholarship is one of determined ignorance and belligerence. One critic of Hardwyck, Nick Wade, is himself utterly naive in sociolinguistic terms and apparently wants to ‘reform and unify’ pronunciation so that spelling reform will then be ‘easy’.

More next time!


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