Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 31

October 27, 2013

31: JOSEPH JACOTOT

In 1818 Joseph Jacotot reportedly discovered – commencing from experiences using a bilingual (French/Flemish) text of Archbishop Fénelon’s novel Télémaque – that students can be effectively taught in languages which they do not know, and that they can be taught to read by illiterates (such as the parents of his own pupils). Jacotot believed that all people were already possessed of vast amounts of latent knowledge which a teacher had only to ‘bring out’ (and which individuals lacking a teacher could actually ‘bring out’ in themselves). Some of the methods which Jacotot employed under the rubric ‘ignorant schoolmaster’ do appear usable; but the anecdotal nature of the reports hinders assessment of the degree to which his stronger claims can be accepted.

For much more on Jacotot, see Jacques Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation (Kristin Ross trans.) (Stanford, CA, 1991).

More next time!

Mark

For my book Strange Linguistics, see:
http://linguistlist.org/pubs/books/get-book.cfm?BookID=64212

Copies are available through me at the author’s 50% discount, for EU 26.40 including postage to anywhere outside Germany. Please let me know if you’d like one, suggest means of payment (Paypal is possible) and provide your preferred postal address.

Advertisements

Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 30

October 20, 2013

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

30: SUSAN B. MARTINEZ

Susan B. Martinez is unusual among advocates/users of blatantly non-standard methods in comparative historical linguistics in that she has a semi-relevant PhD (in Anthropology, from Columbia) and indeed a specialisation in ethnolinguistics. Perhaps she has never studied the specifically HISTORICAL aspects of the discipline, but even then her approach (nowadays typical only of untutored amateurs) is surprising. If she IS familiar with historical linguistics but REJECTS mainstream thinking on the methodology of the subject, she should state this openly and should ARGUE for her own position.

Martinez’s shift away from mainstream thought (on linguistic and other issues) seems to be connected with her discovery in 1981 of the ‘Oahspe Bible’ (one could usefully start at http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oahspe:_A_New_Bible), a tome produced in 1882 by John Ballou Newbrough by way of automatic writing. This work represents itself as containing new revelations from ‘the Embassadors of the angel hosts of heaven prepared and revealed unto man in the name of Jehovih’. Much of the Oahspe material involves non-standard accounts of early human history. Martinez embraced these notions and they occupy a central place in her subsequent work, where there are many specific references to the Oahspe text as if it were historically authoritative

Oahspe itself contains some strange linguistic material: it is connected with ‘Mantong’ as promoted by Richard Shaver (see ‘Fringe Historical Linguistics 5’, this blog, 26 March 2012, and pp. 102-103 of my 2013 book Strange Linguistics as advertised below), and the text begins with a three-page glossary of ‘strange words used in this book’; these are a peculiar mixture of known words and phrases from English (such as angel) or other human languages (such as Abracadabra) – many of them re-defined in Oahspian terms – and unfamiliar words.

Martinez’s material can most readily be found in her book Lost History Of The Little People: Their Spiritually Advanced Civilizations around the World (available on Amazon). Here she argues that Homo sapiens originated in ‘pygmy’/’negrito’ form and that this ‘lost race’ was later forced out of its homeland on the continent of Pan (‘lost’ in a major flood in early historic times) and was in due course marginalised by its taller offshoots, who came to misperceive their predecessors as supernatural beings (fairies, leprechauns, etc.).

Martinez supports this position with data drawn from various disciplines (archaeology, ethnology, etc.), but there is an especially heavy focus upon comparative linguistics; she traces many key features of known languages to an ancestral language ‘Panic’ used by the pygmies. Like most amateurs advancing such proposals, Martinez proceeds by equating unsystematically and superficially similar words (often very short words, which makes chance similarity especially likely) and (also very short) word-parts (morphemes or putative morphemes, syllables, etc.) from a wide range of languages which are normally considered not to be ‘genetically’ related (except perhaps in ‘deep’ pre-history) and to have had no influential contact with each other. (See my earlier instalments in ‘Fringe Historical Linguistics’ and Chapter 1 of my book on the objections to such methods.)

Martinez’s academic background (which is ‘upfront’; unlike most legitimate scholars, she advertises her PhD on the cover of her book) may mislead some readers not versed in linguistics into taking her linguistic material seriously. However, whatever may be said for the rest of her material, Martinez’s linguistic equations, specifically, CANNOT be taken seriously. Examples of these equations include: the derivation of very many sequences in many languages including -in- from a Panic word ihin (referring to the pygmies themselves); similar derivations involving ong/ang (‘light from above’), su (‘spirit’), ba (‘small’), etc.; and the proposing of novel Panic-based etymologies for familiar words with very well-established etymologies, such as the Spanish word pan (‘bread’) with its very clear Latin etymology; etc., etc.

For Martinez’s career, see http://www.justenergyradio.com/archive-pages/smartinez.htm.

I propose to review Martinez’s book at greater length in the British skeptical press (I will post a reference as & when).

More next time!

Mark

For my book Strange Linguistics, see:
http://linguistlist.org/pubs/books/get-book.cfm?BookID=64212

Copies are available through me at the author’s 50% discount, for EU 26.40 including postage to anywhere outside Germany. Please let me know if you’d like one, suggest means of payment (Paypal is possible) and provide your preferred postal address.


Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 29

October 13, 2013

Hi again, everybody! ‘Hall Of Shame’ continues (a short one this time!).

29: WILLIAM EMPSON

In his book The Structure of Complex Words , 2nd edn (Cambridge, MA, 1989), William Empson focuses upon the complex ‘play’ of semantically rich and variable words such as English man and in the ensuing potential for confused thinking.

Such ideas are by no means without interest; similar material can be found in the work of mainstream linguists. However, Empson’s own grasp of linguistics appears too weak for the task he has set himself. For example, his discussion of the various senses of the English word quite is rendered confused by his apparent ignorance of two key issues. Firstly, the distinction between the word’s two senses ‘altogether’ and ‘to some degree’ is quite sharp: these are discrete meanings, not parts of a continuum, and cases such as He was quite drunk thus exhibit ambiguity rather than vagueness as Empson appears to suggest (this is a matter of linguistic semantics). Secondly, the dialectology of this word is crucial in context. In its second sense, quite has a stronger force – akin to ‘very’ – in the USA than in the UK. The contrast between the two senses is thus even sharper in British than in American English. Writers like Empson need to learn more linguistics before pronouncing on such matters.

More next time!

Mark

For my book Strange Linguistics, see:
http://linguistlist.org/pubs/books/get-book.cfm?BookID=64212

Copies are available through me at the author’s 50% discount, for EU 26.40 including postage to anywhere outside Germany. Please let me know if you’d like one, suggest means of payment (Paypal is possible) and provide your preferred postal address.


Linguistics ‘Hall of Shame’ 28

October 6, 2013

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

28 MINAS TSIKRITSIS

More from the Ancient Greek world: As noted earlier (see ‘Around The World In ‘Mysterious’ Scripts & Texts’ 3, this blog, 28 May 2012), Linear A is one of a number of syllabic scripts found in Crete during the twentieth century by archaeologists such as Arthur Evans. It is visually similar to Linear B, which was deciphered as very early Greek in 1952 by the talented and well-informed amateur Michael Ventris and the linguist John Chadwick; but Linear A itself, as it seems, cannot be read as Greek, and the script has resisted authoritative decipherment. The maverick Cyrus Gordon’s West Semitic interpretation has not been generally accepted; and, although the more mainstream classicist Simon Davis reads Linear A – along with the ‘Minoan Pictographic’, Eteocretan, Cypro-Minoan and Eteocypriot scripts – as Hittite (Indo-European, from Anatolia), this interpretation too is controversial to say the least. (References on request)

More recently, the amateur Minas Tsikritsis (http://www.anistor.gr/english/enback/v014.htm) – proposes (with support from Gavin Menzies, The Lost Empire Of Atlantis, London, 2011; see especially pp. 314-21) that Linear A does indeed represent an early form of (his native) Greek. In fact, he regards fifteen of the symbols on the Phaistos Disk (again, see ‘Around The World In ‘Mysterious’ Scripts & Texts’ 3) as shared with Linear A and B, and ‘deciphers’ part of the Disk text too as Greek. He also proclaims that various bodies of symbols found in various locations spread across Europe, the Near East, India, etc. represent Linear A, and thus indicate (along with his readings of the Cretan texts) that the users of the script operated far beyond Crete and the Aegean. However, the evidence for these identifications appears inadequate; the parallelisms are not patently systematic, and indeed the cited bodies of non-Cretan data are typically too small for systematicity to be manifested.

More next time!

Mark

For my book Strange Linguistics, see:
http://linguistlist.org/pubs/books/get-book.cfm?BookID=64212

Copies are available through me at the author’s 50% discount, for EU 26.40 including postage to anywhere outside Germany. Please let me know if you’d like one, suggest means of payment (Paypal is possible) and provide your preferred postal address.