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CONLANG  May 2004, Week 4

CONLANG May 2004, Week 4

Subject:

Re: OFF-TOPIC: Non linguistics books by Chomsky

From:

"Mark P. Line" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 22 May 2004 17:23:13 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (61 lines)

Steve Cooney said:
> --- "Mark P. Line" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> "It usually makes sense to read just the latest
> Chomsky book, as it tends to recapitulate (with
> corrections) the earlier books."
>
>> It's sort of like changing your codpiece in public.
>
> In light of this above sentiment, I wonder if the
> subject of this thread would better be generalized to
> something like "Changing One's Mind: Good or Bad?" or
> "Making Corrections: Sign of a Flawed Charachter?"
>
> If there are any merits at all for the notion of
> 'never admitting a mistake' (especially for public
> figures), then I will leave it to others to claim
> them.

These are two different things, and I think you're confusing the one with
the other -- almost certainly merely a lack of information on your part.

(1) A scholar publishes theoretical results, changes his mind in light of
vigorous debate, and publishes corrected results. The scholar repeats this
process several times over the course of half a century.

(2) A scholar publishes theoretical results, attracting a zealous cadre of
Followers. Non-Followers are usually not allowed to present papers at LSA
meetings, and when they are, they are heckled boisterously and obnoxiously
by the Followers while they are trying to give their paper. The scholar
then changes his mind in light of vigorous debate among the Followers, and
publishes corrected results. The new results then define the changed
acceptance conditions on presentations to the LSA conference (and
publication in all Follower-reviewed journals); further heckling of token
Non-Follower presentations ensues. The scholar repeats this process
several times over the course of half a century. At the quarter-century
mark, the Non-Followers organize their own alternative to the LSA, their
own journals, their own conferences -- effectively bifurcating the field
of linguistics in North America.


Situations like (1) warrant no further comment, because they are an
everyday part of theory development.

Situations like (2), exemplified at its most egregious by Chomsky and his
Followers, warrant comments such as "it's like changing your codpiece in
public".

(The codpiece metaphor referred, in addition, to Chomsky's pattern of
making the broadest imaginable Cartesian-deductive theoretical claims,
then reducing these claims in the next iteration in a way that makes the
earlier, unsubstantiated claims *seem* more-or-less justified but merely
and unfortunately slightly overstated. Taken all at once, it becomes
apparent that the suffocatingly enormous codpiece of Chomsky (1957) and
(1965) had to be replaced by successively smaller ones, because people
just weren't buying it. Most Followers now seem satisfied with his
Minimalist codpiece, but there's always the chance he'll remove it
altogether...)


-- Mark

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