Monday, May 18, 2015

When someone lumps together all linguists as belonging to the same theoretical school

You know when someone who's not in linguistics think of all linguists as belonging to the same theoretical school of thought? Isn't it frustrating? It's just bad and annoying, as are all needless and incorrect generalisations.

It's also surprisingly common - in my experience especially in fields that overlap with linguistics like psychology and neurology. A good friend, Petter, sent me a link to a fun blog about rap. (I really liked it, go read it - it's good stuff). However, it also contained an example of this phenomena:

In closed-off, inaccessible academic circles, linguist brohs openly hate on computer brohs for creating models of language that are based on “probability” and that don’t take into account the “underlying structure of language”.

This quote does not have to mean "all linguist bros", but it kinda seems like it. Not all linguist bros hate on probabilities. That is a major misunderstanding. Many of us are quite big fans of 'em even.

Hornstein might believe that 2/3 of linguists are generative, but well, I ain't got no way of checking that number but it would surprise me if it were true.

As a person who grew up in a department dominated by functional typology and fieldwork (Linguistics, Stockholm University), went to another similar department (Linguistics, Univeristy of Manitoba), later moved to the MPI in Nijmegen which also is of similar persuasions and now find myself at the Australian National Univeristy which also is not generative-dominated but again rather more focused on typology and field work..  well as such a person it becomes kind of odd when people assume we're all of the generative type.

Perhaps I grew up in a "shielded bubble", but if that's true then it's a pretty large bubble. I even had the opposite problem at times, I heard more that generative theory was bad than I heard about the actual content of the theories and what was good and useful, so I had to learn on my own when in my fourth year I finally had minimalism. (That does not mean I didn't know anything about syntax or grammatical theories before then, I knew plenty I just hadn't done a generative model throughly. There is syntax without generativism.)

Again, I got no numbers on this and I get the feeling Hornstein might be thinking of the USA community only, but well. It's still annoying. Why would all linguists belong to the same school?


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