Re: Learning language

Subject: Re: Learning language
From: Loryn Jenkins <loryn -at- OZEMAIL -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Sun, 10 Dec 1995 12:52:18 +1000

Loryn writes:
> And yes, just so you're all aware of my philosophical bias, I think many
> Chompsky's imperatives are **CRAP**. If you want an excuse for being
> racist, just think about where Chompsky's theories could logically end:
> people biologically determined in their abilities and capabilities,
> (biologically, racially ...)

> This is an extremely interesting topic. For humans. For techwriters. Those
> who wish to gag the debate, and force us into accepting *a* particular
> philsophy do us disservice.

> Loryn Jenkins
> BA Linguistics
> Contract Technical Writer

Jane responded
>I find it hard to believe that you have read much of Chomsky at all,
>or that you have a BA in linguistics and misspell his name! It casts
>shadows on your credibility, Loryn, especially since everyone else
>contributing to this discussion spells it correctly!<<

Unfortunately, I also misspelled the word philosophy ("philsophy") in my
post. I'd hope you wouldn't cast doubt on my capacity for philosophy due to
a hastily composed response.

>Although I do not subscribe wholeheartedly to Chomsky's theories,
>they can hardly be called "crap." Many of them are no longer favored
>as they were in the 60s and even Chomsky has questioned some of the
>early theories. That's the way academics work....they constantly
>question, test, prod, and develop new theories.

Perhaps "crap" is a little non-descriptive. Let me expand a little. Chomsky
has never claimed to be a linguist. Or at least, he has always claimed
linguistics is an arm of cognitive psychology. Hence, Chomsky's world view
is internal to the human being, dealing with psychological constructs.

I find this world view to be quite restrictive. Employing this world view,
how does one say anything constructive about education, analysing actual
texts, social relationships, technical writing?

Chomsky doesn't make any claim to say anything about any of these things.
To me, that isn't linguistics. That is psychology.

For me, linguistics, when studied from the point of view of social
relationships, as language being constructed from and by interaction of
people. Then, linguistics can be empirically tested. Linguistics can then
say useful things. Hence, my disdain for Chomskyan 'linguistics'.

>As for your other rantings: How is it "racist" to propose that all
>humans have the same language-forming ability? Any linguist worth
>his or her salt will fight anyone who devalues any language group.
>And who is forcing anything on this group? It's an honest and
>stimulating discussion, worthy of time and thought by technical
>writers. That's all.

May I stand corrected. Perhaps I shouldn't make claims I don't have the
material to back up (ie., 'racist').

As for the second point. I wasn't trying to close down this discussion. I
was actually arguing against the post I responded to, who was wanting to
gag debate by saying that Chomsky's ideas have been proved for years, and
we should not be discussing them in this list.

still with a BA in Linguistics (but no, not much Chomskyan psychology)
still a Techwriter
who'll be a tad more careful about deriving conclusions based on academic
theories without adequate evidence on hand

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