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Re: THEORY: no more URs! [was: Re: Optimum number of symbols]

From:And Rosta <a-rosta@...>
Date:Friday, June 28, 2002, 17:17
> At 12:26 PM +0100 05/25/02, Raymond Brown wrote: > >At 10:42 am -0600 24/5/02, Dirk Elzinga wrote: > >>I am very sympathetic to this idea (no URs); I tried doing something > >>like this in grad school, but I was basically "laughed off the stage" > >>and didn't have the courage to pursue it then. > > > >A pity - how foolish of your grad school. > > Let me clarify. It wasn't my graduate program, but rather a > conference I attended in which I presented an analysis of Fula > consonant mutation which made use of the idea that there is no UR. I > wasn't "laughed off the stage" so much as greeted with stony silence. > And then Janet Pierrehumbert asked a very pointed question to which I > couldn't provide a suitably snappy comeback, adding to my > humiliation. (I later thought of a really good answer to her > question, but I never saw her again. It seems to me that conference > presentations are judged as much by the ability of the presenter to > provide instant and insightful analysis of hypothetical situations > posed by the questioner as by a reasoned, carefully thought out > presentation. I don't think well on my feet, so I come off looking > pretty dim when I present.)
In my experience, conferences come in three types. 1. The generalist conference, which follows exactly the pattern you describe: stony silence, with the embarrassment punctuated by a question to which the speaker has no ready waffle-free answer. But if the speaker has cachet, then there is great competition as members of the audience vie to ask a question that strikes the optimum balance between sycophancy and cleverness. 2. The club/junket conference (for academics well-established in their profession). The paper is either bafflingly impenetrable or embarrassingly trite. Either way, the questions are prefaced by profuse congratulations and followed by a question of astonishing banality. The giver of the bafflingly impenetrable paper answers graciously, pretending the question is worthwhile. The giver of the embarrasingly trite paper, implicitly accepting the congratulations, gives a profuse, magisterial and trite answer. 2. The specialist conference. The people who like asking questions make a few points obvious to all participants. Then someone asks an intersting question, someone other than the speaker buts in to answer it, and the session ends with several members of the audience standing engaged in discussion with other, sometimes without the participation of the speaker.
> My teachers in my grad program were generally supportive of the > UR-less idea, but the intellectual climate of the time was definitely > against the move (at least in the circles they moved in; come to find > out later, there were plenty of people who took the idea seriously -- > including the institution I'm at now), so they advised me to assume a > more traditional stance in my work in order to make me more > marketable. It also didn't really play a role in what I was doing in > a significant way, so to include the UR-less idea could have been > seen as needlessly provocative.
Given the politics of job-getting, your advisors were probably right. But I don't really understand why people would want to undergo the agonies of doing a doctorate, getting a position, getting tenure, and making a name for themselves if they have to toe the doctrinal line to do so. To my delight, I recently discovered that in Britain, plumbers are earning more than professors, and are working fewer hours in the year to do so. Henceforth I think I should advise my students to aim for a career in plumbing. (BTW, in Britain only the highest paid university lecturers are professors. Professors are paid better than bricklayers, but bricklayers are paid better than lecturers, as befits their respective contributions to the fabric of our society.) --And.


H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>conferences (Was: Re: THEORY: no more URs! [was: Re: Optimum number of symbols])
John Cowan <jcowan@...>no more URs! [was: Re: Optimum number of