Re: THEORY: Ergativity and polypersonalism
|From:||Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>|
|Date:||Monday, January 24, 2005, 20:30|
On Mon, 24 Jan 2005 09:53:37 -0600,
"Thomas R. Wier" <trwier@...> wrote:
> Isaac wrote:
> > Joerg wrote:
> > > Ah, Klimov's contentive typology! ... If you ask me, it's all rubbish.
> > That is why I keep on asking forgiveness of my ignorance in typology studies,
> > even though I'm a professional philologist. For example, I heard about split-S
> > etc. only here at this List. Our linguistic education was still profiled by
> > Stalin's "Marxism and Linguistic Issues".
Ah, the dogma that replaced the Marrist dogma in 1950...
> > Surely, since 1970s there were
> > some changes, but typology studies were still smth suspective, bourgeois...
> > That is why Klimov seemed revolutionary. I suspect Dr. Tyshchenko's lectures
> > on typology at General Linguistics classes in Kiev Uni in 1989 that I heard,
> > were quite in line with Klimov's stadial theory.
> I would have to partially disagree with Joerg's strong opinion on
> Klimov. Yes, his stadialist theory is accepted by virtually no one
> nowadays, for good reason.
My comment "If you ask me, it's all rubbish" was primarily on his
stadial theory, which struck me as utterly nonsensical and (neo-
or crypto-) Marrist. Some of his observations on active languages
look rather adventurous to me, but I won't dismiss them as rubbish.
> But as a scholar, few have ever achieved
> his level of insight into cross-linguistic generalizations. It is
> not an accident that indisputably great typologists like Johanna
> Nichols still cite his work, even when disagreeing with some
> conclusions. His works focusing on the Caucasus are also of great
I can accept that Klimov made worthwile contributions to linguistics,
e.g. in the field of Caucasian languages.
> > I don't want to offend anybody, but some "Western" ideas in linguistics still
> > strike me as odd, if not rubbish... Not in this case, of course.
> Well, it may please you to learn that "Western" ideas in linguistics
> strike some Westerners as odd, if not rubbish, too.
I have seen quite a lot of dubious stuff in historical linguistics
(and that not only in long-range comparatistics), and it wouldn't
surprise me if it was like that in many other fields of the trade
as well. And most of the more theoretical work is an arcane art
to me of which I understand virtually nothing. Well, I am not a
professional linguist, so I am not obliged to understand more than
what I need to build my conlangs (and to cobble together my own
whackish ideas about Indo-Uralic - which in turn serve primarily
as a foundation for conlangs).
> I would disagree
> with Chris to some extent, though: Chomsky is not just quackery. His
> work on the properties of formal languages in the 1960s is widely
> recognized for the achievement it is far beyond the cult-following
> he has surrounded himself with.
It is part of introductional lectures on theoretical computer science,
for instance. That indeed was the first time I heard of Chomsky.
There is a "Chomsky hierarchy" (of classes of languages defined
by the types of grammars that produce them, with associated classes
of automata capable of recognizing them), a "Theorem of Chomsky and
Schützenberger", "a Chomsky Normalized Form" (of context-free
grammars), etc. etc.
> And his writings on the philosophy
> of language, too, rank with Wittgenstein and other 20th century
> greats. It's just mostly in the particulars of the various rescensions
> of his theories that true quackery lies. (See, e.g., Peter Seuren's
> new book _Chomsky's Minimalism_ for extended critical discussion of
And of course his unorthodox left-wing politics. But discussing *that*
would be against our "no crown, no cross" rule.