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Re: LUNATIC again

From:David G. Durand <dgd@...>
Date:Monday, November 9, 1998, 15:15
At 8:25 AM -0400 11/8/98, Logical Language Group wrote:
> >Briefly summarizing my argument, which people have refuted at length based >on other assumptions (showing that assumptions are all-important to this >argument): >Linguistics is defined as the (scientific) study of languages. Linguists >reject conlangs as objects of study. Therefore, since conlangs are not >studied under the study of languages, they are not languages. QED.
I'm sorry, but that would mean that science fiction isn't literature, because fo academic prejudice agianst it (or carrying on my "temporal argument") that it wasn't literature in the 50's (when it was taboo in the academy), but now it's "marginal literature" since a few SF authors can be studied in the academy (even if it isn't respectable). Given the wider application of the term lanauge in general use, this argument seems not even to hold water descriptively. Most non-programmers think of computer languages as _languages_, and even some programmers do so. Furthermore, there is a widespread informal variation of the S-W hypothesis held by many programmers, who notice, for instance, that people who program in C, tend for reasons not totally cultural, to write different programs than those who write in LISP.
>The argument has weaknesses, but it is the level of argument that would >typically fuel prejudice. We who conlang have to deal with such prejudice, >so one way to cut down on such prejudice is to find ways to get conlangs >accepted as objects of study by linguists. Among other things, this means >careful use of jargon when talking to linguists (something we of Loglan/ >Lojban have learned the hard way).
I think a careful definition of the inclusive sense of the word "language," presented up front in a discussion, would mollify most linguists to the point of at least listening to your argument. The one I am advocating focuses on the notion of a system with communicative potential, speakable by human beings, with compositional semantics that can plausibly cover a range like a "natural" language. Since you can investigate some questions by means of such a tool, it might have interest.
>More sophisticated definitions of language can be created that include >conlangs. >But then the argument is: why then don't linguists study them? We can say >that >linguists don't properly do linguistics if they refuse to study languages >that are not part of there more narrow view - they are in effect misusing the >name of their field to limit it so.
I don't think this is reasonable. The name of a field is a traditional designation: We don't claim that English departments are misrepresenting themselves because they study _American_ literature. And yes, the departments were named for the country and not the language. This _is_ a problem in European departments of English, where the national meaning of the term is important, and where many Universities _don't_ have departments of American studies. I continue to feel that the core issues that have bedevilled you are not really the definitions, but the traditions and social conventions of the field. You can claim that Linguistics has misappropriated the name, but instead you're better off explaining why artificial languages are interesting in terms of problems that linguists aleady _want_ to study. If you can do that, the definitions will be rewritten in no time. -- David _________________________________________ David Durand \ Boston University Computer Science \ Sr. Analyst \ Dynamic Diagrams --------------------------------------------\ MAPA: mapping for the WWW \__________________________