Re: Definitions- help!

Date: Sun Aug 22 1999 - 19:09:00 EDT


Having just praised Carl Conrad unreservedly (in my resignation message),
I then got around to reading the messages about "Definitions" of a couple
of days ago, including Carl's cautionary message. And while I thoroughly
agree that
                                                "Although the terms may
have some distinct meaning for certain persons, it's often DIFFERENT
meanings for DIFFERENT persons."

I hope that

"I don't think it is very helpful to inject these literary and philosophical
value-judgments into a discussion of grammatical reference books or
textbooks UNLESS, when one does so, one states clearly WHY one thinks that
a "structuralist" or "post-modern" characterization of a grammar is a
recommendation for it or a black mark against it. Do we really have to
throw this sort of obscurantist description about willy-nilly?"

was not (even in part) inspired by my message of the 12th, which used the
term "structuralist linguistics" of Funk's and Goetchius's textbooks.
I used this term because it is precisely what both authors did in writing
their textbooks, both of them equating structuralism with "scientific" or
"modern" or "contemporary" linguistics. Both used Fries and Gleason in their
work; the term "structuralism" in linguistics had, and still has, a fairly
clear connatation. As Clay said, in literary criticism, it has done a
Humpty-Dumpty expansion of meaning. But just as my grammar was explicitly
Transformational-Generative (in its title!), so both Goetchius and Funk were
explicit (though neither of them put "structuralist" in their titles).

The thread quickly moved into literary criticism and other terms (I
have no idea what a "post-modern grammar" would look like), to my dismay.
But the use of the term "structuralism" in my message of the 12th was
carefully chosen, and was self-consciously what Goetchius and Funk both
intended to do, both in their explicit statements in their books, and in
frequent conversations with me. It was the TIMING of their books which
made them seem odd--they raised the structuralist flag just as the movement
had suffered its sudden defeat.

(Actually, I'm pretty sure Carl knew all this, and wasn't thinking of my
post of 12 August; but I'm touchy just now. reading a message just as I am
resigning which might be read as a complaint about the statement of facts
in my post.)

Edward Hobbs

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