May 4th, 2011

linguistics, asl

broadsheets from the empirical underground

I’ve been corresponding with Zoltán Varjú, an enthusiastic proponent of what he describes as “rationalist” linguistics, and Melody Dye, who I would describe as a strongly “empirical” linguist — or rather, psychologist of language.  Also chiming in on that conversation has been Asad Sayeed, an old colleague of mine at the 2005 2003 JHU CLSP Summer School, chiming in in favor of rationalist approaches.

Or, in the form of a tag team match:

Team East: Rationalist linguists: Zoltán and Asad
Team West: Empiricist linguists: Jeremy and Melody

There’s not a lot at stake in these arguments — we each have places that we’re able to do the kind of linguistic research that we think is important, for the most part. But many words have been written. When a twitter-flood got overwhelming late last week, I asked Zoltán to take it to a longer-form medium, and I received a 1000-word info-bomb two hours later.  He didn’t want to blog it, so I won’t quote it here, but I’ll put instead an opening to a new conversation, inspired by a fragment of Zoltán’s info-bomb:

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