whose title is … Whence, where and whither linguistics? Where linguistics was in 1964 Where linguistics is in 2004 Where linguistics will be in 2044
1964 Nelson Mandella is sentenced to life in prison. Harold Wilson is elected PM. The Beatles reign supreme. Dick Hudson moves from SOAS to UCL.
Cognitive Science AI is just starting –Terry Winograd learns linguistics in UCL Psychology is just moving from behaviourism into cognitive theories –Miller wrote “7 plus or minus 1” article in 1956 –The famous Wason selection task is invented by Peter Wason, in UCL Phonetics in 1966. The mind is mainly unknown territory.
Linguistics Virtually no semantics –Ullmann 1962, Nida 1964 Very little syntax –Harris 1951, Chomsky 1957 Virtually no sociolinguistics –Ferguson 1959, Labov 1963 Virtually no psycholinguistics –Osgood and Sebeok 1954, Chomsky 1959
English grammar in the UK English grammar was dying in schools... because English grammar had died in universities. –Nothing since Sweet 1898. But a revival was launched in UCL Randolph Quirk for description, Michael Halliday for theory, Or Noam Chomsky for theory.
1964 in summary Linguistics was academically isolated –because there was little else to relate to. UK universities: –Linguistics was growing fast UK schools: Grammar teaching was dying because: –It was already dead in universities –It was “obviously a waste of time”.
Obviously a waste of time? In that case, why has grammar teaching been going on for so long? How long? Join me on a trip …
We – you – they (in that order) SumerianAkkadianEnglish menden-e eni:nu-miwe menzen-e eattunu-miyou emene-e e unu-mithey
So … Grammar teaching is ancient. It’s not an obvious waste of time. Most European countries still do it. 20 th century England was out of step with history. Incidentally, there’s some research evidence that it works when done properly.
2004 School grammar Firmly on the school syllabus again in England. Teaching methods are enlightened Well integrated into L1 literacy –Primary and early secondary (KS1-3) Becoming integrated into FL teaching –Which builds explicitly on L1 literacy First ever official glossary of terminology!
Linguistics and schools Linguists can take some credit for this: Halliday sowed the seeds Others watered them on committees etc. –E.g. Gillian Brown Others have helped to harvest.
Some relevant research questions How does language develop through the school years? How does literacy develop? Why are some people so much more literate than others? For example, two 11-year olds:
A letter about a school trip Dear perant's There is a school trip to an Animal farm on the 18th of march. We will be going on minney bus it costs 3 pound. They will be staying all day so they will need a pack lunch. There are some shops there so they can bring some money. I wouldn't bring a lot thoe because if they lose it it's a lot they've just lost
Another one Dear Parents A visit has been arranged for the Year 6 class J12, to Mountain Peaks Field Study Centre, on July 18th, leaving school at 9.30 am. This is an overnight visit. Your child will be travelling by coach and will be accompanied by Mrs Medway the class teacher and her assistant Miss Skinner.
A moral Healthy language study at school depends on healthy language study at university. And vice versa. –Well-informed school leavers will make better linguistics undergraduates.
2004 Cognitive science Cognitive science now has quite specific models of –The mind –The brain –The structure of knowledge. Most of these recognise –Concepts, e.g. Bird, Noun –Networks of links between concepts.
Linguistics, 2004 Descriptive grammar is flourishing. –Quirk et al 1972 – in UCL: 1120 pages –Quirk et al 1985 – in UCL: 1778 pages –Huddleston and Pullum 2002 – ex UCL: 1842 pages Linguistics is well documented by encyclopedias –e.g. ELL (1 and 2, edited by Keith Brown)
Linguistic theory 2004 Much more theory than in 1964. Much better theories. But they grow in isolation from: Other theories (‘boxes’) Cognitive science (no ‘psychological reality’) Too often the criteria are social rather than intellectual (‘faith’ not ‘fact’)
E.g. Mutual dependency in grammar Any “phrase” (including clauses and sentences) has a head. –Accepted now by virtually all theories. Other elements of the phrase “depend” on the head.
Mutual relations outside language are easy to understand
The non-debate about mutual dependency Pro: me Con: everyone else? But no-one discusses it. Is this something new in grammar? All aboard the magic carpet again …
The debate Zaydun tawiilun = “Zaid is tall.” Q. What is the relation between the noun and the adjective? A related question was debated before the Sultan, Harun al-Rashid, himself. The losing grammarian was given, as compensation: 10,000 dirhams = about £10,000,000. A society with correct priorities!
The answers The question: what’s the relation between Zaidun and tawiilun (tall)? The team from Kufa, under Kisa’i: – Each depends on the other: mutual dependency The team from Basra, under Sibawaih: –No, this is impossible because a word depends on an earlier word.
A moral Different syntactic theories were linked to different places. Theoretical issues were resolved on the basis of social allegiances: Kufans are cool! Basrans rule OK! Are we sure this doesn’t happen today?
Fact or faith? Linguistic theory is still a matter of: –faith on basic issues –fact on details. We can’t all be right. Some of us must be wrong –And probably wasting our lives on dead-end research. But we have to take risks, e.g. by inventing new theories.
My risks Three theories –One second-hand –Two brand new Each a little better than the one before. Each more integrated with neighbouring theories: –Sociolinguistics –Psycholinguistics
Did the risk pay off? In terms of uptake? No. In terms of seed-sowing? Maybe – wait till 2044! Compared with other theories? Consider what none of them explain.
Explaining behaviour Eventually, our theories collectively should predict the statistics of behaviour, as in other social sciences For example: –What percentage of running words belong to the different word classes? –How do these percentages vary with age and circumstances? –Why do they vary in these ways?
The triumph of the noun: from child’s play to adult information writing
Why? We don’t know. We don’t even know how to move towards an answer. But we can see the need for many theories to contribute. –Grammar: what are nouns? –Psycholinguistics: how do we select nouns? –Educational linguistics: what’s the effect of schooling?
Answer They all spoke dozens of languages fluently. Bowring: –Spoke 100, read 100 Mezzofanti: –Spoke 50, translated 114 Hale: –Spoke “at least 20”
Question How did they do it? Answer: we have no idea. What do they tell us about the human language faculty? Answer: we have no idea about that either.
So … The bad news –We’ve got a long way to go. The good news –Linguists will be needed for a lot longer.
2044 (an optimistic view) UK schools: “language” is a core subject at all ages: –L1 communication skills (including literacy) –L2 learning-skills –University linguistics is a popular extension of the language stream UK universities: linguistics is a major subject: –BA or BSc Linguistics –MA or MSc Difficult Linguistics –50% of graduates become school teachers
UCL in 2044 Environment: the dreamy spires of traffic-free Bloomsbury Linguistics is part of the Department of Human Language BSc Linguistics presupposes “Baccalaureate” in Languages Every new undergraduate already knows how to spell “grammar”. The current theoretical divisions are part of history. Linguistics is healthy and safe...
… but the transition … Was challenging. BA applications fell: –under competition from more attractive courses elsewhere –Because UCL harmonised admissions requirements. So, the department changed the first year: –Soft courses on change and variation –Data courses on low-level structural analysis To everyone’s surprise, progress in years 2 and 3 was even better than before.
Meanwhile, some advice … Think outwards. –Do your ideas make global sense? Think lots. “Academics think about it all the time.” Think again. –Is it time to change your mind? Think education. –Can you make language education better?
…and some feelings. What I like: Discovering new relations between familiar things –E.g. etymology: grammar – glamour; treacle – fierce Struggling with ideas, and winning Seeing students enjoying my teaching Having an impact on the world
What I don’t like Intellectual boxes, for example: Religion: –saved or not? Safe or unsafe? Syntactic theory: –generative or not? –phrase: part or not? Linguistic theory: –Modules: in or out? –Categories: member or not?
More boundaries I dislike Theory | description Theory/school A | Theory/school B Linguistics | applied linguistics Academe | schools Research | teaching Intellectual quality | other qualities Thinking | feeling
The alternative: networks Networks for people include everyone. Networks for ideas enrich all ideas. That’s why I go on about networks all the time. My model network is