Linguists are So Brilliant

“This is only indirect support for our hypothesis, since it comes from different languages and a different empirical domain. But it does give some independent evidence that syntactic movement can have different effects on the features involved in agreement in different languages, which is our central theoretical proposal.”

Mark C. Baer, Roberto Aranovich, and Lucia A. Goluscio. 2005 “Two Types of Syntactic Noun Incorporation: Noun Incorporation in Mapudungun and Its Typological Implications.” Language: 81, no. 1 (March): 138-176.

Now you don’t need to know what they’re actually talking about in the article or even the context of the these two sentences to know that this is completely ridiculous.

Look at their central theoretical proposal:

…syntactic movement can have different effects on the features involved in agreement in different languages…”

To paraphrase, “Our theoretical proposal is that languages are different.”

Wow, we linguists are a brilliant bunch.

4 thoughts on “Linguists are So Brilliant

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  1. That’s amusing. I must say that I’ve often wondered just how well linguists who are comparing several languages really know the languages that they are comparing — or how well should they know them in order to make valid observations about how they function.

  2. The thing is, Carl, that linguists by definition suffer from “Framework Psychosis.”

    “When writing about or discussing their field, Framework Psychotics, at first, find it simpler to discuss things in terms of their framework, as opposed to other frameworks or in general terms. After a while, Framework Psychotics find it difficult to write about or discuss their field in terms of anything other than their framework. In the final stage, Framework Psychotics find it impossible to write about or discuss their field in terms of anything other than their framework, and most likely will not be able to understand what the problem is if it’s pointed out to them.”

    from: “The Symptoms and Warning Signs of Framework Psychosis”

  3. Linguists don’t suffer from “Framework Psychosis” any more than other academics although I’ve often said that I think Linguists generally are those who were in the original Tower of Babel and were sent to their separate rooms without their supper; they continue speak only to each other and can make themselves understood only by other Linguists (some but not others) …

    But that doesn’t really answer my question about the generalizations made by linguists on the basis of comparative study of several language: how well do they really know the languages on the basis of which they generalize? Superficially, in depth, or whee on the spectrum between superficial knowledge and in-depth knowledge?

  4. Well, I can only speak for the linguists that I know personally. But of those ones, they’ve also spent a minimum of a decade learning and studying the language they focus on (and I also happen to know that they don’t publish anything without first consulting a native speaker of the language).

    Whether this is the case with other linguists, I’m not sure. But SIL/Wycliffe linguists have a tendency to spend significant portions of their life living in remote places.

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